Trails in Northern California

Trails in Northern California

Leave No Trace!

Visit for more information about Desolation Wilderness. Visit or call 1- 877-444-6777 to make park reservations. Visit Campfire Permits to get a permit online. More about Leave No Trace principles.

July 23, 2012

Hidden Falls in Placer County, CA

*  If you click on a photo, it will enlarge each of them and let you scroll through.  At the end of the article I will post the Wikiloc link for GPS tracks, include a map, and an elevation profile.

Hidden Falls is a waterfall hike made for families!

Difficulty:  Easy-Difficult based on choices.  There is an accessible area paved, some moderate rated trail sections, and difficult sections for those who want challenges.  The link at the bottom of the page has a map of the whole trail system with numerous options.  My GPS only includes the route I took which is moderate-easy.
Distance:  The route posted is 5.7 miles. 
Elevation:  Ascent 1208  Descent 855  This trail is loop style.
Driving Directions:
  • From Highway 80 take the CA-49 exit #119B toward Grass Valley. 
  • Turn left on Atwood.  (If you reach Cottage Drive you've gone .1 miles too far.) 
  • In 1.8 miles make a slight right onto Mount Vernon Road.
  • Go to the left in .6 miles to stay on Mt. Vernon Rd. 
  • In another mile turn left to stay on Mt Vernon Rd. 
  • Turn right on Mears Dr.( but if you reach Hastings Lane you've gone .4 miles too far). 
  • Take the first right onto Mears Place. 
  • You'll see a very large parking area and there are restrooms at the TH.
Notes:  This is a beautiful hike with places for families to stop and play in the water, and finally at the falls there is a large overlook deck to safely take in the view of the waterfall.  Just beyond the overlook deck is a trail down to the creek to an open area to play in and picnic at.  
* This area is for hikers, runners, bicyclists, and equestrians although horses and bikes are limited from some areas.

Wildflowers abound in spring but can be found almost any time.

 This shot typifies the trail you'll be hiking. Fun for kids too!

I like going down to the creek for a snack and splash, especially on a hot day.


 Cross this bridge to follow the trail to go to the falls. 
(There is a trail going straight ahead but this bridge is to your right.)

When you see this fenced area, follow the steps down and follow the trail to the right. 
It takes you to the falls.

 There is a great open area of creek side below the falls just past the deck where you can go get some shade and play in the water, but the trail is narrower and less flat of a hiking surface.

 Kids may like the many lizards they can find here. They are great at camouflaging themselves
on the rocks, but are a shimmery greenish color!

 This view of Hidden Falls is taken from the viewing deck. Just a reminder of how pretty the falls are. The viewing deck has benches all around and is in full sun.

Down at the creek, beyond the falls, you can go down and then to the left
to find some shade and pretty views of the creeks joining.

Looking upstream iinto the canyon appears to be an inviting natural pool
but the "trail" is haphazard that direction. 

There is poison oak although it is generally kept off of the trail.  Use caution if you are allergic.

Elevation graph with specific data below best viewed enlarged by clicking on it:

This is a map of the route I took, but many options exist, both easier and harder ones, longer or shorter. The waterfall is on the farthest left leg of the trail at the red arrow area.

Hidden Falls GPS Wikiloc link
Hidden Falls Regional Park 
Their site has a one page synopsis of the property history and other general information; there is a map at this site of all trail sections, mileage, paved areas, and restrooms.

Peachy Hiker's Table of Contents

Related Articles:
ASRA ~ Auburn State Recreation District
BLM ~ Bureau of Land Management
Near Auburn, CA
Happy Trails!
Updated 9-2012

July 22, 2012

Loch Leven Lakes- Donner / Tahoe Area, CA

*  If you double click on a photo below you'll be able to view each of the photos enlarged.  At the bottom of the article will be a map, an elevation profile, and a Wikiloc link for GPS tracks.

On this beautiful hike of 7.2 miles, we passed 6 lakes and ponds, each one inviting and remote.  

Difficulty:  Moderate.  Distance is flexible but also farther than beginners usually want to tackle for a day hike.  For backpacking though you do half of that each day, then 3+ miles is an easier distance.  Be prepared for rocks and tree falls though.
Elevation changes:  Ascent 1218; Descent: 1198, no section steep as you will see on the graph below.
Driving Directions:
  • Take 160 toward Yuba Gap.  
  • In .2 mi. turn right onto Lake Valley Road.  It turns slightly left and becomes Crystal Lake Road. 
  • In .2 miles make a slight right toward Lake Valley Road.  Continue for 1 mile.  
  • Make a slight left onto Forest Route 19 and drive for 3 miles. 
  • Continue onto Power Line for .8 miles.  
  • Continue onto Forest Route 19 for .2 miles.  
  • Turn left and drive for 1 mile. 
The TH is after Huysinks.  The last 4 miles are dirt and the road conditions change, but on this trip in July 2012 I could have gotten my car there but there are some deep tire ruts and a lot of washboard or potholes. 

Notes:  If you are a backpacker, I highly recommend this popular trail and the lakes.  There is plenty of room and many campsites along the way.  Sure, there are people at the first lake but the further you go, the fewer you'll be likely to see.  For me the last lake was most beautiful and enjoyable.  The first Loch Leven Lake is large and groups were there of young people swimming.  Various backpackers were solo and had separate camps with privacy enough. 

WILDFLOWERS, for those who stop by to see what's blooming in the wilds:

This time of year is full of color and variety.  I love the macro shots like this first one.  Enlarged, you'll see the little residents and scavengers that may appear to be dirt or debris in the field!

We were also treated to a section of trail covered with these beauties.

Our hike started in the shade of brush and willows, when we suddenly stepped out into this sublime meadow.  I'm happy to report we didn't have to break out bug spray to fight off the biters that commonly stalk hikers along moist areas.

Quickly the trail reentered the woods and there were several larger fallen trees to climb over, or in the case above, through.

For the most part the trail is in good condition and easy to follow. but of course, GPS helped us along the Salmon Lake area.  We did some granite crossing and boulder scrambling in that area, all fun and nothing treacherous!

This unnamed grassy lake hid a treasure for me:  my first chance to photograph what I believe was a great blue heron.  You'll have to enlarge this to find it because I zoomed my lens as far as possible taking the photo, and still can barely see the giant bird in the tree (below).

It caught me off guard and flew down into the grasses where I thought I had missed my opportunity but at home on the laptop, there it is hiding.  Another one to enlarge or zoom in on.

So play a little "Where's Waldo?" and find the bird in the above photos.  Help me if you know for sure what type it is.  Good luck.

A bit of adventure struck us here because somehow, talking too much I guess, we lost the trail but took our time on the granite resting and snacking, taking pictures of Salmon Lake and wondering if we needed to go all the way down to the lake or not.  We opted for a bit of cross country in the compass direction of Loch Leven and with a little bushwhacking we were able to reconnect with the official trail. 

As we srolled along and greeted hikers and dogs, Loch Levens first lake presented herself in full color and beauty.  As you can see, a breeze was steady but it sure didn't slow down all the young people swimming!  They were across the lake between islands squealing, laughing, and splashing.  It did nothing to dampen my enjoyment.

 Neither did the various camps set up along the trail.  Our ambition was to get to Upper Loch Leven though so our stay was shorter here at the largest of the lakes.

My vision of what it might be like was good as gold.  No one was there but us, no splashing or tents.  We picnicked and took off our boots for a wade in the pleasantly warm shallow water.  This was a fantastic destination!

Our chosen spot was here at the southwest side of the lake where we found some boulders and a long shallow area perfect for soaking our tired dogs.  Lily had a blast splashing and digging up mud between snacking and finding sticks to be thrown.

Sunset was on our way out, but worth stopping for this shot. This was a fun moderate hike and might be a good start for a new backpacker.  Our 7.2 miles could be shortened and was a round trip total.  No bathrooms. For the day, take a water purifying means, food, sunscreen and bug spray (and your swim trunks)!

Wikiloc  for GPS.  Other tracks are available.

Related Articles:
Grouse Ridge Trails
Survivor Night on Crooked Lakes Trail
Carr Lake Under Snow

Peachy Hiker's Table of Contents
Happy Trails! 

July 19, 2012

July 2018 updates Grouse Ridge, Donner Area

*If you double click on a photo you can view all of the photos enlarged.  At the bottom of this article I am including a map, an elevation profile from my Garmin GPS and a Wikiloc link.  Some of my hike to the lakes and ponds shown is off trail.

Sunset my first night there.

Distance: can be as little as one mile (to Milk Lake) and can go for many miles over many days.
Difficulty:  Easy to difficult, according to your choice.  I would be comfortable taking an outdoorsy child who can hike at least 1/2 mile in and then out. They would enjoy the lakes. It really is not too steep for any length of time.  There were some tree falls to climb over and strollers are out of the question.
Driving Directions:  Get onto Highway 20 West from Highway 80 west of Donner.  Turn right onto Bowman Lake Road, cross the South Fork Yuba River and keep going until you see the sign for Grouse Ridge.  Turn right on the forest road that turns to a dirt and gravel road immediately The road had some work done on it so should be in good condition for a dirt road, accessible by car.  6 miles but worth it! July 2018 the road was in good condition, and I drove in my sedan.
You'll arrive at a fork that points to the right for camping with a well kept vault toilet in an actual structure or the fork to the left that leads to a parking area for the trailhead.  No running water is available.  You can hike a half mile to Downey or Milk Lake or just bring bottled water for camping.
Notes:  The area is being renovated so by the time you read this and get there the road will be in better condition.  The campground has picnic tables, fire pits, and some nice flat tent areas. Check on hunting season dates before you go.  (Deer hunting in the fall).
Weather: forecast here

Amusing.  Not much better than the road. July 2018 the trailhead sign is repaired.

 At the top of this 1/2 mile road, closed to vehicles,  is the Grouse Ridge Lookout.  It is a shady and pleasant climb to the fading structure.  The road is shown on the map below.

Although it is weathered and boarded up you can still climb the stairs and look inside the empty space that used to be manned by staff.  I braved the stairs for the spectacular views but the wind was pushing me off balance enough to scare me from venturing around to the other side.  It's pretty rickety and you go at your own risk.

The outhouse was hard to capture since it virtually hangs over air!  Doesn't that add a whole new meaning to "outhouse"?

If you didn't have to "go" before you got to this outhouse you would have to go once inside. And can you imagine having to go in a violent storm?  But you can appreciate the views!  I had to kneel down for photos because of jarring wind gusts.  It was frightening to be so close to nothing but air space to fall into and I doubt one would walk away from a mishap like that.  When do you ever hear me so unnerved by such wonders? There is a hand rail for good reason.  My son and I laughed about having to wear rappelling gear to use the restroom!

I am barely standing on another precipice in threatening wind gusts to get his view for you from under the lookout deck.  It's worth the hike.  Every direction is something different geologically.  Beautiful and fascinating.

 An ancient dead tree (nicknamed a widow maker) stands in stark contrast to sections of forest untouched by the ravages of fire.

But never park, camp, stand, or sit within the reaches of widow makers.  Some hiker came back tired and ready to go, I'm sure.  Their truck met up with a widow maker!  Beware.  This is the best cautionary evidence I've photographed yet! July 2018: the truck was removed.

The following photos were taken along the path heading east along Glacier Lake Trail.  Within a short distance there are lakes, ponds, meadows, pine forest, willows, and granite bowls and outcroppings.  I enjoyed plenty of shade and the trail is in good condition.  Off trail you bushwhack but get to see a variety of landscapes and enjoy a true wilderness experience. 

The size of a pencil eraser, one of countless flowers in bloom right now.

The cattle eyed me suspiciously and began calling to each other and clanging their bells!

 Not sure of possible bacteria, I did purify water from these sources.

From the Grouse Ridge Trailhead, you can also head northwest toward Crooked Lakes Trail on Round Lake Trail, or north toward Shotgun and other basin lakes.  The area is one of my favorites and worth a dusty, difficult drive.  The trails are actually pretty easy and in a short distance you can day hike or backpack camp. You'll encounter few if any groups, or occasional hikers even if you see quite a few vehicles parked at the trailheads into the area. Once I did happen back there when some travel company was taking tourists backpacking.  Weekenders will find more people than those who can go on weekdays. There are so many directions to go and so many places to hang out.
GPS link, click here.

You can print the map and it is a handy pocket size to keep with you on the trail.

Carr Feeley Trailhead and Backpackers Camp will give you more information about the area and another map of trails northwest of the Grouse Ridge. From there you use the Twin Lakes Trail or Round Lake Trail.
Crooked Lakes Trail Survivor Night describes an unexpected storm, hiking hazards and solutions. A true account with a happy ending.

Peachy Hiker's Table of Contents
Thank you for stopping by and Happy Trails!
Road conditions updated 5-13-2014
Updated July 018: map note, trailhead sign, removal of truck, added weather link,and current road conditions.