Horsetail Falls Trail

MODERATE 497 reviews
#1 of 49 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

muddy

rocky

scramble

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.

8 hours ago

Absolutely stunning. Our favorite hike so far!

6 days 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
14 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.

hiking
14 days 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
22 days 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.

27 days 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
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)!

1 month 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!

hiking
2 months ago

I will admit, we didn’t get the ascend part right, we were sort of all over the place! But what a great place to get lost. Appropriate hiking boots and an open mind are a must. The whole surroundings look like a painting, it’s so surreal.
Best advice: look for trail markers like stacked rocks, treaded paths and other giveaways because you could be easily deterred every 500 feet or so if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. The nice thing is, because you’re in a bowl like setting, you know which way is back to the start.
What a reward, though, when the waterfall is at full blast! Amazing experience and highly recommended.

3 months ago

Beautiful views! But the trail is fairly easy to lose.

hiking
3 months ago

This was beautiful hike but I sure wish I had done it in spring. There was alot of snow and we kept losing the trail. We are experienced hikers and to so often lose the trail was frustrating. we had to keep pulling out the GPS.
The falls were amazing and parts of the hike was challenging for sure a good workout and breath taking views. strange it was right off the freeway. will do this one again with no snow.

3 months ago

Absolutely amazing❣️
One of my favorite local trails.

backpacking
5 months ago

Great hike, and some climbing at the top of the falls. I've enjoyed going up Horsetail Falls to Pyramid Peak. The trail head is a little funky, staying by the water will help you stay on trail..

hiking
6 months ago

Fun hike with beautiful views but the trail was hard to follow. Not very well marked. It was an adventure! We had a great time.

6 months ago

Trail head can be hard to find at times but just follow the river and scramble up to the top!

hiking
6 months ago

Good hike. You can get right next to the waterfall at the end.

6 months ago

Amazing

hiking
6 months ago

Loved it!! Great views at the top! Highly recommended. :)

hiking
7 months ago

Short in distance but not in time. It is not a defined trail you basically just head up, so you need to be careful to pick good lines otherwise you can get stuck in a sketchy situation. Best to go in groups. I severely sprained my ankle about 5 minutes into our decent and it was the most miserable pain defending the mountain for 3 hours with a sprained ankle and I was alone. But for the few that actually teach the top it is an absolutely breathtaking view. Best to go up early in the morning as it does take about 6 to 7 hours round trip.

7 months ago

Hiked this trail twice, hoping to get to the very top next time. Takes about 3hrs there and back with a fast pace walk. Definitely worth reaching the base of the waterfall.

hiking
7 months ago

The falls colors are in full effect, just amazing

7 months ago

It's beautiful love it it's a very difficult hike when you get to the top ...

hiking
7 months ago

Not well marked, but that was part of the fun! Just keep the river to your right and head upstream. Get friendly with your favorite GPS app if you're nervous, or just enjoy clambering over big rocks until you spot the trail again. Would be fun to take older kids as an orienteering exercise.

hiking
7 months ago

Not well marked. Doable with kids if they can handle climbing over steep rocks.

7 months ago

It was an awesome hike.

hiking
7 months ago

Incredible views, awesome hike! Some areas get a bit challenging, but not too difficult.

hiking
7 months ago

Great day hike!

hiking
7 months ago

Excellent hike! But let's talk seriously... this is only a easy to moderate hike to the BASE of the falls. Excellent with kids & dogs... but after that you are climbing rocks!
This is very strenuous to the top! Had lunch at the lake at top! Absolutely breathtaking!! Worth it.., just be careful on way down. Slow & easy...

hiking
8 months ago

This "trail" was beautiful but I felt that the trail was a little too intense. The lack of an actual trail made it difficult and I felt bad for those people who had kids as there was a lot of back and forth trying to find a way through. Make sure the wear good shoes with grip as many of us were sliding on some of the granite rocks as we tried to climb up or down them.

hiking
8 months ago

Beautiful and pristine stretch of wilderness. My 8 year old son was a champ and we made it within a few hundred yards of the top of the falls before deciding we'd give ourselves a reason to come back. Easy going up until reaching the Desolation Wilderness sign where you have to fill out a permit. A few hundred yards from there and the hike becomes more like a bouldering expedition. Make sure you drink lots of water and find a nice lunch spot on a ledge at the edge of the falls. Will definitely be back!

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