Tahoe Nugget #84:
Top 10 Tahoe Hike: Cascade Lake
June 15, 2006
My friend Steve has been telling me for years about the easy hike to Cascade Lake, just south of Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe. Today I had a large book delivery for the California State Parks at their headquarters on
Tahoe's West Shore. I dropped off the books at Sugar Pine State Park and continued south until I reached the Inspiration Point overlook on the southern aspect of Emerald Bay. The trail head to Cascade Lake is
located behind the campsites across Highway 28 from Inspiration Point. I took 99 pictures today — here are 5 of them.
The hike and views are awesome. The Cascade Falls are about 1 mile from where you
park your car and the elevation changes are minimal considering the topography in that region. The late season snowpack is still feeding the streams draining the Tahoe watershed. Lake Tahoe is within inches of its
legal maximum elevation, but snowmelt continues to pour into the lake. While hiking in large mountain ranges, remember that the stream you easily crossed in the morning may be impassable in the afternoon when the
upstream snowpack is at peak melt phase.
The Cascade Lake hike is notable for ease of accessibility, exceptional scenery and Kodak moments. Once beyond the falls there is plenty of graphic evidence depicting
glaciation processes including glacial polish and striations on the exposed granite. Wild flowers were abundant and characteristics of the naked rock revealed a bit about the mysteries of mountain building. (Classes
in geology help reading the rock.)
The sculptors of today's rugged Sierra Nevada were the glaciers of the last Ice Age, which carved and polished the granite pluton that formed the mountain range that
photographer Ansel Adams called the Range of Light.
Photo #1: The main cascade is impressive and just the beginning of what the curious explorer may discover.
Photo #2: Cascade Lake is one of the many lesser-known jewels which enhance the Tahoe experience.
#3: There is still plenty of snow along the Sierra crest, part of which feeds Lake Tahoe.
Photo #4: I was surprised at some of the wildlife I saw on the hike.
Photo #5: Emerald Bay is just north of Cascade
Lake. Both were carved out by glaciers. Difference is that the Emerald Bay glacier pushed into Lake Tahoe creating a "bay" while the Cascade Lake glacier didn't make it quite that far.