Cradled amongst the Sierra granite rising high above Emerald Bay are a multitude of lakes hidden from view along Highway 89. While most visitors to the area head down to Emerald Bay State Park or Eagle Falls, a handful of trails explore some lesser known sites. For a short hike that offers spectacular views yet feels removed from the area's busier traffic, try Cascade Falls.
The 200-foot waterfall is a large horsetail-style fall that spills into scenic Cascade Lake. While the waterfall still flows during late summer and into fall, spring into early summer is typically when it puts on its best display.
To reach Cascade Falls take the Bayview Trail, which begins at the end of the Bayview Trailhead Campground. The trail begins as a wide dirt path that meanders through forest. After a half-mile, the forest gives way to a narrower rocky trail along the cliff-edge. As the view opens up, the trail becomes less and less distinct. Keep going for another few hundred yards and you will find Cascade Creek (or low-flow stream, depending on the season). Follow the creek downstream to arrive at the top of the waterfall. Be aware of your surroundings as well as your footing, as there are no safety barriers in place here. The falls make a great spot for a snack and soaking in the view.
Although technically part of Desolation Wilderness, you will not need a permit for this hike. All other hikes in Desolation require a permit.