The website claimed that the hike to the waterfall was only of “moderate difficulty.”
But, then again, it also had this little tidbit of useful information,
“Many people have died here at this waterfall…”
I can never remember the difference between an oxymoron and a non sequitur, but I’m sure the two statements, above, fit at least one of those terms.
The waterfall being described at that website is the stunning—and yes, potentially lethal—Horsetail Falls on Pyramid Creek, just southwest of Lake Tahoe: the one you might have noticed as you speed along Highway 50 from Sacramento to South Lake Tahoe, anxious to get to the casino, or back home to lick your gambling wounds.
Having previously hiked along that waterfall, my goal this year was to get back up there in late spring/ early summer to appreciate what I anticipated would be spectacular flows, given the impressive snowfall the Sierras saw last winter and into the early spring.
But, life being what it is, I delayed my visit until almost mid-July, and surely the biggest flows are probably somewhere out the Golden Gate Bridge by now. Nevertheless, the raging waters cascading down the mountain are still awe inspiring.
But, don’t let your awe become shock and awe for your survivors by venturing too close to the edge of the near-vertical walls above the waterfall. The sloped slabs of smooth granite can be treacherous enough, without sliding over the edge while trying to get that perfect picture.
My fear of death may explain why you see my big fat boot and shadow in my YouTube video of the falls. I got as close as my sphincter would allow.
Yes, I know this is a poorly shot video, but at least the sound does capture how the river does roar. I can only hope my global adventure humor travel writing is a little better than my cinematography skills.
Ironically, another website, Trails.com rated this trail at “Easy to Moderate Skill Level.” Hell, given how difficult it can be to find an open parking spot at the trailhead along Highway 50 at Twin Bridges, I wouldn’t even rate parking the car at being “easy.”
I do think these ratings underestimate the challenge for the non-über athletes among us who wish to navigate the length of these falls.
Just ask my friend, David, who went up the trail on foot, but back down in a medivac by a CHP helicopter, writhing in pain due to a severely broken leg.
Or, the many people over the years who have gone into the creek, either on purpose, to cool off, or slipped in by accident, to get the ride of their life down the falls. Unfortunately, the last ride of their life.
As you can see from the various pictures of the hike to get to the falls, the “path” varies from bushwhacking through thick brush, to guessing where to go across open expanses of granite (hint: look for piles of stacked rocks that mark the trail), to shaded footpaths.
The map shows the Desolation Wilderness boundary, where you will need to grab a free, self-serve permit for your day hike. Overnight treks require a permit from a ranger station back in town.
Do enjoy the colorful flora and rock “art”, but don’t forget to look where you are going.
Remember, it is called a waterfall, not a people-fall.