Grouse Falls Overlook Trail

Grouse Falls Waterfall Trail and Lookout

After spending the morning exploring the Placer Big Trees Grove and enjoying a delicious picnic lunch in the Tahoe National Forest, we hopped back in the adventure truck and followed the signs for Grouse Falls. Neither Brian nor I had heard of Grouse Falls before, but we had no plans for the afternoon and love chasing waterfalls, so we decided to check it out.

The Grouse Falls Overlook Trail is a half-mile long out and back trail, which means it’s a one mile total hike. It begins at a dirt parking area at the end of Forest Road 33-26 and ends at a wooden deck overlooking the Grouse Falls cascade, which drops several hundred feet into Grouse Creek.

Now when I say this observation deck overlooks Grouse Falls, please don’t think you’re going to be anywhere near this spectacular waterfall. The observation deck sits on the opposite side of a deep, rugged canyon about a half-mile away from the waterfall.

Grouse Falls

Grouse Falls is a huge, magnificent waterfall cascading 504 feet down the rocky mountainside in two tiered horsetails.

At the edge of the cliff, Grouse Creek splits in two as it rushes around a large boulder and plunges into the steep canyon. At the bottom, Grouse Falls plunges into the South Branch Grouse Creek where there is another waterfall. It then continues rushing down stream and eventually joins the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the American River

Hiking The Grouse Falls Overlook Trail

The Grouse Falls Trail almost immediately drops into a shady forest area and is surrounded by tall Sugar Pines and Douglas-Fir trees. It was already the early afternoon, which meant it was hot, so we really enjoyed the shade!

The half-mile one-way hike travels gently downhill on a well-maintained trail. Hiking downhill is always appreciated, but the whole time you’re vaguely reminded that this means the entire return hike will be uphill. I very much prefer the reverse, hike uphill to your destination and downhill on the way back.

When we reached the wooden observation deck, we were treated to incredible views across and down the American River Canyon, which included Grouse Falls pouring more than 500 feet down the cliffs. The viewing platform is in full sun and it was really hot, so we didn’t stay too long.

Even though this trail is pretty remote, I figured we’d encounter other hikers… but we didn’t. On a Saturday afternoon, we were the only people on this trail, which meant we were able to enjoy the views with peace and quiet — exactly how we like it!

Know Before You Go

  • The Grouse Falls Overlook Trail is located in the Tahoe National Forest off Peavine Road about 20 minutes outside Foresthill, California, Placer County near the Placer Big Trees Grove.
  • The trailhead is about 45 miles from Auburn. To get there, follow Foresthill Road for just under 17 miles to the town of Foresthill, turn right on Mosquito Ridge Road and travel almost 20 miles, then turn left on Peavine Road (Road 33). Drive almost 5 miles on this graveled road to the Grouse Falls Turnoff. At the end of this short spur is a parking area where the trail begins.
  • The Grouse Falls Overlook Trail is a half mile out and back trail (totaling one mile).
  • There are no restrooms at the trailhead and no water sources so bring your own water.
  • This is not a hike to a waterfall or to a water source, but to a wooden deck overlook where you can see Grouse Falls across the canyon.
  • This hike is best done in the late spring or early summer as Peavine Road is often snowed in until mid-April and by late summer the water slows so much that it’s barely noticeable.

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