Eldorado National Forest

Best Hikes in Eldorado National Forest (CA)


Eldorado National Forest is located in the central Sierra Nevada region, just west of Lake Tahoe. The forest is bordered to the north by Tahoe National Forest and to the south by Stanislaus National Forest. Two major highways – Highway 50 and Highway 88 – run through the forest, making it an easy drive from Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Eldorado National Forest ranges in elevation from 1,000 feet in the foothills to more than 10,000 feet above sea level along the Sierra crest. The mountainous topography is broken by the steep canyons of the Mokelumne, Cosumnes, American, and Rubicon rivers. Plateaus of generally moderate relief are located between these steep canyons. This forest is an ideal place for people seeking to escape from busy urban lifestyles. Its climate and topography offer a wide range of recreational opportunities, including hiking, fishing, boating, camping and cross-country and downhill skiing.

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Nearest Metro AreaSacramento, CA
Area Size615,037 acres
EstablishedJuly 28, 1910
Hiking Trails349 miles

Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Hikes in Eldorado National Forest

  • Bassi Falls Trail – 4.3 miles out and back
    • Beautiful hike with several waterfalls along the way – water flow is heaviest in late spring. The trail is a little challenging to follow but it is easy enough for the whole family to enjoy.
Eldorado National Forest - Bassi Falls
  • Horsetail Falls Trail*** – 3.2 miles out and back
    • Beginning at the Pyramid Creek Loop Trailhead, this beautiful but somewhat challenging hike takes you right to Horsetail Falls. At the end of the hike there is some rock scrambling required to get to the falls. Late spring is when the water flow is strongest and the falls are at their best but the trail is worth taking at any point in the year.
  • Pyramid Peak Trail*** – 7.5 miles out and back
    • Very difficult but very rewarding hike up to Pyramid Peak summit. This is not an ‘official’ trail recognized by the Eldorado National Forest so the trailhead is somewhat hard to find but it is marked all the way until you get near the top where some rock scrambling is required to reach the summit. You cannot beat the views when you’re up there!
Eldorado National Forest - Pyramid Peak
  • Ralston Peak Trail*** – 6.8 miles out and back
    • Similar to Pyramid Peak Trail above, this is a very challenging out and back hike but provides some of the best views of the Tahoe area once you are at the top. The trail ascends nearly 3000′ to the summit where you can gaze upon the rest of Desolation Wilderness and Lake Tahoe in the distance.
Eldorado National Forest - Ralston Peak
  • Round Top Lake Loop – 6.9 mile loop
    • With numerous hikes in the area and lakes to visit, any combination of trails can be used to make a nice circuit loop here. This loop takes you along Round Top Lake Trail, Fourth of July Lake Trail, and Winnemucca Lake Trail in a beautiful pine forest with some short but challenging elevation gains.
  • Thunder Mountain Trail – 7.8 miles out and back
    • The trail gradually ascends up the ridgeline to access several peaks along the way including Thunder Mountain. The views from the summit of the surrounding forests are breathtaking. This is probably the easiest summit trail in Eldorado National Forest while still getting 360 degree views. 

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