Who on the way up to Tahoe hasn't caught a glimpse of Horsetail Falls, the spectacular, 800-foot cataract visible from Highway 50 at Twin Bridges? The half-day trek to the lower falls is one of the premier hiking experiences in the Tahoe area—and one best saved for cool weather or an overcast day if you're accompanied by a canine companion.
Why? The granite slabs over which the trail passes are scenic as all get-out, but they can heat up to broiling on a hot summer day. If you donít have booties for your pooch, you'll want to be extra vigilant about finding shade.
The Pyramid Creek Trail that departs from the parking lot and parallels the lower cascades calls for extreme caution, as people have died here by slipping on the rocks and being swept away. This year's late snow melt has contributed to a spectacular flow and spectacularly dangerous conditions for unwary gawkers, so until later in the summer you might want to skip the climb into Desolation Wilderness and admire the falls from afar.
The Pyramid Creek Loop Trail, which branches off the main trail about a half-mile in from the parking lot, is a glorious alternative. You'll find lots of canine-friendly shade along this route, along with safe, granite-rimmed pools for you and Astro to splash in. There's breathtaking scenery to absorb, but keep a close watch on your four-legged friend lest that scenery swallow him up.
On the way back to the trailhead, a sheared-off dome formation on the other side of the highway is sure to catch your attention. That’s Lover’s Leap, a prominent landmark that can be summited via a trail leaving from nearby Camp Sacramento. It’s a steep, 45-minute trek that will have you standing on top of the world and admiring Horsetail Falls from perspective reminiscent of Yosemite. Bring water for both of you, and expect a lot of panting.
Photo: "Horsetail Falls" - Van Zandt (CC)