Who on the way up to Tahoe hasn't caught a glimpse of Horsetail Falls, the spectacular, 800-foot cataract… Read more.
This landmark granite dome, a popular climbing destination with more than 150 established routes, rears above the hamlet of Strawberry, offering panoramic views of Horsetail Falls, Pyramid Peak, Ralston Peak and the American River drainage. A hiking/equestrian trail, once part of the Johnson's Cutoff wagon road and the route of the Pony Express, runs along its base.
The 600-foot dome can be hiked up from two sides. The steep, 1.5-mile trail from Camp Sacramento is considerably more scenic and less dusty than the trail on the Strawberry side. It also sports thick stands of wildflowers in July.
To access the trail from the Camp Sacramento side, take Highway 50 east from Sacramento. When you drive through Placerville, you are halfway there. Continue east on Highway 50. Pass the signs for Kyburz, Strawberry, and Twin Bridges. After Twin Bridges, drive another 1.25 miles and you'll see a sign for Camp Sacramento. Pull over and follow the driveway to the lower parking lot, near the archery range (upper lots are reserved for campers). Walk up road past the camp dining hall (on your left) and main lodge (on your right) to the trailhead, which is located next to cabin No. 52. Dogs should be leashed in this area. Allow yourself about 45 minutes to reach the top.
To access the trail from the Strawberry side, take Highway 50 to the 42 Mile Picnic Area turnoff a quarter-mile west of Strawberry. Turn south, cross the bridge and take a right following Packsaddle Pass Road for one mile to the junction with Strawberry Canyon Road. Follow Strawberry Canyon Road for .5 mile to the trailhead. This trail is shared by mountain bikers, whereas only hiking is allowed on the Camp Sacramento side.
An aside: Lovers Leap takes its name from a folkloric tail of native American lovers who jumped to their deaths from the summit.
Another aside: On the hike up from Camp Sacramento, you'll pass through a broad, open area. This is the site of the former Edelweiss ski area, which opened in 1941 with one chair-lift and three rope tows. It operated into the early 1960s. Alpine ski racer Spider Sabich, trained by Lutz Aynedter, a downhill champion of the time, learned to ski here. Sabich earned World Cup and pro tour fame before being shot to death in 1976 by his girlfriend, singer-actress Claudine Longet, who claimed it was an accident.