You can see the impressive Horsetail Falls cascading down the mountain from busy Highway 50 on the way to South Lake Tahoe. But remember to keep your eyes on the road, or you will end up in the ditch. It is especially impressive in springtime during snow-melt. The first time we came was late in the year (August), and we thought the waterfall was great. We came back in the spring (June) and we were amazed. I had to up my ranking from 8 to 9. Wow! Park at the trailhead at Twin Bridges, with now a $5 parking fee. There are usually a lot of cars parked here on weekends, so there might quite a few people here; this is a very popular destination.
Follow the signs straight ahead to the wilderness boundary (not the Pyramid Creek loop trail). At the boundary, you will need to fill out a permit to continue up to the waterfall. The trail is unclear in places as you scramble up granite rocks to the waterfall. But just remember to keep the creek on your right and the waterfall ahead of you, and you will not get lost. It is only a 1.4 mile hike but it takes about 45 minutes to an hour. As you are hiking to the waterfall, look for two or three other tall unnamed cascades falling down the mountains to your right. These would be seasonal falls, only to be seen in the springtime. But quite interesting, nonetheless. When you reach Horsetail Falls, you will be treated to a spectacular display of water rushing down the mountainside.
If you are ambitious, you can continue scrambling up the mountain beside the creek to get to the top of the waterfall. This is quite strenuous. There is not much of a trail, you are essentially just scrambling up the mountain. Head slightly away from the creek as you go up (though, you will always have the waterfall in view). I do not recommend taking children to the top of Horsetail Falls. I found it a bit dangerous in places coming back down. Good hiking boots are a must! These granite rocks are quite smooth and slippery, even when dry. Many people have died here at this waterfall by losing their step on the slippery rocks, so please be careful.
You can take the Pyramid Creek loop trail on the way up or back to the falls (instead of going straight to the wilderness boundary, follow the signed trail towards the creek). If you do this, there is another really nice cascade right along the trail. I call this Lower Horsetail Falls. It is a really nice slide about 91 ft. high, and definitely worth seeing.
Because Horsetail Falls is so huge, it is practically impossible to measure its height with any degree of accuracy. A collaborated effort from myself and fellow waterfall guru Bryan Swan came up with a figure of 790 ft. This is no doubt not completely accurate, but it is within the ball park range, and does give you a relative idea of how immense this waterfall really is.
Get Google Maps directions to trailhead
Zoom out on map to see all nearby waterfalls:
| Upper section of falls in September
Bottom of falls (35 ft.)
|Location: Strawberry, Desolation Wilderness, Eldorado National Forest, El Dorado County
Stream: Pyramid Creek
Height: 790 ft.
Distance: 2.8 miles (RT)
Elevation: 6100 ft. (+700 ft.)
Directions:Along Hwy #50 at Twin Bridges, 2 miles east of Strawberry. Note there is now a $5 parking fee here.
Other waterfalls nearby:
Add Your Comment for Horsetail Falls
||If I would have know DPC was there I would have gone too!!|
Don P. Cooney
||I can not recall Ropi Falls being in here when we went, otherwise we would have kept going. Another reason why we will go again, yessss! If ya go at the right time, youll see water flowing down the mountains (on the right side) on your way up to Horsetail. Intense Life of Nature!||
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