Located in the Crystal Basin area of the El Dorado National Forest, Bassi Falls is a popular hiking trail that leads to an incredible 109-foot cascading waterfall, fed by the pristine waters of Bassi Creek. This Northern California hike is beautiful in every season, but the best time to catch the waterfall in full flow is late-Spring and early-Summer when the snowmelt is flowing steadily through the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Pack a lunch and enjoy the many swimming holes nestled within the massive, flat slabs of granite. This is a great place to cool off in the summer heat, take in the alpine scenery, and snap some epic pictures. This hike is certainly doable for children and is also dog friendly.
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Bassi Falls Hike
This moderate 3.6-mile out-and-back trail meanders through towering pines and ends at a majestic cascading waterfall. The trailhead starts at Millionaire Camp off of Ice House Road, approximately 27 miles east of the town of Pollock Pines. You will reach lower Bassi Falls before you make it to the main falls further along the trail. There are some uphill sections, but this trail is very accessible to children and seniors.
The hike to the falls is a moderately challenging trek, with a relatively gentle elevation gain of 600 feet (183 meters).
If you are eager to see Bassi Creek from the top of the falls, you can brave the steep (and sometimes slippery) climb up the granite rocks.
Depending on how busy the trail has been and the time of year, you will find the trail disappearing and reappearing. As long as you are generally following Bassi Creek, you’ll eventually find your way to the falls.
There is a small parking lot available off of Ice House Road near the Union Valley Reservoir, as well as additional parking along the main road. When there is snow, it is best to park along the main road if you don’t have four-wheel drive.
The dirt road off of Ice House Road leads to another parking area that will put you within earshot of the waterfall. Taking this road will allow you to bypass most of the trail, but this road is inaccessible in the snow. In my opinion, it’s much more of a fun day activity walking the entire trail. Plus, you also get to see the smaller falls below the main cascade.
During the fall season, the parking lot is conveniently located right by a picturesque location along Bassi Creek which offers superb evening sunset picnic opportunities.
Parking fills up quickly in warm weather months, so make sure to arrive early!
Best Times to Visit Bassi Falls
In my opinion, late spring and early summer are great times to make the trek out to Bassi Falls. Not only are the falls in full flow, but you will be able to find beautiful alpine wildflowers along the trail. There may still be a bit of slushy snow on the trail in April, which makes the trail somewhat difficult to follow in spots. If you find yourself getting lost, all you have to do is follow the river upstream until you hit the trail again. In early spring, the water will be running swiftly and be icy cold.
In the winter, there will be plenty of snow on the ground, so bring a pair of snowshoes and layer up.
When hiking to the actual falls, it’s hard to believe all this water comes from the seemingly trickle farther up. This has some great swimming holes in the summer. If you visit in late summer, however, you may only be able to catch a small trickle of water cascading down the falls.
- Shoes with good grip
- A swimsuit and towel in the warm months
- Plenty of water
- Insect repellant
The Flora and Fauna of Bassi Falls
The El Dorado National Forest encompasses over 786,000 acres of diverse ecosystems, ranging from lowland oak woodlands to high-elevation subalpine forests. Established in 1910, this protected area is managed by the United States Forest Service and serves as a refuge for a wide array of flora and fauna.
The forest is situated between the crest of the Sierra Nevada and the foothills of the Sacramento Valley, with Bassi Falls nestled near the western boundary of the Desolation Wilderness.
The well-trodden trail meanders through dense coniferous forests, marked by towering ponderosa pines and firs, as well as vibrant displays of wildflowers during the spring and summer months.
The allure of Bassi Falls is heightened by its seasonal transformation. In the spring and early summer, the falls exhibit an impressive torrent of water fueled by melting snow from the surrounding mountains.
As the season progresses, the flow diminishes, revealing a network of cascading streams and pools that are ideal for swimming and wading. The area surrounding the falls is home to numerous granite formations, which have been sculpted by the erosive force of the water over millennia.
Bassi Falls is not only an ecological gem but also a testament to the geologic history of the Sierra Nevada range. The falls are the result of the region’s dynamic geological processes, characterized by the uplifting of the Earth’s crust and the subsequent erosion by glaciers, wind, and water.
The exposed granite bedrock provides evidence of the area’s ancient volcanic activity and subsequent tectonic movements that have shaped the landscape over millions of years.
As a testament to the region’s geologic history and ecological diversity, Bassi Falls remains a beloved destination for nature enthusiasts and serves as a vital component of California’s rich natural heritage.
I strive to paint vivid landscapes with my words, bringing the magic of far-off lands and enchanting aromas to life for my readers. Combine passion for exploration and the art of gastronomy in an unending ode to the senses. When I’m not traversing the globe, I find solace in the earth beneath my fingertips, tending to my garden and working on projects around my verdant oasis. MK Library serves as a beacon, guiding fellow travelers and homebodies alike to embrace sustainability, nurturing both our planet and our souls with purpose. Full Bio.