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5 must-see Tahoe waterfalls

Dylan Silver  |

With record-breaking snowfalls comes record runoff, which means the region’s waterfalls are roaring. Here are a few of the falls that have especially good flows.

Upper Eagle Falls

A short hike from the Eagle Lake Trail parking lot, Upper Eagle Falls isn’t quite as impressive as some of its local counterparts. But the walking trail bridge over the falls is pretty appealing. There also are some nice sitting areas along the creek that offer a peaceful respite from what can be a crowded trail. For a little longer adventure, continue up the trail to Eagle Lake.

Directions: From Tahoe City, head south on Highway 89. Turn right into the Eagle Lake Trail parking lot. Follow the walking trail .1 mile to the bridge over the falls.

Lower Eagle Falls

You know all those ultra-spectacular photos of Emerald Bay with the waterfalls in the foreground and Fannette Island in the background? That’s Lower Eagle Falls. Though it’s tough to see from Highway 89, the Lower Eagle is big, dropping more than 100 feet before flowing down a mellower slope to the lake. Be careful when hiking in this area. The rocks can be slick.

Directions: Similar to Upper Eagle Falls, park in the Eagle Lake Trail parking lot. Cross Highway 89 (watch for traffic). The falls starts just below the road level.

Glen Alpine Falls

Tucked way back on the edge of Desolation Wilderness, Glen Alpine is a favorite among area visitors. Easily accessible by car, it’s an excellent spot for a quick selfie or family stop. Though it can be fairly crowded on the weekends, the broad cascade has many great viewing points.

Directions: From South Lake Tahoe, head north on Highway 89. Turn left on Fallen Leaf Lake Road. Go straight for 4.8 miles. Continue onto Glen Alpine Road. The falls will be on the right. Parking is just off the road.

Cascade Falls

One of the South Shore’s hidden gems, Cascade Falls doesn’t see a lot of traffic. The waterfall is about a half-mile hike from Highway 89 on a rocky trail. The striking rapid shoots down 150 feet to the western edge of Cascade Lake. The views from the top of the falls are breathtaking, but there’s not much of a trail to the bottom. The trek to the falls is a good jumping off point for short day hikes into Desolation Wilderness.

Directions: From South Lake Tahoe, head north on Highway 89. Turn left into the Bayview Trailhead parking lot. Follow the signs onto the Cascade Falls trail.

Horsetail Falls

Likely the biggest waterfall in the area, Horsetail can be seen from miles away. Pyramid Creek tumbles out of Lake Aloha and south through two smaller lakes before reaching a 500-foot series of drops. In the spring and early summer, the waterfall is raging. Hikers are blasted with mist, and wildflowers dot the canyon.

Directions: From South Lake Tahoe, head west on Highway 50. Pass Sierra-at-Tahoe and continue to the Pyramid Peak Trailhead parking lot. Follow the Pyramid Peak Trail to the base of the falls or continue up the steep trail to the top of the falls. Be especially careful in this area -- a slip in the wrong place could be deadly.