Bassi Falls

Pollock Pines / Placerville / Eldorado National Forest, California, USA

About Bassi Falls


Hiking Distance: 4-4.5 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 2 hours

Date first visited: 2016-06-22
Date last visited: 2016-06-22

Waterfall Latitude: 38.89233
Waterfall Longitude: -120.331

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Bassi Falls was one of those fun waterfalls that had the scenery as well as the chance to play in the water.

It was where the Bassi Fork cascaded 130ft over a series of disjointed drops on granite that made it look smaller in pictures than in real life.

Bassi_Falls_142_06222016 - Bassi Falls
Bassi Falls

Yet with this waterfall, I’d say it was more about the atmosphere and the overall surroundings that made the experience.

Indeed, just downstream from Bassi Falls were a series of pools, ponds, and water holes filling in potholes as well as grooves in the granite bedrock.

They provided the perfect spot to play in the water and cool off from the Summer heat while doing all this with the background noise and backdrop of the Bassi Falls itself.

In a way, we felt like this was kind of a smaller but more accessible and fun version of the Horsetail Falls near South Lake Tahoe.

Bassi_Falls_110_06222016 - Lots of people cooling off in the Bassi Fork just downstream of the Bassi Falls
Lots of people cooling off in the Bassi Fork just downstream of the Bassi Falls

Having come to Bassi Falls right after the Horsetail Falls, I guess we didn’t expect much going into this hike.

But all that changed when we arrived and simply enjoyed the festive atmosphere as it seemed like people of all ages walked out of here with smiles on their faces.

Neither Mom nor I could recall there being a swimming hole this scenic and fun at the same time, and it reminded us of the appeal of Summertime swimming holes in general.

It was certainly one spot where I felt like my wife and daughter really missed out!

Bassi_Falls_072_06222016 - Context of Bassi Falls and some people chilling out near one of the granite grooves or potholes
Context of Bassi Falls and some people chilling out near one of the granite grooves or potholes

Bassi Falls left such a positive impression on us that we rated it the same as the much larger but less swim-friendly Horsetail Falls.

Hiking to Bassi Falls

As for accessing Bassi Falls, there were three different trailhead options.

Each of these options had varying levels of risk and reward, which we’ll get into when describing the driving directions below.

Basically, the risks boiled down to the potential for damage to your vehicle.

Bassi_Falls_023_06222016 - A trail junction on the way to Bassi Falls where the path on the left came from the Towering Rocks Trailhead (shaving off 0.8 miles of hiking in total)
A trail junction on the way to Bassi Falls where the path on the left came from the Towering Rocks Trailhead (shaving off 0.8 miles of hiking in total)

The reward was how much less hiking you’d have to do to reach the falls.

And the decision ultimately came down to how much you think the potential damage to your vehicle was worth the reduced hiking.

In our case, we actually explored all three options, but we ultimately settled on the longest hike option from the Millionaire Camp, which wound up being two miles each way (or 4 miles round trip).

Mom and I ended up spending about 3 hours away from the car, but at least an hour of that time was spent just enjoying this waterfall.

Bassi_Falls_069_06222016 - Looking back at the trail junction for the shortest path leading to Bassi Falls, but the road to get there was not an easy one to take
Looking back at the trail junction for the shortest path leading to Bassi Falls, but the road to get there was not an easy one to take

Had my wife and daughter been here, I could easily envisioning us spending the entire afternoon here!

Nevertheless, we’ll provide the detailed trail description going from the Millionaire Camp to Bassi Falls.

Bassi Falls Trail Description – from the Millionaire Camp to an intermediate waterfall

After finding parking at the Millionaire Camp, we then followed a pretty straightforward trail indicating that Bassi Falls was two miles away.

Initially, the trail skirted the edges of a grove of trees between Bassi Creek and the trail itself.

Bassi_Falls_006_06222016 - Mom following the Bassi Falls Trail from the Bassi Creek Trailhead (where the Millionaire Camp was), which she had no trouble following thanks to trail markers like this
Mom following the Bassi Falls Trail from the Bassi Creek Trailhead (where the Millionaire Camp was), which she had no trouble following thanks to trail markers like this

Unlike the Horsetail Falls Trail in the Desolation Wilderness, this trail was far easier to follow as there were plenty of diamond-shaped hiking signs along the way.

Most of the trail was pretty flat with a few mild uphill sections.

Every so often, we would catch glimpses of Bassi Creek or even hear the sounds of rushing water where there might have been minor cascades tumbling unseen amongst the overgrowth separating us from the creek.

At around 0.7 miles from the Millionaire Camp, we reached a trail junction with a shorter trail that came from the Towering Rocks Trailhead Parking 0.3 miles away.

Bassi_Falls_020_06222016 - Mom continuing on the well-forested Bassi Falls Trail
Mom continuing on the well-forested Bassi Falls Trail

Had we parked the car and started the hike from there, it would have been a 3.2-mile round trip hike.

That would have saved about 0.8 miles of hiking when compared to the Millionaire Camp approach that we wound up taking.

Anyways, we continued on the main trail as it would meander amongst a combination of groves of trees providing some shade from the hot sun as well as open sections with no relief from the heat.

After another half-mile of hiking, we reached a lookout with a direct view of a wide but rounded waterfall.

Bassi_Falls_155_06222016 - This was the intermediate waterfall we saw on Bassi Creek that we thankfully didn't mistake for the real Bassi Falls, but it was a nice and relaxing spot in its own right
This was the intermediate waterfall we saw on Bassi Creek that we thankfully didn’t mistake for the real Bassi Falls, but it was a nice and relaxing spot in its own right

At first, we thought this waterfall was the Bassi Falls, but it turned out to be just an attractive intermediate waterfall.

Luckily for us, we didn’t make the mistake of turning back early thinking this was the one.

This intermediate waterfall on Bassi Creek was a nice swimming hole in its own right.

After all, it had the picturesque waterfall (maybe 15-20ft or so) with a calm plunge pool that seemed to be relatively quiet and not too overrun with bathers.

Bassi_Falls_164_06222016 - Looking downstream from the intermediate waterfall en route to Bassi Falls, which kind of gave us a precursor to the types of swimming holes that the main waterfall would offer
Looking downstream from the intermediate waterfall en route to Bassi Falls, which kind of gave us a precursor to the types of swimming holes that the main waterfall would offer

In order to reach the plunge pool, there was an informal scramble alongside the falls after continuing on the main trail for another 500ft or so ultimately accessing this waterfall’s brink.

The scramble alongside the falls was a fairly tame friction pitch eventually leading to the protruding slabs of granite fringing the calm plunge pool.

Bassi Falls Trail Description – from the intermediate waterfall to the main waterfall

Back up at the main trail, we continued hiking through more undulating patches of forest and open granite (with hints of domes in the distance).

At about 0.3 miles from that intermediate waterfall on Bassi Creek, we reached yet another trail junction.

Bassi_Falls_051_06222016 - Mom continuing on the hike towards Bassi Falls as we passed by these curiously marked trees along the way
Mom continuing on the hike towards Bassi Falls as we passed by these curiously marked trees along the way

This time, the trail coming from the left was the closest trailhead parking to Bassi Falls at a mere 1/2-mile away.

Continuing on the main trail, the granite terrain became even more pronounced as we started to see the impressive Bassi Falls in the distance.

The closer to the falls that we got, the more that we could see the overflowing streams streaking over the granite surface while some of this overflow filled in wading pools and swimming holes.

Finally after about two miles of hiking from the trailhead (taking us a little over an hour), we finally arrived at the base of Bassi Falls.

Bassi_Falls_067_06222016 - Mom finally approaching Bassi Falls after sweating it out on the Bassi Creek Trail
Mom finally approaching Bassi Falls after sweating it out on the Bassi Creek Trail

Like with Horsetail Falls, we were able to see more of the entirety of the waterfall from further downstream as we were approaching it.

However, it was only when we got close to the falls that we could interact with it.

In other words, we appreciated the cool spray, the volume of Bassi Creek, and the shade and swimming holes that dozens of other people were enjoying at the height of a pretty hot Summer day.

The timing of our visit was such that we were benefitting from snowmelt from relatively late Spring storms.

Bassi_Falls_100_06222016 - At the base of Bassi Falls, it seemed like everyone was having a good time, and we couldn't help but think that this moment could very well be the perfect convergence of natural beauty and fun
At the base of Bassi Falls, it seemed like everyone was having a good time, and we couldn’t help but think that this moment could very well be the perfect convergence of natural beauty and fun

So it’s conceivable that the falls would lose much of its vigor deeper into the Summer months.

Still, there was no denying the fun scene that unfolded before us as it seemed like everyone was having a good time.

The water was icy cold to dip our feet into, but then it started to feel real good compared to the 80+ degree day that we were experiencing.

We easily spent a solid hour just chilling out at Bassi Falls, and it was the kind of scene that we didn’t want to leave.

Bassi_Falls_086_06222016 - Looking back at some younger folks enjoying the calmer parts of the Bassi Fork just further downstream of Bassi Falls
Looking back at some younger folks enjoying the calmer parts of the Bassi Fork just further downstream of Bassi Falls

Mom and I kept thinking that Julie and Tahia really missed out on this one as I could easily envision at least Tahia spending an entire afternoon here not wanting to leave.

Anyways, when we finally had our fill of this spot, we quickly made our return hike back to the Millionaire Camp.

We’d eventually get there after spending nearly 3 hours away from the car.

If there was one waterfalling experience that we’d like to re-experience with more loved ones participating, it would be Bassi Falls.

Authorities

Bassi Falls resides in the Eldorado National Forest near South Lake Tahoe in El Dorado County, California. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Bassi_Falls_005_06222016 - Mom starting the hike from Millionaire Camp or Bassi Creek Trailhead to Bassi Falls
Bassi_Falls_011_06222016 - The relatively flat Bassi Creek Trail alternated between open forest sections like this and shadier sections providing a little more relief from the hot midday sun
Bassi_Falls_012_06222016 - Mom continuing to follow the diamonds along the Bassi Creek Trail as some of the mild uphill sections took a little out of us due to the somewhat intense mid-day heat
Bassi_Falls_016_06222016 - Before we knew what Bassi Falls was like, Mom was probably not happy with me having her go along with me on this hike at the height of a hot summer's day, and this uphill sun-exposed stretch didn't help matters
Bassi_Falls_028_06222016 - Under such a warm day like today, any chance at getting near or touching Bassi Creek would be a relief, and these rapids was one such spot where it was real tempting to stop and cool off
Bassi_Falls_038_06222016 - At a little over the half-way point of the hike, we encountered this attractive intermediate waterfall on Bassi Creek, which thankfully we didn't make the mistake of thinking it was the actual Bassi Falls and turning around prematurely.
Bassi_Falls_039_06222016 - Contextual look at that intermediate waterfall on Bassi Creek at a little over the half-way point from the Millionaire Camp to the Bassi Falls
Bassi_Falls_044_06222016 - Continuing the hike to Bassi Falls beyond that intermediate waterfall on Bassi Creek
Bassi_Falls_052_06222016 - We started to encounter more hikers (in both directions) the further along the Bassi Creek Trail that we went
Bassi_Falls_056_06222016 - As we continued hiking further along the Bassi Falls Trail, we started to notice more granite and even this dome in the distance to our topleft
Bassi_Falls_064_06222016 - Finally starting to see Bassi Falls up ahead, which was a glorious sight after the effort we put into the hike to get here
Bassi_Falls_076_06222016 - This was one of many plunge and wading pools that people who made it to the Bassi Falls were enjoying as they were beating the Summer heat
Bassi_Falls_090_06222016 - When we got right up to the foot of Bassi Falls, we were no longer able to see its uppermost drops, but we at least could enjoy the waters of the Bassi Fork
Bassi_Falls_095_06222016 - Mom checking out the rushing cascade of Bassi Falls
Bassi_Falls_133_06222016 - More people enjoying the calm parts of the Bassi Fork around Bassi Falls to cool off from the Summer heat
Bassi_Falls_138_06222016 - Taking one last look at Bassi Falls over a wading pool before we hiked back to the Millionaire Camp
Bassi_Falls_143_06222016 - Mom starting to make her way back from Bassi Falls as it was time to finally pry ourselves away and regain the car
Bassi_Falls_145_06222016 - The hike back from Bassi Falls went quicker as the shadows were longer and thus the temperatures were cooler
Bassi_Falls_147_06222016 - During the return hike, we decided to take a quick break at that intermediate waterfall on Bassi Creek. This was the view over its brink
Bassi_Falls_167_06222016 - Mom continuing to follow the mostly downhill trail back to the Millionaire Camp after having had our fill of Bassi Falls
Bassi_Falls_174_06222016 - Finally making it back to the Millionaire Camp after nearly three hours away from the car

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We drove to Bassi Falls from South Lake Tahoe so we’ll begin the driving directions from there.

From the Hwy 89 and Hwy 50 junction at the intersection of Lake Tahoe Blvd and Emerald Bay Rd in South Lake Tahoe, we headed south (which then curved west) on Hwy 50 (Emerald Bay Rd) for about 35.5 miles.

We eventually got to a signed turnoff for Ice House Road (or Icehouse Road according to some maps) on the right.

Next, we took the narrower Ice House Road and followed it for a little over 16 miles until we’d eventually reach a turnoff for a dirt road on our right (just opposite a sign for Big Silver Group Campground on our left).

It took us a little over an hour to make the drive from South Lake Tahoe to this dirt road opposite the Big Silver Group Campground (covering nearly 52 miles).

Note that coming from the other direction in Placerville, it would have been 21 miles of driving east along Hwy 50 to the Ice House Road.

Once we were on the dirt road, this was where we had some decisions to make regarding how far we wanted to drive versus how far we wanted to hike.

Option 1: Starting the hike at Bassi Creek or Millionaire Camp

First, let’s start with the option that would put the least amount of stress on the car (it was also the manner in which we visited the falls).

For this option, we stayed straight on the dirt road (ignoring the turnoff on the left) and eventually reached a bit of a large cul-de-sac after about 0.4 miles from Ice House Road.

Once at the cul-de-sac, we then followed a narrower and rougher road to the right leading down to the Millionaire Camp in the next 0.1 mile.

Bassi_Falls_001_06222016 - The Bassi Creek Trailhead Parking, which was also near the Millionaire Camp
The Bassi Creek Trailhead Parking, which was also near the Millionaire Camp

There was pretty ample parking at this campground when we visited in late June 2016.

The hike from here to Bassi Falls was said to be two miles in each direction (4 miles round trip), but our GPS logs indicated that we actually went 4.5 miles.

Option 2: Starting the hike at Towering Rocks

The second option was to immediately take the fork on the left shortly after leaving Ice House Road.

This road was already pretty rough and rugged as it featured some water gullies and some protruding rocks as high clearance vehicles was definitely recommended on this road.

After about 0.7 miles, we saw a sign for Towering Rocks Parking, which seemed like it only had room for a couple of cars (without blocking the road).

Had we known or been fortunate enough to claim a parking spot here, the hike from here to Bassi Falls would be 1.6 miles each way (or 3.2 miles round trip).

Option 3: Starting the hike at Bassi Falls

The last option was to continue driving beyond the Towering Rocks Parking.

Unfortunately, we saw a worrying handwritten sign shortly after that trailhead saying “Warning Rough Road 2WD and Passenger Vehicles Not Recommended”.

As we pushed forward on Mom’s SUV, we quickly saw that the sign wasn’t kidding.

Pretty much the road was very slow going as the bumps and rocks were even more pronounced and the slope of the road was even more severe.

We eventually got to a part of the climb where there was an undulating series of dips at the apex of the hill.

I didn’t think we’d make it in Mom’s car so we backed up carefully towards the base of the hill and turned around.

Had we persisted (probably needed 4wd mode to get over those steep and deep undulating humps), we would have made it to the nearest trailhead.

Hiking from there to the Bassi Falls would require a mere one-mile round trip.

Finally, for some geographical context, South Lake Tahoe was 62 miles (about 90 minutes drive) south of Reno, Nevada, 104 miles (2 hours drive) east of Sacramento, 139 miles (under 3 hours drive) north of Mammoth Lakes, 188 miles (about 3.5 hours drive without traffic) from San Francisco, and 443 miles (7.5 hours drive) north of Los Angeles.

Long movie showing us the various ways people were having fun at this waterfall


Sweep checking out the smaller bassi waterfall, whose swimming pool was quite nice in its own right

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Tagged with: pollock pines, placerville, el dorado, eldorado, national forest, south lake tahoe, hwy 50, california, sierra nevada, waterfall, northern california, swim, swimming, millionaire camp, bassi creek, union valley reservoir, icehouse, ice house, big silver, towering rocks



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Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

Nice walk to a beautiful falls (Bassi Falls) May 28, 2017 9:03 pm by Todd Swagerty - My son and I drove up from Sacramento for a day hike. The drive was a less than an hour and a half, and all but the last little bit is paved. This was Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, so the cul-de-sac mentioned above was filled with cars. We turned down to Millionaire Camp (not… ...Read More

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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