Glen Alpine Falls

Fallen Leaf Lake / South Lake Tahoe, California, USA

About Glen Alpine Falls


Hiking Distance: roadside
Suggested Time:

Date first visited: 2016-06-23
Date last visited: 2016-06-23

Waterfall Latitude: 38.87967
Waterfall Longitude: -120.07365

Waterfaller Newsletter

Get over the hump of the mid-week blues! Subscribe and get exclusive curated content delivered to your inbox every Wednesday.

Glen Alpine Falls (or Glen Alpine Creek Falls) was definitely one of the big waterfall surprises of our trip to South Lake Tahoe.

It featured an impressive drop that was about as wide as it was tall at 75ft.

Glen_Alpine_Falls_007_06232016 - Glen Alpine Falls (or Lower Glen Alpine Falls)
Glen Alpine Falls (or Lower Glen Alpine Falls)

It also had underlying reddish rocks contrasting the bright whites of the rushing cascade making it photogenic.

Moreover, there were lots of people playing around the calmer parts of the Glen Alpine Creek for that interactive experience.

Heck, this was also a drive-to waterfall while neighboring other attractive sights like Fallen Leaf Lake and Lily Lake.

Indeed, Glen Alpine Falls pretty much had it all, except for the limited parking spaces along the narrow road to get here.

It was hard to believe that we almost skipped doing this waterfall due to waterfall fatigue from having seen so many other waterfalls in the Lake Tahoe vicinity during our June 2016 trip.

Glen_Alpine_Falls_030_06232016 - Trying to capture as much of the Glen Alpine Falls as I could in a single shot
Trying to capture as much of the Glen Alpine Falls as I could in a single shot

Good thing we pushed through the waterfall saturation and persisted!

Experiencing Glen Alpine Falls

We were able to experience the Glen Alpine Falls both from near its base as well as from viewing areas in more elevated spots directly across from Glen Alpine Creek.

While the main falls was what most people paid attention to, the creek continued its cascading course wrapping around the viewing area and proceeding mostly unseen further downstream.

At the tops of the gorge were some private homes getting a prime view of the falls and the people enjoying themselves around it.

We were also able to walk up the road a short distance to another viewing spot, where we got closer to the brink of the falls and better appreciate just how big it was.

Glen_Alpine_Falls_002_06232016 - Mom descending towards a spot where we could view the Glen Alpine Falls
Mom descending towards a spot where we could view the Glen Alpine Falls

Some people were a bit daring and found “islands” in the middle of the falls though I wouldn’t recommend it given the potential for a fatal fall.

Nevertheless, it was easy to see why this appeared to be a very popular spot though not quite as crushing as some of the other attractions along Hwy 89 like Cascade Falls, and the Upper and Lower Eagle Falls.

Timing Glen Alpine Falls

As for the timing of a visit to the Glen Alpine Falls, apparently we were lucky.

As much of Northern California made somewhat of an El Nino comeback in 2016, much of the Sierra Nevada mountains had a pretty good snowpack (though it wasn’t as above average as was hoped).

Following an abysmal couple of years of drought even in these typically moist parts of the drought-stricken state, I guess we take what we could.

Glen_Alpine_Falls_052_06232016 - Looking further upstream from the Glen Alpine Falls along Glen Alpine Creek which had great flow during our visit
Looking further upstream from the Glen Alpine Falls along Glen Alpine Creek which had great flow during our visit

In any case, we showed up at a time when the Summer weather started to assert itself with full force, which meant that the snows were rapidly melting thereby swelling all drainages, including Glen Alpine Creek.

And as you can see from the photos on this page, this waterfall was probably about as photogenic as well as refreshing as it could be.

Given the hard bedrock containing the large drainage area, the waterflow can diminish drastically over the hot Summer months, especially in July and August.

It’s kind of like the Yosemite Falls effect, where it too had a very large drainage area and can have a forceful display in the Spring and early Summer months.

However, it would eventually go dry typically by August and definitely by Labor Day.

Nomenclature

Glen_Alpine_Falls_049_06232016 - Looking across the brink of the Glen Alpine Falls with some house perched by the cliff opposite the Glen Alpine Creek
Looking across the brink of the Glen Alpine Falls with some house perched by the cliff opposite the Glen Alpine Creek

Finally, because there happened to be another waterfall a bit further upstream on Glen Alpine Creek, we’ve seen this waterfall referred to as the Lower Glen Alpine Falls.

That said, the maps often label this waterfall as the Glen Alpine Falls.

I could have combined the writeups for both of the waterfalls on Glen Alpine Creek.

However, since they started from different trailheads or parking areas, I figured that it made more sense to keep them separate.

You can read the other writeup for the Upper Glen Alpine Falls (more formally known as Modjeska Falls) here.

Authorities

Glen Alpine Falls resides in the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit 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.

Glen_Alpine_Falls_024_06232016 - Frontal look at the attractive Glen Alpine Falls
Glen_Alpine_Falls_037_06232016 - Looking across Glen Alpine Creek towards one of the private homes perched above the gorge, where they must have a pretty nice view of the Glen Alpine Falls as well as the atmosphere around it
Glen_Alpine_Falls_053_06232016 - Looking ahead at the continuation of the narrow road leading to Lily Lake and the Modjeska Falls as seen from the pullouts around Glen Alpine Falls

join-booking-970x240-1.jpg


We drove to Glen Alpine Falls from South Lake Tahoe so this is how I’ll do the driving directions.

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 north on Hwy 89 (Emerald Bay Rd) for about three miles to the turnoff for Fallen Leaf Lake Road on the left.

Turning left onto Fallen Leaf Lake Rd, we proceeded as the road started to become a single lane road after around two miles (shortly after keeping right and not taking Tahoe Mountain Road, which was coming in from the left).

Glen_Alpine_Falls_160_06232016 - This was the narrow road along Fallen Leaf Lake, which eventually led us closer to the Glen Alpine Falls
This was the narrow road along Fallen Leaf Lake, which eventually led us closer to the Glen Alpine Falls

Once Fallen Leaf Lake Rd became single-lane, there were lots of private Summer lakeside homes, where a lot of the time, driveways kind of served as pullouts for people to pass each other.

Since we’ve driven on European roads before, this “single lane road” was actually not that bad at all.

However, since Americans also tend to drive bigger cars and trucks, it was best to go slow to avoid nasty surprises around blind turns as well as to share the road with other motorists and even bicyclists.

The road pretty much remained single lane the rest of the way.

Glen_Alpine_Falls_055_06232016 - The parking situation at Glen Alpine Falls can be a bit tight, especially like in this situation where there was barely room for traffic to get by
The parking situation at Glen Alpine Falls can be a bit tight, especially like in this situation where there was barely room for traffic to get by

At about 5 miles Hwy 89 (or just under 3 miles after the road started becoming bonafide single lane), we started to see pullouts that could be used to stop the car and scramble closer to Glen Alpine Creek for a direct look at the Glen Alpine Falls.

In addition to the pullouts further downstream of the falls, there were a few more spots alongside the incline as well as above the incline near the top of the falls.

Overall, this drive took us around 30 minutes to cover the roughly 8 miles of driving from the southwestern end of South Lake Tahoe.

To give you 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.

Sweep checking out the front of Lower Glen Alpine Falls and some of the downstream stuff as well


Left to right sweep over the brink of the Lower Glen Alpine Falls

Related Top 10 Lists

No Posts Found

Trip Planning Resources


Nearby Accommodations




Tagged with: fallen leaf lake, south lake tahoe, eldorado, sierra nevada, northern california, california, waterfall, glen alpine creek



Visitor Comments:

No users have replied to the content on this page


Share your thoughts about what you've read on this page

You must be logged in to submit content. Refresh this page after you have logged in.

Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

No users have submitted a write-up/review of this waterfall


Have you been to a waterfall? Submit a write-up/review and share your experiences or impressions

Review A Waterfall

Nearest Waterfalls

The Waterfaller Newsletter

The Waterfaller Newsletter is where we curate the wealth of information on the World of Waterfalls website and deliver it to you in bite-sized chunks in your email inbox. You'll also get exclusive content like...

  • Waterfall Wednesdays
  • Insider Tips
  • User-submitted Waterfall Write-up of the Month
  • and the latest news and updates both within the website as well as around the wonderful world of waterfalls
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.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.