Eagle Falls & Eagle Lake Trail is an amazing wilderness hike in Lake Tahoe that offers incredible views for relatively little work.
Eagle Lake trail is only 2 miles long (round trip) and features stunning panoramic views of Emerald Bay, passes Upper Eagle Falls Bridge, and ends at the beautiful Eagle Lake.
In this post, we cover how to get to Eagle Falls & Eagle Lake Trailhead, cost, difficulty, and other hiking tips.
About Eagle Falls & Eagle Lake Trail
The hike to Eagle Falls and Eagle Lake is short but it steadily climbs up and gains around 450 feet in elevation. During this hike, you’ll be walking on slippery rocks and uneven ground so wearing slip-resistant hiking shoes with a good grip is a must.
Eagle Falls Trail is very popular so we recommend heading out early before the crowds arrive. We started this hike at 9 am and we were some of the first people out on the trail.
After reaching Eagle Lake you have the option to add an extra half-mile of hiking to jaw-dropping viewpoints of Eagle Lake and the surrounding area. We did that and it was totally worth it.
If you’re wondering if Eagle Falls and Eagle Lake Trail is dog friendly – the answer is yes. This trail is located in Desolation Wilderness that allows dogs.
However note that if you plan to visit Emerald Bay after this hike, Emerald Bay does not allow dogs. At Emerald Bay State Park dogs are only allowed in the parking lot and at the vista point.
Eagle Falls Trailhead Location
Upper Eagle Falls and Eagle Lake Trail start at the same trailhead. This trail is located in Desolation Wilderness just across the road from Emerald Bay so many people combine a visit to both on the same day.
Eagle Falls Trailhead has a designated parking lot right off Highway 89. Many people use this parking lot to visit Emerald Bay so come early if you want to secure a spot. Parking in this area is very limited and fills up quickly.
This parking lot has basic restrooms and some picnic tables along with trashcans.
After parking visitors are required to fill out a Desolation Wilderness Permit and pay $5 (in cash or check) for day visitation. This fee goes towards the upkeep and maintenance of the trail, restrooms, and garbage.
Note: If you plan to backpack and stay the night at one of the Desolation Wilderness camping spots, you will need to obtain a separate backcountry permit from a nearby Forest Service office.
Eagle Falls Trailhead Location: Highway 89, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
What To Expect
We set out to hike Eagle Falls & Eagle Lake Trail early on a Saturday morning. I heard that this trail is very popular so we made sure to get an early start despite the morning rain and chilly weather.
From the parking lot, the Eagle Falls trailhead is easy to spot. It’s located next to some large signs that describe the Desolation Wilderness hiking permit process and general trail guidelines.
In the beginning, Eagle Falls trail starts off relatively easy but quickly it starts to climb across giant rocks and boulders.
The first section of the Eagle Falls trail goes in a loop. We decided to go one way up and the other way down for a change in scenery.
On the way up we followed the loop to the right that leads to a vista point about 0.2 miles into the hike. This viewpoint overlooks Emerald Bay and its stunning blue water.
Unfortunately, the morning of our hike was a bit overcast so the water didn’t look very blue at first.
Emerald Bay looks best on sunny days when the sun reflects off the water giving it that beautiful turquoise color that it’s known for.
Luckily on our way back, the sun was out so we got to enjoy better views coming back down.
After the vista point, we connected back with the main Eagle Trail Loop and continued on. Shortly after we reached the scenic Upper Eagle Falls Bridge that crosses Eagle Creek.
If you’re starting to feel tired, at this point you can head back and finish up the Eagle Trail Loop. Many people hike just Eagle Trail Loop because the next section of this hike to Eagle Lake is a lot more challenging.
We decided to continue on so we kept following the Eagle Lake Trail into Desolation Wilderness for another 0.7 miles.
The trail climbed up through a forest path that was covered in stones and rocks. This section can be a bit tough on those who have knee problems. I also slipped a few times because the rocks were still wet from the morning rain.
After a bit of a hike, we reached the turning point for Eagle Lake. At the junction make a right and within a few minutes, you will start seeing views of the lake peeking through the trees in front of you.
Once we reached Eagle Lake we took a quick break and walked around. There was a narrow path that followed along the lake with some wilderness campsites for backpackers.
We decided to check out the Eagle Lake viewpoints so we ventured back to the main trail and continued on.
It was quite the steep climb that went by slowly but we could see views of Eagle Lake the whole time and they just kept getting better and better.
About 0.5 miles in we reached the first viewpoint and it was so worth the difficult climb. From up here, we could see a clear view of the entire lake and the jagged mountains in the back.
If you’re not sure where the viewpoints are located use Maps.me hiking app to guide you. Just make sure to download the South Lake Tahoe map before you set out on the trail.
After taking in all the beautiful views we started the hike back down to the parking lot.
It was a really beautiful day but the wind was picking up quite a bit and I was thankful we brought our jackets.
It took us a couple of hours to complete the hike and we were back before noon. If you have the extra time, we recommend to visit Lower Eagle Falls across Highway 89 and Emerald Bay afterwards.