Modjeska Falls (Upper Glen Alpine Falls)

Fallen Leaf Lake / South Lake Tahoe, California, USA

About Modjeska Falls (Upper Glen Alpine Falls)

Hiking Distance: 1 mile round trip
Suggested Time: 45 minutes

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

Waterfall Latitude: 38.87711
Waterfall Longitude: -120.08907

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Modjeska Falls (also known as Upper Glen Alpine Falls) was the other main waterfall on Glen Alpine Creek, which drained into the scenic Fallen Leaf Lake.

This 50ft waterfall wasn’t anything particularly special compared to some of its other counterparts in the greater Lake Tahoe area.

Glen_Alpine_Falls_102_06232016 - Modjeska Falls (or Upper Glen Alpine Falls)
Modjeska Falls (or Upper Glen Alpine Falls)

However, it was the surrounding scenery as well as the history of the area that was probably where more of the claim to fame came from.

Although Mom and I didn’t hike past this waterfall, we were keenly aware that there was once a Glen Alpine Springs Resort.

It was said to be Tahoe’s earliest resort, and apparently people used to be able to access it by vehicle back in its heyday.

There was also Lily Lake at the trailhead, which was a scenic alpine lake surrounded by beautiful mountains still clinging onto the snows accumulated from the previous season’s precipitation.

But as for the waterfall itself, it was certainly no slouch in that we were able to get right in front of it and feel the cool spray against the warm weather.

Glen_Alpine_Falls_067_06232016 - Lily Lake
Lily Lake

We were able to experience it not only from its base, but there were also views further downstream (as shown at the top of this page).

And, if you don’t mind using someone’s private deck, there was a nice “backyard” view as well.

The Heritage of the Glen Alpine Springs Resort

There were mineral springs said to have been discovered by Nathan Gilmore in 1863.

It was around that time that he changed his life from farmer to resort entrepreneur essentially establishing the first tourist resort in the Tahoe area.

When we look at how the South Lake Tahoe resort city had evolved into its modern day center for mixing city life, gambling, and natural retreat, it can be argued that this all can be traced back to the pioneering done by Mr Gilmore.

Glen_Alpine_Falls_109_06232016 - Some home that tapped off the power lines around the Glen Alpine Creek near Modjeska Falls
Some home that tapped off the power lines around the Glen Alpine Creek near Modjeska Falls

And since we’re on the topic of history, the formal name of the falls was derived from Helena Modjeska.

She was a Polish actress who made a name for herself in her acting career in the Bay Area in the 1870s and 1880s.

Her name was forever associated with this area after her visit to Glen Alpine Springs Resort in 1885.

The affluent people who have watched her perform while also frequenting this area apparently named this falls in her honor.

Hiking to Modjeska Falls

As for the hike to Modjeska Falls, it seemed like everything about the trail seemed to have traces of the rich past.

Glen_Alpine_Falls_083_06232016 - We had to negotiate some flooded portions of the trail in order to get to the Modjeska Falls
We had to negotiate some flooded portions of the trail in order to get to the Modjeska Falls

The trail was essentially a rocky road following some power lines that appeared to lead to someone’s private home near the falls.

Even the scenic Lily Lake at the trailhead must have been quite a place to relax for those people who stayed at the resort.

During our hike, we encountered a handful of flooded sections and puddles making the trail muddy in spots, but I guess that tended to come with the territory when Glen Alpine Creek was at peak flow from the snowmelt.

The hike started off mostly flat (albeit rocky so it was slow going and good shoes would be required), but then after roughly 0.4 miles, the trail started ascending as it rounded a bend with a view of Modjeska Falls in the distance.

Glen_Alpine_Falls_111_06232016 - Mom pursuing an unmarked path leading us closer to the bottom of the Modjeska Falls
Mom pursuing an unmarked path leading us closer to the bottom of the Modjeska Falls

After another 0.1 miles, we saw the seemingly boarded up private home.

However, instead of going on the deck to see the falls, there was an unmarked path between a couple of trees off the road just past the house.

We took this path, which followed a temporary overflowing creek ultimately leading right up to the base of Modjeska Falls.

It was here that we enjoyed some relative privacy (apparently most hikers on this pretty popular trail didn’t seem to be aware of this spot).

Glen_Alpine_Falls_112_06232016 - Enjoying the bottom of the main drop of the Modjeska Falls
Enjoying the bottom of the main drop of the Modjeska Falls

We even enjoyed a pleasant picnic lunch while being cooled by the spray of the falls in full spate.

Like with the Glen Alpine Falls further downstream, this waterfall appeared to rapidly lose its vigor deeper into the Summertime.

So to get maximum enjoyment, it seemed like early Summer to mid-Summer at the latest would be the ideal times for a visit.

Anyways, after having our fill of the Modjeska Falls, we saw other people viewing it from the deck of that private home.

Glen_Alpine_Falls_131_06232016 - Partial view of the Modjeska Falls from where that private cabin was
Partial view of the Modjeska Falls from where that private cabin was

We weren’t sure if that was kosher since it still seemed to be in use as the power lines seemed to feed a power meter here as well as a worn sign saying something like “Private Property Please Go Away”.

Nevertheless, from what we can tell, that there was a slightly obstructed and more angled view of the Modjeska Falls from there.

Anyways, when all was said and done, we were back at the trailhead at Lily Lake, and we had spent roughly 70 minutes away from the car.

Of that time, we probably spent a good 15-20 minutes relaxing at the falls itself.

Overall, the hike was said to be 1 mile round trip.


Modjeska 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_053_06232016 - Continuing on the narrow road towards Lily Lake after getting past Glen Alpine Falls
Glen_Alpine_Falls_058_06232016 - Mom starting on the hike from the parking lot for Lily Lake and the trailhead for Modjeska Falls
Glen_Alpine_Falls_079_06232016 - Mom on the rocky trail leading to both Modjeska Falls and the Glen Alpine Springs Resort further on
Glen_Alpine_Falls_080_06232016 - One bad thing about doing this the Modjeska Falls hike early in the season was that there were flooded sections like this one, which we had to skirt around the mud carefully
Glen_Alpine_Falls_084_06232016 - Yet another flooded section of the trail/road leading us closer to the Modjeska Falls
Glen_Alpine_Falls_088_06232016 - Given the rocky nature of the road or trail to Modjeska Falls, the hiking was actually not as fast as expected despite the relatively flat terrain
Glen_Alpine_Falls_099_06232016 - As the trail started to climb, we started to catch glimpses of Modjeska Falls
Glen_Alpine_Falls_108_06232016 - Checking out Modjeska Falls and a cascade further downstream
Glen_Alpine_Falls_110_06232016 - Mom and I found an informal path that led from the road to the base of Modjeska Falls
Glen_Alpine_Falls_123_06232016 - Mom coming out of the informal trail and rejoining the road/trail after having had our fill of the base of Modjeska Falls
Glen_Alpine_Falls_127_06232016 - Context of the private residence's back porch and the Modjeska Falls
Glen_Alpine_Falls_137_06232016 - Heading back on the main trail or road to the Lily Lake area after having had our fill of the Modjeska Falls
Glen_Alpine_Falls_139_06232016 - Seeing the power lines along the road kind of made us realize that this trail we took for Modjeska Falls might have had a dual purpose both now and in the past
Glen_Alpine_Falls_141_06232016 - Made it back to the trailhead by Lily Lake thereby ending our Modjeska Falls visit

The trailhead for Modjeska Falls was at Lily Lake further up the Fallen Leaf Lake Road from Glen Alpine Falls.

For directions on getting to that falls from the Hwy 89 and Hwy 50 junction at the intersection of Lake Tahoe Blvd and Emerald Bay Rd in South Lake Tahoe, please see that page.

Glen_Alpine_Falls_142_06232016 - The parking situation at Lily Lake, which was also where we started our hike to Modjeska Falls
The parking situation at Lily Lake, which was also where we started our hike to Modjeska Falls

From that falls, it was another 0.4 miles drive on the single-lane road to its end at Lily Lake.

Since parking was rather limited at both Glen Alpine Falls and Lily Lake, I didn’t blame people for even walking this stretch after having found parking further down the hills from here.

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.

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Right to left sweep showing a slightly distant view of Upper Glen Alpine Falls then panning downstream before panning back to the falls again

Back and forth right to left sweep from right in front of the main drop of Upper Glen Alpine Falls

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

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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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