After sitting behind our computers or sitting in classrooms all week long, our family is definitely ready to get outdoors by the time the weekend arrives. We love going for long walks, riding our bikes, and swimming and relaxing in our backyard, but our favorite weekend activity is hiking — and thankfully we live in Placer County, which has an abundance of awesome, family-friendly hiking trails.
We had heard about the Hidden Falls Regional Park from some friends but hadn’t gotten around to doing the Hidden Falls waterfall hike. Then my in-laws did the hike and insisted we make it weekend adventure priority #1. Thank you Steve and June!
Hidden Falls Regional Park
Hidden Falls Regional Park is a 1,200 acre park located between the communities of Auburn, Lincoln, and the Ophir/Newcastle area. The park is situated along the Coon Creek and Deadman Creek watersheds, and is south of the Bear River. Hidden Falls Regional Park was purchased by Placer County through the Placer Legacy Open Space and Agricultural Conservation Program for the purposes of natural conservation and passive recreation. It encompasses formerly private lands known as Didion Ranch and Spears Ranch.
The park, with scenic views from the Sacramento Valley to the Sutter Buttes, has about 30 miles of trails, two large observation decks with stunning, close-up views of the waterfalls, picnic and swimming areas, fishing access, and restrooms. The multiple-use trails are accessible year-round, and are typically used for walking, hiking, running, biking and horseback riding. Informative interpretive panels mounted at various spots along the trails provide an opportunity to learn about the riparian habitat along several creeks and to two gorgeous waterfalls.
Hiking To Hidden Falls
Hidden Falls flows year-round, but is most impressive in the spring. There are several different trails throughout the regional park that intersect at various points, which means:
- You can reach Hidden Falls and Canyon View Falls in a number of different ways
- You can choose how long your hike is and how easy or hard it is
Most trail intersections are marked with the trail names, and many have park trail maps that pinpoint where you are, so it’s pretty each to navigate the park’s trail system and stay on your desired trail. You can also download the trail map.
This was our first time visiting Hidden Falls Regional Park, so we opted for an easy, in and out, family-friendly hike. We arrived at the park around 9:30 am, snagged a coveted parking spot, and began our hike, which ended up being just a few hours.
An Easy Family-Friendly Hike
Our hike followed the Poppy Trail through a heavily shaded area then the Hidden Falls Access Trail in the sun. Be sure to wear sunscreen or bring a hat. We wore layers because it was pretty cool in the shade, but later, it was super hot out in the full sun. We also packed a lot of water and some snacks to enjoy when we reached the observation decks.
- Start in the parking lot and walk past the informational display board onto South Legacy Way (the fire road). Almost immediately, turn right onto the Poppy Trail. The trail descends into the canyon below, switchbacking through pines, oaks, ferns, moss covered trees and rocks, wildflowers, and open space, eventually following the Deadman Creek.
- Soon you’ll reach the Whisky Diggins Bridge and the Whisky Diggins Canal, a water diversion canal from the gold rush era that provided water for the gold mining operations. Cross the Whisky Diggins Bridge and turn left onto the Hidden Falls Access Trail. The trail continues to follow Deadman Creek in the sun until you reach the first observation deck, overlooking the majestic Hidden Falls.
- Continue hiking the Hidden Falls Access Trail, turning to follow alongside Coon Creek until you reach the 100+ foot Canyon View Bridge — aptly named for the incredible views of the canyon and creek far below. Just past the bridge is the second observation deck and gazebo with scenic views of the Canyon, Coon Creek, and the Canyon View Bridge to the right, and another waterfall — Canyon View Falls — to the left.
Planning Your Visit To Hidden Falls Regional Park
Hidden Falls Regional Park is open to the public every day from one half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset. Parking is free and the parking lot isn’t very big. I read all of the warnings online about how fast the parking lot fills up. I read reviews from other hikers complaining that they arrived, there was no parking, and they had to go hike at an alternate location. Thank goodness we took the warnings seriously.
Parking is a problem if you’re not an early bird.
If you arrive at the park early like we did, you should have no problem finding a parking space. The problem is that all of us early birds park and we’re gone for hours and hours, which means if you arrive later in the day you may be out of luck.
Here are few tips to ensure you get a parking spot:
- Arrive early — the earlier the better
- Consider using the park during off-peak days and times and avoid weekends and holidays
- Carpool if you can
- Do not park along Mears Drive or along any of the private roads near the park
If the parking lot if full when you arrive, and you’re still dead set on hiking in the park, there is an alternative parking location about 5 miles away at the Placer County Government Center on County Center Drive. From there you can ride your bike or hike to Hidden Falls.