Hidden Falls, a few miles west of Auburn, is one of my Top Five Favorite Trails. It’s picturesque, shady, and has lots of water for my faithful running pooch, Dharma.
Lots of folks worked for years to bring this park into being. Special thanks go to the “horse” set which contributed countless hours or labor (and arm twisting) not to mention . . . money. So it’s only fair to share the trail with the nags, right?
On this particular adventure my dear friends, Bunny Cherman and Alys Milner, drove up from the flatlands to accompany CJ, Dharma and me on the Hidden Falls adventure.
The first portion of the trail (and parking!) can get pretty crowded during the weekend, but it’s completely worth it. By the time you hit the second loop, everyone has gone their separate ways and it feels like you have the whole thing to yourself.
When you depart from the parking lot (oh, BTW there are decent restrooms and a water fountain), you can (1) take the trail straight down the road or (2) take a hard right and head down Poppy Trail. I highly recommend Poppy Trail.
This time of year (mid July) most of the poppies have passed. This was the only clump still blooming. You should see them in the Spring! In the first few minutes along Poppy Trail you can get also some nice views of the hillside pastures that surround Hidden Falls.
Soon the trail turns into shady forest and it’s all down hill. Whee! In about 3/4 of a mile, take the little spur down to an area I call Dead Man’s Cascade. Don’t worry about missing the spur; you can hear the Cascade. I call it by that ominous epithet because it’s a cascade, and it’s on Dead Man’s Creek. Am I going too fast for you?
The Cascade is the first, and one of the best, places to let your dog get a drink and have a swim, that is if you have a real dog and not one of those prissy little things that’s afraid of the water.
Bunny Cherman, Alys Milner, CJ and yours truly at the cascade.
In another quarter mile you will come to the “big bridge.”
The “big bridge” is the “hub” of the Hidden Falls trail system. If you took the other way down from the parking lot, you are still going wind up right here. Now pay attention. If you want to go to the “Falls,” take the first left turn after you cross the bridge. By this route your run from the parking lot to the Falls and back is about 4 miles round trip. If you want the whole Hidden Falls enchilada, take the first right turn after you cross the bridge. This outstanding choice will start you on a 6 to 8 mile jaunt. If you want to go to the potty, head straight up hill after you cross the bridge, and you will come to the Woodland Palace of Your Dreams in just a few minutes.
But, eschewing this option for the time being, you’ll take the scenic right turn after the bridge and head up hill. It’s about an 8 minute climb (at my pace of about 9 and 1/2 minutes per mile on trails). On this hill you’ll find one of several charming little bridges scattered throughout the park.
Keep on keeping on. You’ll get to the top of the hill and come to a crossroads. Go straight across. You’ll start meandering down into Coon Creek Canyon. At about the 2 mile mark, you’ll pop out at Kissing Rock. OK, I named it Kissing Rock because I smooched CJ there on one of our first runs at the park, and the name stuck. You like?
After acquitting yourself expertly in the kissing department, look down into the canyon and you will see several of the Seven Pools that ornament Coon Creek.
Keep on keeping on. At mile 3 or thereabouts, you will come to a swimming hole called Turtle Pond. It’s actually one of the pools formed by Coon Creek. Lots of folks stop here to picnic and water the horses. It’s deep enough to swim, but I’d think twice about it. Lots of livestock upstream. Just sayin’.
Wind your way back up from the creek. When you get to the top of the hill at about mile 4, you’ll come to that same Porta-Potty I showed you earlier. You’ll also find a gate. Go through the gate and don’t forget to latch it behind you. This is cattle grazing country and they do wander into the park from time to time. You are now heading toward the Falls, but coming in from the back way. From the carefully-latched gate (thank you), you can (1) take the gravel road to the right, or (2) go straight up over the next hill on the barely-discernable old road. Take the old road. At the top of that hill you will find a big white cross on the ground indicating a landing pad for helicopters! Wow! Do I know how to show you a good time, or what? Follow the directional signs down at the parking lot to the Falls.
Look sharply and you can see a little side path down to Dead Man’s Creek. It’s shady and sweet down here; a good place to cool off the mutt. Nearby, and you’re going to have to find this for yourself, are the ruins of the original homestead.
Soon you will hear the Falls. At great hassle and expense, the contractors were finally able to install a viewing platform that satisfied all of the county and state safety inspectors. They did a great job, don’t you think?
But before you can get to the platform and see the falls, you will have to circle around the promontory for a few hundred yards. It’s worth it. Just below you will see the confluence of Coon and Dead Man’s Creeks. This area provides a wonderful place for the kids to play. Nice flat rocks, little splashing and wading pools. It’s terrific.
And now, Ladies and Gents, the moment you’ve been waiting for . . . the One and Only . . . Hidden Falls!
OK. It ain’t Niagara. But it’s OURS! And if you say anything disrespectful . . . well, you’ll just have to fight me.
There’s another big bridge with another waterfall a little further on, plus another viewing deck.
Heading back , you’ll come to the now-familiar “big bridge.” Cross it and go (1) back up the road to the right or (2) back up Poppy Trail to the left. Note the one word in common for both of those options: up!
On the way back up Poppy Trail, pause for a momement at the largest Ponderosa Pine. This tree may be the largest of its species in the park. These noble conifers used to be called “Yellow Pines” because their bark turns yellow when they grow really old. You don’t see Yellow-ed Ponderosa Pines much any more unless you get way, way out in the boonies. Why? Because we cut them all down to feed the inexhaustable mouth of the mining industry. These days you’re lucky to find one still standing near “civilization,” so take a moment and pay your respects to this old Yellow Gentleman.
When you arrive back at the parking lot you can quit like a loser . . . or finish off with the last leg of the system, a trail that takes you up (that word again) above the parking lot to a lovely little copse of oaks.
From this hilltop, you can look to the west for long range views. On a clear day you can see the Sutter Buttes and all the way across central California to the Coastal Range.
This was not one of those clear days. Finish off with a spirited sprint, down hill all the way. Cool off in the shade with a nice drink of water, just like these nags are doing.
You’re done. Ta da! All 8 miles of the Hidden Falls trails.
CJ and Bunny feel great! Alsy feels great! Dharma feels great! I feel great! How ’bout you?
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