Written by my husband.
The scenic beauty of Tahoe never ceases to amaze me and this is one of the locations in California that our family is continually called to. Every time up to the Lake we try to explore a new area and a trip in early December (before the snow that never came) was prime for exploring a location that I’ve usually avoided due to its popularity. I now know why the parking area at the Eagle Falls parking area is full every weekend and all summer long.
The Eagle Falls / Eagle Lake hike provides novice hikers easy access to the scenic wonderland that is the Sierra Nevada’s Desolation Wilderness. The sights include stunning vistas of Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe and an up close and personal experience with the intermingling of granite and water in solid and liquid states. The parking area at the trailhead requires a $3 fee yet parking along Highway 89 is free if spaces are available. Just east of the highway, the creek plunges 400 feet down into Emerald Bay and is definitely worth visiting. After carefully crossing the highway and avoiding a flurry of drivers distracted by the multitude of greens and blues that give the bay its name, a boardwalk trail and information signs skirts the creek adjacent to the parking lot and a restroom facility is available here as well.
When heading out on the trail from the parking lot information for filling out a wilderness permit is available and necessary should you desire to hike beyond the bridge at Eagle Falls (1/4 mile from the trailhead). The trail starts off climbing gently and soon reaches a stone staircase that quickly leads to a spectacular vista of Emerald Bay. Beyond the vista the roar of the fall draws you to a bridge where you’ll cross the creek directly above the cataract. Just across the bridge a sign indicates that a wilderness permit is necessary to continue. Continue along the trail and be absorbed by the sheer granite cliffs on your left and right flanked in towering pine and fir trees with the music of water versus boulders beckoning you onward and upward. Passing through small meadows then cascading over blocks of granite, the creek rambles alongside the trail.
The reward for the continual climb from the trailhead comes about a mile up where Eagle Lake suddenly unfolds in front of you. Above the outlet of the creek the roar of the water is just a distant echo in the canyon and the tranquil mirrored surface of the lake reflects the splendor of the surrounding peaks that enclose you.