About Bassi Falls
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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