Trails in Northern California

Trails in Northern California

Leave No Trace!

Visit for more information about Desolation Wilderness. Visit or call 1- 877-444-6777 to make park reservations. Visit Campfire Permits to get a permit online. More about Leave No Trace principles.

November 14, 2012

Sierra Big Trees and Grouse Falls Overlook

Short hikes suitable for families with rewarding views,

in El Dorado National Forest and Tahoe National Forests!

Sierra Big Trees has an Interpretive Loop (not boring as it sounds!) and fantastic picnic areas. 

There are restrooms at the Big Trees Trailhead, and looming above are magnificent giants!
The path is well maintained, lush green, cool and inviting.  It's short enough to be fun for even littler kids. 
Those are my hiking poles propped against this tree to offer a size comparison to this ancient fallen tree. 
I wished my camera could show you the whole tree.  This grove is protected from logging, and thankfully, so that we can see firsthand what a camera cannot do justice to.
Grand blooms lined the trail as well, lending to the sacred Garden of Eden atmosphere.
For the avid hikers, there is a longer route, and for others, a shorter and easier route.
Snow flowers stood tall and in full color near the end of the loop I took. 
I didn't take GPS as both trails are easy to follow.  Elevation change is negligible.
There are ample picnic areas equipped with grills and picnic tables.  They are well spaced too, ensuring that feeling of getting away from it all.

Sierra Big Trees Driving Map


Grouse Falls Overlook

in Tahoe National Forest

The down side is that to get to Grouse Falls Trailhead, you drive about 5 miles of winding dirt road. 

Once there, parking is ample, but the only restroom is the woods.  The trail is well maintained, wide and mostly shady.  Current Conditions link.

After a good stretch, it would be fun to grab lunch and drinks to share out on the viewing deck.  The exception is hot afternoons because the deck isn't shaded and gets the western exposure.

I take things like this pine cone for granted, having grown up in the woods, but really!  The size is a marvel of nature!  My feet aren't so small and the pine cone is close to two of my foot lengths.

There is a dilemma on this short hike.  The shade is dreamy on a hot afternoon.  There is a water runoff I could hear but not see through all the plants growing in the gully.  It cooled the air, pleasantly gurgling. It also unfortunately made me, the hiker, fair game to skeeters, the ravenous ones.  Now for some freaky reason, they rarely bite me, but they still buzz around my face, into my eyes, nose and mouth, and generally disturb my zen-ness in the woods.  Take your remedies for this.  I wished I had a fly swatter!

And when you arrive at the garden like feature of decking, the view across the canyon is the Grouse Falls which cascade 504 feet in two drops called "tiered horsetails".  My point and shoot wasn't prepared for this shot.
There are two other nearby falls you can visit:  South Branch Grouse Creek Falls and Peavine Creek Falls.  I went on to visit the Sierra Big Trees and up to French Meadows instead.

Driving Directions:

From I-80, take the Foresthill exit on to Foresthill Road and drive 16.7 miles and turn right onto Mosquito Ridge Road. Follow Mosquito Ridge Road 19.25 miles to a left turn onto Peavine Road (Road 33). Drive to the end of this winding graveled road to the Grouse Falls Turnoff. At the end of this short spur is a parking area where the trail begins. 
The map above shows from Highway 50, but if you enlarge it by clicking on it you will see how to come from 80 or 50. 

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