Fresh air, blue skies dotted with puffy clouds, the breeze gently blowing through the trees, birds chirping, bright sunshine warming your skin, water babbling down the creek, beautiful wildflowers in bloom, and a simple, peaceful quiet.
Our family loves getting away from the city and noise and the general busyness of everyday life to hit the trails, enjoy nature, and go hiking — and we’re lucky to live in the Placer County foothills so close to some of the best hiking trails in Northern California.
Codfish Creek Trail
Codfish Creek Trail — part of the Auburn State Recreation Area in Placer County, California — is an easy to moderate 3.4 mile “out and back” trail along the north fork of the American River that rewards you with a beautiful waterfall and small swimming hole.
While the trail can be hiked year-round, the best time to hike the Codfish Creek Trail is in the spring because the water is flowing well (which means a bigger, better waterfall) and the spring wildflowers are in bloom.
We hiked the trail to Codfish Falls in mid-May and not only was it was gorgeous, but all of the wildflowers brought out lots of butterflies! We encountered a few other families and hikers on our adventure, but overall we had the trail to ourselves.
Hiking To Codfish Creek Falls
There is a $10 fee to hike the Codfish Creek Trail. Sometimes there is a ranger collecting the fee at the top of the dirt road that leads to the trailhead, other times. When the ranger isn’t there, you pay your fee at the trailhead.
- The first 1.5 miles of the hike follows the American River through the canyon along a narrow, flat, sunny dirt path that is lined with lots of pretty wildflowers.
- Along the river trail, you can see remnants of old dredge mining operations from when the American River North Fork was commercially mined for gold.
- When you reach Codfish Creek, follow the trail upstream through intermittent shade to reach Codfish Creek Falls, a 50 foot, beautiful, cascading waterfall.
- Codfish Creek Falls is sunny in the morning and shady in the afternoon. We left the trailhead to begin our hike at 10:30 am and by the time we reached the waterfall, it was shady — perfect for a lunch break.
- Before reaching the falls, there is fork in the trail, with one option leading you up a steep climb to the top of the falls — but there are no additional cascades to view so we skipped this option.
If you take your family out to hike the Codfish Creek Trail to Codfish Falls, watch out for Poison Oak along the edges of the trail and make sure you have sunscreen, lots of water, and a snack or lunch.
If you’re hiking with kids, they’re going to want to take a break to refuel and explore the waterfalls once you reach it. If you have a dog, bring them along as this is a dog friendly trail.
Finding The Codfish Creek Trailhead
The Codfish Creek trailhead is south of Weimar on Ponderosa Way. But it’s a bit more complicated than that… Ponderosa Way quickly turns into a gravel/dirt road that takes you to the bottom of the canyon. While it’s only about 2.5 miles, the drive down takes about a half hour because it’s a very narrow and very rocky, rough road that is recommended for high clearance vehicles.
I’d skip this road/hike if it has recently rained.
We were in the adventure mobile (Brian’s big truck), so it wasn’t a big deal for us, but if you’re in a car, the drive is going to be tricky. I’m not exaggerating when I say the road is narrow, and it’s along the cliffs, so there isn’t much wiggle room at all — and don’t even get me started on what happens if you encounter a car driving up the road in the opposite direction.
I closed my eyes and held my breath, silently freaking out as Brian navigated the dance of eeking by the other cars on the way down.
At the bottom of Ponderosa Way, you’ll reach the Ponderosa Bridge and to the right, a small parking area for about 8-10 cars max. The trailhead starts just past the parking area in front of the Ponderosa Bridge — you don’t cross the bridge for this adventure.
The Codfish Creek Trail is a discovery trail or interpretive trail with a brochure available at the trailhead that describes the Northern California ecology along the American River in Placer County. Print the 12-page guide at home and bring it with you on your hike to Codfish Falls so you can identify trees, plats, flowers, and birds along your hike.