Explore the most popular views trails in El Dorado National Forest with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

backpacking
12 hours ago

Conditions as of 5/23/2018: super duper soupy. And are established trails always this poorly marked around here? Or maybe their just more obvious when they’re not flooded. No worries; hard to get truly lost in that area anyhow.

I got good and wet on my way to Sylvia, spent a day drying out and soaking in the beautiful landscape, then decided to summit Pyramid from the West, starting just north of (not next to) Sylvia. That was fun. But FYI the slop starts very early into Lyons from parking. If you’re thinking “maybe it’s just this area; it’ll get better” then you’re very sadly mistaken. The Lyons trail is essentially a babbling brook all the way through. Even the trails side-stepping the regular “trail” were much soggier today than they were on my way in 2 days ago. I was wearing old beat-up Saucony Peregrine trail shoes with microspikes for the summit. My feet were totally soaked and freezing from start to finish every day. lol - somehow, having that whole beautiful place to myself made up for it.

Summary: look elsewhere until things dry out a bit, or just come prepared for ankle-shin deep slogs all the way to the remaining snow pack.

I never grow tired of this hike! we hiked two days ago, got caught in a bit of hail and rain but the falls were incredible and it was still a wonderful day.

Great hike!

Not great for hiking as you get further on the trail. It is overrun by poison oak and blackberry bushes. We were not able to complete the hike even though we wanted to. Bummer since we drove all the way from Sacramento.

We’re new to the area, so it was good that we came prepared with a gps because we lost the trail a few times. The rivers were absolutely stunning, though, and the peak climb was manageable even with our 8mo old daughter in the backpack. Nice change in scenery too, from old wood forest to rushing waterfalls and plenty of rock scrabbling for young kids. There was a ton of dead wood in the forested areas, which made it easy to lose the trail, but overall, it was a great full-day hike. Oh, be sure to let someone know where you are, no cell phone signal and w only met 4 people on the hike.

The trail isn’t so much of a trail as a random area to explore. From the parking lot to the wilderness entrance is pretty straight forward. After that it’s a bit of a free for all. I ended up off trail a few times on the way out, and ignored it completely on the way back. I stopped before reaching the base as there was no one in sight and I had difficulty figuring out where to hike that wasn’t full of brush. Gorgeous views out there, but maybe bring a pair of pants if you wander off trail (wherever that dang thing was). Maybe next time I’ll figure it out and make it to the top. Recommend a hiking buddy due to the lose rock and granite climbing that can get dicey.

The prettiest waterfall I’ve ever seen. The further you I go the harder It gets, so worth every step. Got super close to the top.

Absolutely stunning. Our favorite hike so far!

It sucked. I wouldn’t recommend going.

Trail conditions: 5/13/18

Trail is wet and sloppy from melt off with patches of snow below 7,700 ft (full coverage above). There are also a few downed trees blocking the trail.

0-3 miles: Wet and sloppy, with some small patches of snow.
3-4 miles: Larger patches of snow. Easy to lose trail if not paying attention.
4.5 miles: Trail completely covered by snow.

Overall the trail to Sylvia is doable, but the last 2 miles are slow going. Also, make sure to wear waterproof boots!

Great scenic hike in Amador/Alpine county that leads to an even more scenic view when you reach the top. The weather is consistently great in the summer (perfect hiking temperature’s).

What an adventure! This was one of those days that I wouldn't mind living again! My heart is so full from this experience! Definitely feeling blessed today!

Snow starts at mile 2.5 . Beautiful view at the peak as always! Ralston Lake still covered with snow.

hiking
11 days ago

Nice hike up but could not cross the falls in May. Views would of been spectacular i al sure

Great hike. Snow for about 1/4 of the trip near the summit. Great views!

hiking
18 days ago

Did this hike today. Still lots of snow near the top which makes it a bigger challenge. It was warm for the first half but once you hit the snow we also were smacked with pretty windy conditions. I would prefer it later in the summer when the snow melts but for those looking for a more difficult hike, this could be it.

hiking
18 days ago

Trail (though poorly marked) finds its way to a gorgeous view of southern Lake Tahoe and the falls. I can imagine that during the summer months, the trail can be brutal without much shade.

Moderate grade, a Little Rock scrambling towards the end. Grabbed a seat up top and picnicked with the waterfall. As others have said, trail is poorly marked which is surprising for the amount of traffic it gets! Saw lots of dogs. Only wildlife we saw was some blue jays and one lizard. Easy afternoon hike, would do again.

hiking
19 days ago

Hiked this trail late April. Still quite a bit of snow on the ground as the trail is mostly on a north facing slope. Trail was a little hard to follow in the snow. It was a gorgeous day and the view from the leap was amazing! Crystal clear day!

hiking
25 days ago

Did this trail today with my friends. Steady climb for sure Still a lot of snow Top was very cold but worth the view Good day on Mount Ralston

Packed my snowshoes just because and was glad I did. Still enough snow covering the trail to make it more challenging. Cold and windy at the top with no place to hide. Coming down was fun, the snow was melting a bit and it mage for some slippery going. Love this hike, worth the effort.

hiking
26 days ago

Great run today, no crampons, top third solid snow stayed hard till about 10.. harder run than no snow for sure,

This trail was a lot of fun, though easily lost at times. It's well trafficked, so if you aren't sure where the trail continues along one of the large granite slabs, it's worth the time to look around, as people may head toward you, or you will be able to see the trail as it leaves the slab. The upper reaches get pretty steep, so good shoes are a must. Bring lunch, and eat it in the mist of the falls for a refreshing break before heading back.

Update 04/22/18: The parking lot is closed and the signage says that place is closed for the season. No roadside parking allowed, hence, I couldnt do this trail. Sad as I was looking forward to do the hike.

hiking
1 month ago

The difficulty/reward ratio on this trail is in favor of hikers who want to complete one of their first summits and boast, "so yeah, this weekend I climbed a mountain... No biggie." At 6.5 miles total, it is brief and perfect for a day hike. Make no mistake, however, it isn't a walk in the park the whole way up. Your legs will get a work out.

Shortly after the trailhead, which is located at a parking lot along I-50 that is often not plowed between Dec-Mar, a series of switchbacks zigzagging their way through a densely forested area begin. This goes on quite a bit, and takes up a significant portion of the hike. Those who want spectacular views - fear not! - as the views begin once you get in the clearer area at a higher elevation where less vegetation grows. It will start to get steep and you may be wishing for those gentle switchbacks you were on recently.

Speaking of vegetation, near the summit you will pass contorted and twisted trees known as "Krumholtz", German for "crooked wood". Looking like something out of a Guillermo del Doro film, these deformed trees live a tough life due to incessant wind and snow. Soak in the views of Lake Tahoe, various other alpine lakes including Aloha Lake, Mt Tallac in the distance, from the summit.

Bonus: at your own risk, on the right side of the summit, there is a Class 3 scramble on extremely loose rocks and climb that can get you to one of the lakes.

hiking
1 month ago

I just did this hike today. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to the top because of all the snow. I kept slipping and sliding and decided I'd have to come back and try again once it melts a little more! But the climb up was an awesome workout, and it's a beautiful trail :)

Cool hike especially if you are getting ready for longer trips. I went to the top on 4/13/18 and the last rain had washed away the previous footprints towards the top so having a gps made it a lot easier to follow. While following my footsteps out I found some bear prints next to mine that weren’t there during the hike up.

hiking
1 month ago

I give this about 3.5 really. The drive there was super rough; of course I do have a civic (which sucks for dirt roads, I know), but it's still a very muddy and bumpy road getting there, and parking is unmarked and tough to figure out where exactly to do so.
The hike itself is pretty steep, but pretty and veeery quiet, which I love. It's not usually crowded (I ran into nobody on my recent trek), probably because the drive there sucks, but it's a fun yet steep path that leads to a cute little spot to listen to Otter Creek and picnic on the rocks. :) Just know you'll be tired on the way back up, it's an a** kicker.. Enjoy!
P.S. - In the summer, especially, bring bug spray.

hiking
1 month ago

Permit required to enter Desolation Wilderness (last 1/3 section of hike), parking available at trailhead during open season. As of 4/7, the trailhead is closed, and parking must be found elsewhere; there are some spots just off the highway to park.

After a deluge of rain powerful enough to trigger flood warnings for Tahoe and Yosemite, a waterfall hike seemed optimal. Paired with snowmelt from March storms, the American River was nearly flooding on the drive up from Sacramento. The highway was thankfully unaffected. There were multiple waterfalls active along the drive up, ranging from Bridal Veil Falls (El Dorado) to rushing redwood streams.

This rain managed to wash away a good portion of the snow below 8,000 feet. On the Pyramid Creek Trail, there were intermittent patches of snow between long sections of granite rock. At this point in the season, snowshoeing isn't an option, crampons won't do much, and hiking poles aren't required. However, the route up to Horsetail Falls in the latter third section of the hike isn't established, as snow covered the path for most of the season. We turned around before the waterfall due to both flooding and weather.

On 4/7, the water level was high enough to flood sections of forest and force us off the trail. The Cascades were incredible; the sheer force of the water was the greatest I've seen in Tahoe. Leading up to Horsetail Falls, the redwood forest was flooded by a seasonal stream pouring down from Peak 8141. Some route finding and stream crossings were required. This shouldn't be an issue in the summer months, but waterproof boots are always prudent.

For photography, there are four points of interest: the bend of highway 50 (rocky waterfall), Cascade Viewpoint, Desolation Wilderness Boundary (small waterfalls), and Horsetail Falls itself. Long exposure opportunities are prevalent and decent, while the immediate surroundings aren't as photogenic (still beautiful to the naked eye)!

The last 2 miles or so driving in is a rough one-lane road. We were glad we had a truck for the extra clearance. We parked 0.2 miles from the intersection for Bottlehill Rd. and walked up Breedlove another 0.2 miles to reach the road where the trail starts. Beautiful trail. We didn't see another soul the whole day (midweek on Spring Break). We had to take our boots off to cross the creek, but it was totally doable, maybe 18 inches deep. Not much flat land on this hike; all uphill/downhill.

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