Key Reasons to Go: Check the pictures! This is a really nice tumble of water.
Key Reasons NOT to Go: Check this picture! The place is being hammered with visitors. A friend who went up on Sunday, 27 June 10, was at the parking area by 8am; Only ONE SPOT was available and only because somebody else was just leaving. They walked in for a look, and when they left at 11:30 she said the place was "a zoo".
Best Time to Go: This is not a winter trip; Bassi Falls is at 5200 ft. But when the snow melts, give it a few weeks to dry out a bit and then head on up. The trail head is easier to find now that the USFS has done work to return this area from the brink of destruction by 4x4 abusers.
UPDATE: The "best" times are probably a Monday or Tuesday, NOT a weekend. Read the Update: 6 June 10 and see if this is what you want to deal with?
It may be time to stop promoting Bassi Falls! It is only just becoming accessible and already the first report I have is that it is crowded! This from a friend who visited on 6 June: “I was first in the parking area but when I left noonish, the parking was overflowing and more were driving in.” Noon! And the small parking area was overflowing. It is time to suggest that if you want to visit the falls, go early week, NOT on a weekend. Please read the next section that I wrote a year ago (and it refers to a Friday morning) and see that this area is being loved to death.
We went up to check Bassi for the first time this season. We were in a low-slung vehicle but managed the bumpy road just fine. The problem came when we arrived at the parking area: on Friday morning it was already full! Only about eight vehicles—but all large-size pickup trucks, parked end-to-end along the road bank. Not necessarily wrong, but a curious use of the space. We actually did squeeze in to a small remaining bit of space, but then decided to skip the trip as we would have been in a crowd (by our standards) so we turned around and left.
Be advised that Bassi Falls is attracting more and more people (click on the photo to the left; it's one of the top three pages on Floralore with search engines); yes, it is worth the trip, but as with any special place, it ends up getting appreciated to death. Go there, but please, do your part to keep it as fresh as possible. Don't force a place to park. Take all you need but take everything back out with you. Perhaps try for a visit mid-week. And yes, again, please use the bathroom at Big Silver Campground back on the paved road.
Directions: From Hwy 50 about 20 miles east of Placerville, watch for the sign to Crystal Basin Recreation Area; turn on to Ice House Road. Stay on the main paved road for 16.6 miles to pass Union Valley Reservoir. After crossing the bridge over Big Silver Creek, watch for Big Silver Camp on the left. Directly across the road from the parking area is a dirt road (Road 12N32A). Drive 0.2 miles to a junction and turn left at the forest gate, then drive 0.8 miles to see the big “mushroom rock” (you will know it if you see it (it’s getting a little hidden by trees now.) Continue another 0.7 miles to the parking area. There is a good trail; just walk up the stairs and you're on it. You will hear the falls off in the near distance. It seems it would be impossible to get lost, but it does happen. If you are truly a novice hiker, perhaps a small GPS unitClick to read the page
about GPS use... would be a good idea!
Here is a Google map; GPS Users, Set a waypoint to UTM 10 731574E 4307997N (NAD27) and go.
Bassi Falls is a real treat. Located almost too close to the urban environment, the area suffered much abuse until 2002 when the access roads were blocked off to keep 4x4 and ATV users out. Of course there are always some who see barriers as a challenge to prove their skills. Some 4x4 boneheads have driven in and spun their tires to seriously damage the thin soils. Just look at the long-lasting damage caused by somebody's few minutes of thoughtless “fun”! Even though the area has been closed off for several years, on Memorial Day ’07 we still found fresh tracks from a dirt bike that had illegally entered and driven across the thin soil to leave a stripe of damage...
This wonderful cascade of melt water tumbles more than 100 feet over a jumble of boulders as it crashes down into a wide polished rock outflow. Now that this area is free from the annoying sounds of off-road vehicles, you can really enjoy the sound of the water, the wind in the trees, and even the birds. Wander around and explore, find the many wildflowers (phlox is shown here) growing along the rocky outflow area. And it's nice to say that after several years of being closed off to all but foot traffic, the area is actually looking quite clean, free of the empty shell casings, burned rock fire rings, broken glass and party refuse left behind by people with vehicles.
It's a very easy walk from the parking area (only half a mile) and quite suitable for kids.
During the Spring to early Summer, flowers abound. There are many obvious things like lupines and such, but If you keep an eye open you will find plenty of small, usually overlooked flowers including several forms of Mimulus that might easily be taken as the same variety. They’re not. If you’re already a botany fan you may still have the Mimulus family in Scrophulariaceae, but they are now in a group of their own called PhrymaceaeClick to read
the Jepson information....
One particular plant that you might find is purple nightshade, (Solanum xanti) reflecting the name of John Xantus, an interesting person who is still a fine example of just how much a careful observer can add to the scientific record. Short version: as an immigrant from Hungary, he joined the U.S. army in 1855 and was sent to Fort Tejon in southern California, where he developed an interest in Natural History. He eventually moved on to the southern reaches of Baja California where he continued to collect plants, birds, and fish. Today there are more than 50 species that carry the Xantus name.
You might clamber up the “trail” to the left of the falls (this is a hands-on scramble up and back and maybe not for kids) and go to the top. If you do, you will be rewarded with more plants that aren’t found immediately below, (including azaleas - Rhododendron occidentale - in June), some really interesting pools, and many “grinding holes” drilled into the rock to a depth of several feet as swirling water pushes rocks in endless circles. There are some of these holes in the lower outflow area also. Climbing up to the upper reaches will give you a chance to wander cross-country as far as you might want to go, finding many interesting river spots to explore, and possibly some solitude (as the lower area can be pretty popular on hot days).
On the way in or out from Bassi Falls, be sure to stop at the Big Silver Camp area. Just park in the lot and wander over toward the bridge to find (in June) some great displays of azaleas, and also, down along the river's edge, some excellent Myrica, or sweet-bay (Myrica hartwegii) that you must find and sniff: it’s great! There are several other plants that won’t be easily found at Bassi Falls, including the interesting fuzzy violet, Viola tomentosa. It’s worth spending a half-hour to check the river bank.
A big thank you goes to the USFS and Sierra Pacific for working together to protect this unique local nature attraction. As you can see, the area suffered much from the “recreational” (emphasis on the rec) users who turned trails into roads, roads into damaged ravines. Now it’s great to see the recovery process is working well.
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