We can’t gush enough about the dog-friendly waterfall hikes and photo opportunities waiting for you and yours on federal lands. Here’s a trio of suggestions.
Whiskeytown National Recreation Area in Shasta County is so rife with waterfalls that it promotes a “Waterfall Week” each spring encouraging visitors to complete a “waterfall challenge” by hiking to four raging cascades on one’s own or on a ranger-led (and dog-friendly) hike. Stop by the visitor center for a waterfall passport, register at the trailheads for the four major falls (Brandy Creek, Boulder Creek, Whiskeytown Falls and Crystal Creek) and turn in your passport for a commemorative bandana. You don’t have to do it this week or even in one visit; the falls run year-round, and all the trails leading to them are dog-friendly (on a leash).
Waterfalls at Yosemite National Park are at their roaring peak in April and May, enhanced this year by late-season snowfall and rain showers. The star of the show, so far as dog-accessibility goes, is Yosemite Falls, one of the world’s tallest, actually made up of three stair-stepped cascades (Upper Yosemite Fall, 1,430 feet; Middle Cascades, 675 feet; and Lower Yosemite Fall, 320 feet). The paved, one-mile loop trail from Yosemite Village to the base of Lower Yosemite Fall is dog-friendly.
You don’t have to venture past the parking lot (or pay a fee, except for parking) to be awed by Horsetail Falls, an 800-foot gusher in Desolation Wilderness Area, just off Highway 50 at Twin Bridges on the way to South Lake Tahoe. Pay close attention to footing if you decide to hike to the base or venture into the wild at this time of year, as conditions can be extremely slippery. Dogs don’t have to be leashed, but it’s a good idea to use a tether if your pup’s likely to roam into the woods.