Nestled in the Sierra Foothills near Auburn, California, Hidden Falls Regional park is one of the nicest examples of lowland foothill country you’ll find around. With its expansive trails, mixture of chaparral, oak, and pine woodland, Hidden Falls is a popular place with hikers, mountain bikers and anyone who enjoys a little peace and quiet.
As of this weekend, Hidden Falls has expanded nearly five-fold, from 200 acres to about 1200, with miles and miles of new trail. I’ll go out there shortly, to explore it all. (Astute readers may recall that this was the park I’ve done a couple of volunteer stints in over the past few months, building trail and installing signs.) This hike, which lies entirely within the original boundaries of the park, loops back and forth, covering about six miles and most of the trails within the area. You can shorten the hike at a number of points, creating a hike perfect for your abilities and time.
Starting from the parking lot, where you’ll find restrooms and water, walk past the display board and onto the fire road (South Legacy Way), turning right almost immediately and down onto the Poppy Trail. The trail will start descending, switchbacking into the canyon below through a mixture of pines, oaks and open spaces, and arriving after about a mile at Deadman Creek. A couple of points here will allow you to go right down to the water, but be sure to watch our for poison oak.
Continuing along the creek, the trail will intersect with South Legacy Way at a bridge over the creek. You’ll actually see two watercourses: Deadman Creek, and the Whisky Diggins canal, a water diversion constructed back in the goldmine era to provide water for the gold digging operations. If you follow the use trail upstream for a few dozen yards, you’ll find the diversion point, a small concrete dam.
Crossing the bridge, turn right onto the trail marked Blue Oak Loop. Follow this trail uphill through oak woodland, reaching a four-way intersection with the Turkey Ridge Trail, Seven Pools Vista Trail, and the fire-road topping the ridge. Cross over the fire road, picking up the Seven Pools Vista Trail on the other side. After about .4 miles of walking, you’ll arrive at a rocky viewpoint overlooking the Coon Creek Gorge. It’s a good place to have a bite to eat and watch the turkey vultures circling the canyon on the thermals overhead.
Continuing on the Seven Pools Vista Trail, descend through some shade growth to the intersection with the Seven Pools Loop trail. Turn left and follow this trail .2 miles to the Pond Turtle Trail. At the junction, a short side trip to the right will take you to the creek and the Seven Pools. Continuing straight, across the Pond Turtle Trail, look for the junction on your left to the Quail Run Trail. The Quail Run Trail will bring you back up out of the canyon to the top of the ridge and the wide firebreak.
As you near the top of the ridge, turn right on to the Blue Oak Loop trail, crossing through the wide fire break at the top of the ridge (North Legacy Way). This firebreak is known as a “shaded fire break”, where all of the ground fuels (grasses, brush, etc.) have been removed, but the larger trees are left in place. The removal of these ladder fuels prevents the fire from spreading into the trees, so it acts as an effective firebreak despite the trees being there to provide shade on hot days.
The Blue Oak Loop Trail now descends back down to the Deadman Creek Gorge. Look for the Hidden Falls Access Trail on your right, and follow it downstream for about half a mile. Look for the short staircase on your left, and follow that trail down to the Hidden Falls overlook, where you’ll find a large wood platform built over the side of the canyon and overlooking Hidden Falls itself.
Returning along the Hidden Falls Access Trail, you’ll find yourself back at the Whiskey Diggins Bridge. Cross the Bridge and turn right onto the fire road, South Legacy Way. The hike up South Legacy Way will take you all the way back up to your starting point at the parking lot.
|Total Distance: 5.7 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: ~250’/250′
Directions: From Sacramento, drive east on Interstate 80 approximately 33 miles to Auburn, California. Take the exit for CA State Highway 49 (to Grass Valley), and turn left. Drive 2.7 miles north on Highway 49, then turn left onto Atwood Road. Drive west on Atwood Road, which will merge into and become Mt Vernon Road. 3.3 miles from Highway 49, turn left to stay on Mt. Vernon Road. After another mile, turn right onto Mears Drive. One half mile later, turn right onto Mears Place and follow it .2 miles to the park entrance. Address is 7587 Mears Place, Auburn, CA
Fee: none (as of this writing)
Trail map from the Regional Park website, shaded to show new area. Original high-rez map can be downloaded here.