Explore the most popular waterfall 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.

Absolutely breathtaking views. Easy to moderate at times, but thoroughly enjoyed the hike. Would recommend you don't pass this one up!

hiking
6 days ago

This trail was really nice. Easy to follow and most driving on paved road to get there. The water was not flowing like crazy (it's July, so . . .), but there were plenty of pools to splash in and get our feet/legs wet. The only reason I dropped it to 4 stars was that there were a lot of places with broken glass lying around, and I had concerns about our dog. She was fine, but it was not a pleasant part of the trip.

on Lyons Creek Trail

hiking
6 days ago

Very nice hike but definitely moderate not hard. In addition to the lakes the meadows and wild flowers through the first few miles are beautiful. Start early!

I haven't been back here for many years, but it's still the same..and that is a great thing! (Considering how much foot traffic this trail gets)
Nice and easy trail to the Falls.

absolutely amazing!

hiking
8 days ago

Great hike! Trail is now dry so no more slop (as of July 7). I think it's a very different hike when wet vs. dry - would rate this "moderate" vs "hard" during dry season, although the last half-mile up to Lyons is pretty steep.

Lots of wildflowers and super pretty right now!

8 days ago

love this trail! take a bathing suit

Clearly the trail is hard to find. I was off course a few times. Keep the river to your right as you go up and on your left as you come back down.
However, the scenery more than made up for that. The river flowing by on the right as you go up toward the falls was awesome. The sounds of this river flowing is hard to describe. As you get further up you will see the Horsetail Falls flowing from the top and you can hear that as well.

9 days ago

beautiful hike and and great swimming holes. hardly anyone out there on Monday. The waters low but the falls are still flowing and the pools are safe for kids. what a wonderful day!!

Beautiful! Where a good pair of boots

hiking
10 days ago

WATCH OUT FOR MOUNTAIN LIONS ON THIS TRAIL. My dog (a German Shepherd) and I were hiking this trail a few days ago and we were stalked and lunged at by a mountain lion. The only reason I’m even alive to leave this review is because my dog attacked the mountain lion as it lunged for me and scared it off. The forestry service is working on finding the lion (they have found numerous signs that it’s been hanging out around that trail), but until then be extremely cautious!

nature at its best!

hiking
11 days ago

Love this hike! We’ve been here twice in the past two years in early July and we absolutely love it! The trail isn’t marked all that well, but that’s part of the fun! The view from the top is amazing! We found a nice pool for the kids to cool off on the way down. Overall a great hike!

I would definitely rate this as hard, especially because the trail from Hemlock to Smith is marked as "primitive." I found it hard to catch the spot where you take a hard left up into the rocks. I wasn't sure if I was off trail, so I sat down until I saw someone else arrived who used their GPS to find the trail. After being at the top I came back down to find two hikers lost in the same spot that I was. Just keep an eye out for stacked rocks to the left to find that final steep ascent.

The parking lot at the trail head was open as of 7/7/18. The wildflowers were incredible! And the water running down beside the first part of the trail was serene. I dunked in at Smith Lake and felt so refreshed. Will be coming back soon to see it again.

Wildflowers are blooming everywhere right now. Don’t forget bug spray!

I hiked this early June, and while it seemed impossible the views were amazing. The terrain was a bit rough and I recommend hiking boots for sure!

easy to moderate trail
beautiful views
2 water falls

Great hike with really cool views. It is challenging that the trail is not marked. It is still fun though!

This trial has everything you could ask for! From stunning views, a vast array of flowers, swimming holes in the creek, great rock climbing spots and of course Lyons lake itself!!

I have been to most lakes in desolation and have a couple favorites this one being top 3!! The last mile or so was a bit tough but you get the awesome waterfall views and mountain backdrop that make it an easier ride! Have fun out there !!

This was an awesome hike! Easy enough for your dog, and great exercise for yourself. The water fall is beautiful and there’s a few good spots to swim in, as well.

things were clearly labeled and it smelled like Christmas tree

hiking
20 days ago

The trail is not well marked at all (it's easy to lose the trail right from the start!) but fortunately there's multiple ways to get to the same point and you can follow the pink ribbons in the trees. Be prepared for walking on rocky terrain and the occasional log. The last 0.5 miles in Desolation Wilderness is the steepest and most uneven part but the view at the end is great!

worth the work. wear long pants, good shoes and hug the river on the way up. slower but amazing

hiking
23 days ago

Great fast hike. Nice to be able to choose granite scramble or waterside mellow.
Water is still moving fast and making a great waterfall to have as destination! Took puppy and did great! Strongly recommend.

hiking
23 days ago

Really enjoyed this hike. Went mid-week (6/27) and it was still fairly crowded at the falls. Water still flowing over the falls. The scenery is amazing.

23 days ago

Beautiful falls. Easy hike, doable for little ones who don’t like to hike. Spring time when water is moving. Beautiful!

Absolutely gorgeous trail. Elected to take the more strenuous route to Grouse and Hemlock but didn't make it to Smith this time. The turn off 50 onto Wright's Lake Road leads you up this windy, narrow back road that looks recently paved. I made it back there fine in my small car but it might be challenging for RVs or campers (in fact road signs warn just that at the start). My GPS had me parking at Twin Lakes Trailhead, but there was a road closed sign by the Wright's Lake equestrian campground. It did say no public use of rec area and I'm not quite sure what that means so I parked in the small parking lot there and walked back in to the trailhead (an additional 1.5 miles, all flat). Wright's lake has some private cabins surrounding it so it's not as secluded but the views are beautiful. The hike out towards Desolation Wilderness goes through some wetlands and I was very grateful for the mosquito spray I brought along. At points throughout the hike I'd get off trail a little bit but eventually find my way back, there are some cairns and rocks that line the trail in some of the more confusing parts so I never felt like I was lost, just didn't want to disturb the untouched vegetation off the trail. Once you hit the Desolation Wilderness sign, keep following the trail to the left and in a few hundred yards you'll reach a sign for Grouse Lake. The hike wasn't strenuous but definitely got the heart rate up and had a few fun rock scramble parts. I did pass a ranger on the way up and he thanked me for filling out the wilderness permit, so please do that, it's for your own safety! Once I reached Grouse lake I was just in awe, a beautiful secluded alpine lake. I spent a good hour taking it all in and in that time I only encountered 10 people max. I can't even count on two hands the amount of trout I saw jump, next time I'll be sure to bring my fly rod. I then decided to head up a little further and check out Hemlock lake. I was able to follow the trail for a little ways but then got off it and ended up having to scramble my way up, which was a blast. I later learned that the trail leads up next to the waterfalls that feed into the lake so just listen for those and head in that direction, again the cairns guide your way up. Once I got up to Hemlock, I was in awe again, this time I had the lake all to myself. There was quite a bit of pollen on the surface on the south side so I walked around to the north side to get my feet wet. There was still some snow melt that was feeding into the lake, but surprisingly it wasn't that cold. As I was relaxing on a rock, a few fly fisherman threw some casts out and one immediately hooked a big trout, another indication that the fly rod is coming back up with me. I finally started the trek down which took me about 2 hours from Hemlock. As I get older and my knees are less springy, I find that trekking poles are nice to have on the descent. I didn't have them this time but will likely bring them next. Overall great experience and I've had many friends ask to come next time. If you're on the fence about the 'strenuous' nature of the hike, don't worry about it, there are plenty of spots to rest along the way and you get to cool off at the top!

Beautiful hike! The wildflowers are in full bloom right now and there are some waterfalls along the trail as well. The last 0.2 mi was steep, but worth the trip to Smith Lake! Also, the road to the parking lot is still closed to the public so you have to park at the further lot and walk to the trail head.

hiking
26 days ago

This was a great hike. The only downfall is the trail is not clearly marked. We ended up off the trail most of the way up. if you stay near the creek you should be ok. It would be hard to get lost. Took a lunch up and had a picnic end of the trail near the falls. It is beautiful.

Would be more enjoyable if marked at all. 'Trail' does not really apply here, you pretty much need to follow the running water to it's source, or use alltrails' map with gps as guide, it is made for places like this. As it was i was constantly checking w my phone, which kind of took the wind out of hiking in the first place. Nevertheless it is a nice area, easy, and pretty short distance to the fall's base as long as you stay on the 'trail' (good luck with that)

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