trail descends gently then climbs again toward the falls. In the spring,
the falls dominate your attention both orally and visually. But, in the
summer the creek slows to bubbling brook that allows more intimate discovery
of her wonderful secrets.
area is a photographers delight as the dark rock contrasts with the water
as it slithers in the summer or roars in the spring towards the falls.
It is also a good spot to see the effects of the glaciation that played
such an important part in the formation of Lake Tahoe. Polished granite
worn smooth from thousands of years of ice sliding slowly over it towards
the valley that is now Lake Tahoe is prevalent in the area. Also visible
from the falls, the ridges on both sides and at the end of Cascade Lake
are actually lateral and terminal moraines where rock debris, pushed along
by the glacier was finally deposited as the weather warmed and the glacier
receded. Another few thousand years, and Tahoe would have had TWO Emerald
area around the falls can get busy in the summer, but by hiking just a
few minutes up the stream, one can find relative seclusion even in high
summer! But honestly, the hike up Cascade Canyon is worth every step at
any time of year. If you are in good shape, have the Fallen Leaf Lake
Topo map (and know how to use it!), and are experienced in backcountry
travel, the hike up the canyon to Snow and Azure
Lakes is both pleasant and inspiring.
get back to the trail head, just reverse your travel.
Concerns: The greatest environmental concern here is the shear
volume of people and the pollution that seems to always accompany thousands
of humans. Be sure to use the restroom at the rail head but if you have
to go while out, stay a minimum of 100 yards away from the stream. Use
the hike as an opportunity to talk to your children about responsible
environmental stuardship and spend 15 minutes filling up a bag with trash
left behind by careless previous hikers. Let the kids know that people
go into the wilderness to escape the loudness of the city and instill
in them an appreciation for listening to how incredibly quiet nature usually
The falls are steep, the rocks slippery, and in the spring, the current
is strong. As seems very obvious, be wary and watch children carefully!
To paraphrase a sign we read in Yosemite, "If, for any reason, you
go over the falls, you WILL die."