Well with a name like "Black Hole of Calcutta Falls", you would think we were headed somewhere in a J.R. Tolkien novel! Judging by the scenery, I wouldn't be surprised if such a magnificent place hadn't inspired other adventures in literature.
This is a classic example of a "I lived here for 10 years and never went" kind of a place. Auburn State Recreation Area
almost seems like a National Park in its character. Preserving a sizable portion of the North and Middle Forks of the American River, it is the closest thing to the Grand Canyon we have in this part of California. Shame on me for never coming here earlier!
With it being a few days after Thanksgiving, I think we were all up for something to get our legs moving. I was traveling with family and we wanted a "joint-friendly" hike and we sure hit the spot! This is a 2 mile round trip hike with minimal elevation gain and a great bang for your buck. Here's the map-
This is a fairly popular place to hike and several regionally loved trails leave from the fork area of the park. I'd recommend getting there pretty early if you can. Otherwise, if you don't mind driving around for a parking space and adding another 1/4 to 1/2 a mile to your hike, you'll probably eventually find a parking space.
I'd recommend at least wandering up to the Lake Clementine Trailhead which is just about a quarter of a mile (by road) away for a fantastic view of the Auburn-Foresthill Bridge which has one of the tallest spans in the country.
Back to the trailhead, I should note that there actually aren't any signs for distance or markers for the Falls. I thought this was interesting given the fall's notoriety but just be aware that you won't know you're getting close to the falls until you stumble right upon them.
The trail starts off near the confluence of the North and Middle Forks of the American River. From here, it crosses No-Hands Bridge which offers panoramic views of the deep canyon carved by the river. This is a popular spot for photography and not without reason!
A few easily traversed up-and-downs are encountered on the way to the falls. Again, there is no shortage of views throughout the length of the 1 mile to the falls. It actually took me over an hour to make it to the falls as I was appreciating the magnificent views the entire time!
As we were there after a fairly wet November, the falls did have some force to them when we arrived. Water cascaded down the near vertical cliff into a shallow pool creating a magical sight. Had we been there during a hot summer day, I'm sure I would have taken a dip in the small pool! It looked inviting but too cold to swim this time of year.
Talk about a short hike with a lot to see! Although the total distance is barely over 2 miles, there's the canyon, the confluence, the falls and two bridges that all would be worth hiking to in their own right.
I'm sure during Spring runoff, the power increases dramatically. We will certainly have to return then to see the place in a different light!