Outside with Charlie: Horsetail Falls

By From page A6 | August 08, 2012


Horsetail Falls is a spectacular sight any time of year, cascading down a jumble of granite that feeds Pyramid Creek.

Located just off US Highway 50 at Twin Bridges, the trail head and parking lot are easy to get to.

The trail head has toilets and water, and a pretty good map of the Loop Trail. The two treks here are both wonderful and will give your camera a work out. For hikers with small children, the Loop Trail is best.

The Loop Trail follows Pyramid Creek and is relatively well marked. This is a non-technical hike with a gentle gain in elevation.

There are several places along the creek to stop and enjoy its beauty.

The other hike here leads into the wilderness and to Horsetail Falls. The trail to the falls is less clearly marked, but generally is visible. Going uphill, Pyramid Creek will be on the right. The hike meanders over huge granite slabs, rock gardens, and soft forest floor before finally coming out at the base of Horsetail.

When you get to the Desolation Wilderness boundary, fill out the permit and attach the top part to your pack. Continue on, always taking time to look back at the trail.

There is a point along the trail about two-thirds of the way that’s confusing. You’ll come to a large outcrop of rock with a creek bed in front. To the left is what looks like the trail.

Taking this trail, hikers will find themselves going up through the rocks, and will eventually find the going very difficult. The creek will be quite a ways down, and going forward just won’t seem like a good idea.

That little creek bed just in front of, and to the right of, the large rock is actually the trail that you want to be on. Take the creek bed and within a few feet you’ll be back on the trail. The key here is that you want to be closer to the creek, not far away and much higher in the rocks.

Going through the forest you will come out into the open and will go up through some rocks. The falls will be in front of you. As you continue for a short bit you’ll notice that there is quite a deep chasm that the falls rumble through.

Depending on your skill, going a little higher just improves the view and it’s possible to continue to the top of the falls.

Continuing to the top is a trek that only those who are prepared to do so should undertake. Going up on a lark could be a very dangerous choice.

Exercise caution while anywhere near the edge of the chasm walls. Take pictures, have lunch or a snack, and stay safe. The map back at the trail head says it simply. The falls can be a dangerous place.

Each year, stranded hikers have to be rescued. Falling into the rapidly moving and forceful flow up here is generally not a survivable experience.

Head back to the trail head. When you get to the Loop Trail intersection, taking that way puts you squarely back on Pyramid Creek and into the forest for the rest of the way back to the parking lot.

Allow about an hour and half if you head up to the falls and about the same for the return. The Loop Trail will take about 45 minutes.

Either hike is gorgeous. Remember to take food and water with you and fill your camera with memories. Enjoy your time outside.

Charlie Ferris

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