Fall in Tahoe! You owe it to yourself to take the drive-up Interstate 80 east to Highway 89 south toward the west side of Lake Tahoe. Just past Vikings Holm, look for the Eagle Falls Trail head on your right across the road from Emerald Bay.

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Parking is at a premium. I have yet to get there early enough to park in the lot. I usually find a wide enough spot on the road. The upside of street parking is that it’s free, compared to the $5 fee in the lot.

Start on the west side of Highway 89. Enjoy the view of Emerald Bay. A lovely stone bridge sits under the highway over a shallow pool. As the water pours into the pool it spills over the edge into lake Tahoe. In fall, before the rains return, there isn’t much to see, but the fall colors, the bay and the mountain peaks that surround you, more than make up for it.

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Look both ways before crossing back of Highway 89 to the Eagle Falls/Eagle Lake Trail head. This is a heavily used International trail. The variety of languages spoken by my fellow hikers is a joy.

My youngest son married his high school sweetheart on this trail overlooking the bay last year. What a spectacular backdrop to such a special day.

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If you hike back to Eagle Lake you will be entering Desolation Wilderness. State Parks require a permit to enter the wilderness. You can fill out a day hike permit at the kiosk at the trailhead. The hike has great signage and is well maintained in this congested area. Take the switchbacks of granite steps up to the bridge over the falls. It is this source that spills into the pool below. Again, in fall, not much to see but more lies ahead on this moderate one-mile hike.

The trail is well made, the vegetation is lush, the trees tower above but are small compared to the mountain peaks. No wonder people come from around the world to our Lake Tahoe.

At the split go to the right to get down to Eagle Lake. Once at Eagle Lake you may choose to stay here and take in the view or pick your way around the lake’s edge. If you head to your left and go around to the back of the lake, you find some nice rock outcropping that makes for a great seat to take in the view.

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Mary West is author of the book series Day Hiker – Gold Country Trail Guide I, II and III (2nd edition Available on Amazon). The books are a collection of the Day Hiker columns where West shares her longtime love of the outdoors, favorite hikes in Northern California’s Gold Country and beyond. West was the recipient of the 2017 and 2019 CRAFT Award for Best Outdoor Column and the 2020 Craft Award for her second book in the series-Day Hiker Gold Country Trail Guide by the Outdoor Writers of California. You can follow West on Facebook and Instagram. Locally, you can find her books at the California Welcome Center in El Dorado Hills Town Center at 2085 Vine Street.

Mary West
Author: Mary West

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