Horsetail Falls Trail

MODERATE 591 reviews
#1 of 66 trails in

Horsetail Falls Trail is a 3.1 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Twin Bridges, California that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is best used from June until September. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

DISTANCE
3.1 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
639 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dog friendly

kid friendly

birding

hiking

nature trips

walking

forest

river

views

waterfall

wildlife

muddy

rocky

scramble

snow

The Horsetail falls hike is a short hike with great views that gets you up close with this spectacular South Lake Tahoe waterfall. The hike starts at Twin Bridges Trailhead off of Highway 50 just past Strawberry. There is a $5.00 fee to park in the parking area at Twin Bridges. From the trailhead, you will follow Pyramid Creek Trail into Desolation Wilderness so a wilderness permit from the ranger station is required. The hike starts out moderate but quickly picks up elevation as you enter Desolation Wilderness and the Wilderness Boundary Trail. The last half mile of the hike can be difficult, as there is granite rock and boulders that require rock climbing and the trail is not well marked and hard to follow. Once you reach the first rapids/falls area there is a sign. The trail picks back up directly to the left of the sign. If in doubt after this point, stay closer to the water. Once at the falls, you have the option to continue on, however proceed with caution as there are slippery rocks Late spring and early summer may be the best times to experience Horsetail Falls, as the water flow is heaviest. However a hike up the Pyramid Creek trail to this spectacular waterfall is still a worthwhile experience at any time of the year. As of May 2018, some users have reported that the parking lot is closed.

hiking
2 days ago

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

hiking
7 days ago

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.

7 days ago

absolutely amazing!

10 days ago

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.

hiking
11 days ago

Beautiful! Where a good pair of boots

nature at its best!

hiking
12 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!

hiking
14 days ago

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!

15 days ago

easy to moderate trail
beautiful views
2 water falls

15 days ago

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

hiking
21 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!

23 days ago

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

hiking
24 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
27 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.

28 days ago

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)

1 month ago

The trail is relatively easy. That hard part is actually finding and staying in the trail. It isn’t clearly marked at all. I suggest running this app while you’re on the hike so you can see when you’ve ventured off trail. Overall it’s great!

hiking
1 month ago

Fun hike

hiking
1 month ago

Hiked to the falls in late May and it was great. The hike is full of moderately challenging terrain with rocks, fallen trees, and other obstacles you need to climb over. The falls is beautiful. It's a place I could sit and watch for hours. Well worth each step and the $5 parking fee

hiking
1 month ago

Beautiful & picturesque. There’s moderately easy incline, decline, large boulders to climb through, and puddles to cross. The trail is unclear where the big boulders are, but just follow the gushing abundant river and you’ll be fine. A moderate hike. It was about a 4 mile hike for us. Would definitely do this hike again! ❤️

2 months ago

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.

2 months ago

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.

2 months ago

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.

2 months ago

Absolutely stunning. Our favorite hike so far!

2 months ago

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!

hiking
2 months 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.

hiking
2 months ago

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
2 months ago

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.

2 months ago

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
3 months 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)!

3 months ago

Have hiked this a couple of times; went today and it is totally snowed in so snow shoes are a must. Last time I hiked it in the snow it was Spring Time so just enough melted off to where it was passable in hiking boots. Be prepared for a weird parking situation until the trail officially opens!

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