Sierra hikes: Bayview Trailhead offers exceptional views of Emerald Bay, Fallen Leaf Lake and more |

Sierra hikes: Bayview Trailhead offers exceptional views of Emerald Bay, Fallen Leaf Lake and more

Anthony Gentile
South Shore’s Bayview Trailhead lives up to its name with a stunning aerial view of Emerald Bay on the way into Desolation Wilderness.
Anthony Gentile | Tahoe Daily Tribune

Getting There

The Bayview Trailhead is located on State Route 89 approximately 7.5 miles northwest of the intersection of Lake Tahoe Boulevard and Emerald Bay Road, known as the “Y.” After driving up the series of switchbacks leading to Emerald Bay, the campground that includes the trailhead will come up quickly on your lefthand side, across the street from Inspiration Point. Parking is available at the back of the campground, but can fill up quickly.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The South Shore’s Bayview Trailhead lives up to its name — and offers some surprises. A pair of two-hour hikes off the trailhead provides aerial views of Emerald Bay, Cascade Lake and Fallen Leaf Lake along with a brief taste of Desolation Wilderness.


A left at the start of the trail sets a path toward Cascade Falls, which overlooks Cascade Lake. And the lake, along with Lake Tahoe, is quickly visible on the straightforward hike.

Quick reward: Approximately a quarter-mile into the well-maintained, rocky trail, Cascade Lake comes into view on the left. The lake stays in view along the trail, providing great scenery on the way to Cascade Falls — getting an early start before the winds kick up make for a glassy, serene surface.

Small falls: At the one-mile mark, Cascade Falls is in close proximity. Despite a lack of water, the falls are accessible, offer good views of the lake, and feature plenty of flat rocks to sit on for a short break.

Free for all: From the falls back to the creek a little ways above, open granite terrain offers room to explore. Find the wooden marker near the falls when it’s time to head back.

Trail notes: The trail to Cascade Falls has little shelter from the sun, which makes for great views but also a warmer hike. Though it’s a short jaunt to the falls, water and sunscreen are necessary. There’s little elevation gain during the hike, but it’s relatively uphill on the way back — it takes about an hour and a half.


A right where the trail begins presents a tougher challenge along with access to Desolation Wilderness. A free permit is required for those venturing this way, which can be obtained at a kiosk near the parking lot.

Uphill start, but worth it: The start of the Desolation Wilderness trail presents an elevation gain that will have most hikers out of breath. The covered sand trail winds through trees — and a half-mile up offers a sight that is breathtaking in its own right.

Bay from above: Once in a clearing, the trail opens up and provides a stunning aerial view of Lake Tahoe’s most iconic sight. While most have seen Emerald Bay from various angles, the vantage point along the Desolation Wilderness trail is unique — and comes with less of a crowd.

Granite Lake: After taking in Emerald Bay from high above, heading three-quarters of a mile further puts hikers alongside Granite Lake. The west side of the lake has a handful of spots to sit and enjoy lunch, and venturing beyond its east side provides the reward of a panoramic view Cascade Lake, Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Tahoe.

Trail notes: The sandy trail is clearly identified and relatively easy to find. The consistent elevation gain presents a challenge from the start — to Granite Lake and back takes about two hours.


Check out the Velmas. Located about four miles past Granite Lake, this series of three lakes provides plenty of opportunities for exploration and even a quick dip.

There is still some elevation gain to tackle past Granite Lake, so make sure to wear sturdy shoes and pack plenty of water, food and clothing for an extended trip. Mosquitoes can be an issue.

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