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backyard hike for me :)
Date: February 26, 2012
Trail: University Falls, Quintette
Temp: 43 Degrees
Mileage: 5.8 Miles (plus we had a small detour Â¾ mile)
Elevation Gain: 1200 Feet (600 to falls, plus 2-300 foot drops)
Time: 2 Hours 45 Minutes
I had already hiked University Falls once, back in July when my son was only 4 weeks old but my girlfriend and I had started the trail around 10am. Today, trail blazers Shannon and Eric joined me, and we got a late start â 2pm.
To get to the Falls you drive 11.8 miles outside of Georgetown on Wentworth Springs, to the yellow logging gate. There is limited street parking.
During the high season this trail is well traversed by tourists from near and far, and inevitably, each year, someone is Life-Flighted out of the Falls.
Itâs a popular spot because in the summer months the river runs shallow and people can slide down the first two falls (but thereâs always a risk of cracking your head open on the granite). What many people do not know is that the third fall is too much of a drop, and people have died attempting it.
In the last week or so, my husband and I had decided we would be tackling Mount Whitney without our son. We had done research on the altitude and some hairy parts of the trail involving rope guides and slippery slopes and decided it wasnât worth it to take him. Nonetheless I am continuing my training with my son, who weighs in at 18 pounds and is nearly the exact weight Iâll be toting up to the Summit.
Shannon and Eric and I (Hubby was sturgeon fishing) had intended on starting around 3pm, but it was closer to 4pm when we hit the trail head. The plan was to do the hike down in less than an hour and once at the Falls have dinner. I had just purchased a new Flash Jetboil and a few dehydrated meals. We would then trek back up, hoping to be to the car by 6:15.
But after only the first Â½ mile we ended up on a Â¾ mile detour, as my greyhound bombed off down a trail at the first Y, and since she runs about 45 miles an hour we were not able to recover her, except to follow her down the trail head. Eventually we caught up to her and started back on the trail to the Falls. Tuck was in my new Deuter wire frame pack and had fallen asleep.
Technical aspects as follows: Itâs 2.8 miles in total from the yellow gate at Wentworth Springs, with two 300 feet declines, and then a final 600 feet to the Falls. The trail is an old logging road, and thus wide enough for large vehicles. Itâs a half mile to your first turn- a sharp left at the Y marked 12N67B, you will then traverse around the mountain ridge and will have a stellar view of the snow capped Sierra Nevadaâs.
This is where I need to add a note to the city slickers â If you want to come up to El Dorado County to enjoy our back country and wilderness areas, please leave your spray paint at home. The big blue spray paint marking the trail everywhere is a real eye sore for the rest of us that live here, and make directional references out of wood carvings.
Traveling another mile downhill you will reach the irrigation water ditch, here you need to turn right to follow the ditch for about another mile. You will come to a point where there is an opening in the forest, and a tree is marked âFallsâ turn left here and begin your 600 foot decent to the Falls.
This area is narrow, steep and rocky, itâd be best with walking sticks, but without them take the trail down the wash out in the middle. During your trek, keep an eye out for the Suzuki Samarai wreck and also the old Chevy wreck. They are gruesome and look like something out of a horror movie, great photo opp.
At the bottom of the decline you hit a shallow part of the river and follow the trail to the left, after a few more feet you will see the Falls in all their glory.
At the top of the Falls decent, we were losing day light rapidly, but were too close to turn back, as Shannon and Eric had never seen the Falls. We had already anticipated that we would be completing the last leg of the trail when dark was setting in. The trail was desolate.
We quickly snapped off a few pics at the bottom of the Falls and started our trek back up. We had about 15 minutes of daylight left, and wanted to make it to the wide part of the trail where we would have stable footing before we lost light completely. Eric packed Tuck out for me.
A snow storm was expected to hit the Sierraâs late this evening and the weather was shifting quickly. Eric took off his sweatshirt and created a sling over my shoulder for which I wrapped Tuck in, at this point I hiked him the remaining 2.5 miles and 1,000 feet out of the Falls in my arms.
It was a team effort, with Eric taking the wire frame pack and Shannon carrying the bottle to comfort him as we hauled up the mountain in the dark. I had strapped a small LED light to my frame pack earlier in the day, and Eric u
Long one lane drive to the trail head, but worth it. Hike down to the creek and Otter Creek itself was beautiful. Pretty steep at times. It's the hike back out that's a pain in the butt, literally. All uphill at a steep incline. Definitely a challenge and slow going but doable even for the inexperienced hiker like me. Overall good hike and we didn't see a single soul!
For clarification, this trail has a trailhead at each end, both of which are accessible by roads on opposite sides of the Rubicon River. One end is located through the Volcanoville area, as the directions say. The other end of the trail is located across the river at the end of the Nevada Point Ridge rd (13N41). From one end to the other, the trail is a tad over 5 miles long. So, the specs on this trail page say 10.6 miles because they are presuming a hiker would walk the entire length, turn around, then return back to their car. Obviously your hike could be shorter if you only intend to hike to the river, or have the convenience of several people and more than one car. Both roads are bumpy dirt roads, so keep this in mind when deciding what car to bring. You won't need a 4x4, but it would be unwise to bring a low clearance car designed strictly for pavement.
From the Volcanoville end down to the river is roughly about 2 miles. I was able to hike to the river at a slow-pokey pace in about an hour. The return hike up took me about an hour and 10 minutes. I really wanted to be able to say a bunch of awesome things about this trail, but it'd be dishonest of me. The two major hassles about this trail is that it is heavily overgrown with poison oak due to it's lack of use, and the mosquitoes are relentless. I have been a hiker most of my life, so I'm not usually one to complain about such things, but this was a bit too much Mother Nature for me to say it was an awesome hike. I wore plenty of bug spray and still got eaten alive, as if the resident mosquitoes hadn't seen a hiker in years. Staying ahead of them was near impossible, and I would get swarmed every time I stopped to take a picture or rest for a moment, which got frustrating very quickly, considering how steep the trail is. Dodging and weaving through the jungle of poison oak lining the narrow trail detracted from my enjoyment as well. As careful as I was, I still got whipped in the face with it several times. Because of this, I'd suggest not bringing a dog, as Fido will undoubtedly get covered in poison oak, hence eventually getting it all over you and your car later.
On the plus side, this trail isn't well used or known, so if you go you'll likely have the place all to yourself. It's a great place for folks who love solitude. The river of course is gorgeous and soothing, and fortunately I encountered no mosquitoes at the river itself. There were several nice spots to camp, if you want to stay overnight. There are two bridges, (well, one and a half, actually). The first bridge crosses Pilot Creek (on the Volcanoville side). What is left of the second bridge used to cross the Rubicon, but was washed out in a flood years ago. So, if you want to cross to the other side, you will have to carefully pick your way over river rocks, or wade through a shallow area. Definitely bring river shoes for this.
If you have issues with your joints, knees, or hips, definitely bring your walking stick, trekking poles, knee brace, or whatever it is you need to make the hike more comfortable for yourself, as the trail is very steep and narrow almost the whole way, and if you reach out to grab a branch to hang onto, it'll likely be poison oak. As someone with an arthritic knee, I was wishing I'd brought something to make the hike easier on myself. Bring and use bug spray, even though the mosquitoes will likely ignore it and bite you anyway. Whatever you do, don't wear shorts unless you are immune to poison oak.
Overall it was a decent hike. You will definitely get your cardio and lower body workout for the day. But I am not likely to hike it again any time soon due to the heavy abundance of pests on the trail. It was worth doing once, though, for the experience and to access a remote, lovely part of the Rubicon.
Loved hiking into this place. The land is owned by UC Berkeley, not national forest, and it was a priveledge to be able to hike in and take in the beauty of wild dogwoods in bloom during the spring, and the natural cascades high flows during snowmelt run off... not to mention, finding a couple of fishing holes above the falls to enjoy catch and release of various species of small trout. Thanks to the degenerates who were going in during the summers and trashing the place, the public is no longer allowed to experience this great place. Anyone wholoves the outdoors should know the rule... pack out what you pack in.
Brittany W. on Pilot Creek Waterfalls (University Falls) [PRIVATE PROPERTY]
LOVED this place! So sad it's closed..
The falls are still closed and it is being enforced with coordination between the Sheriff's Department and the private landowners who own the land over which the trail trespasses. There is no legal way to access the falls. Thanks for your cooperation.
Nice wooded trail if you are in the area. Terrain and local views are very typical of many other trails in the area. The trail takes you to a pretty spot at the bottom of the canyon, though there are several claims at the creek. You can extend your hike up the other side if you like.
Can this trail be hiked still or no, not at all?
Went with a group of 10 on May 24th 2015. Didn't realize rubicon Rd is dirt and pretty rugged we were lucky to be in a truck but not recommended for a nice car. We went from the trail head down to the bridge over the watering hole at Pilot Creek. Gorgeous! We all went for a swim and had some fun jumping in from the rocks just right of the falls. Easy on the way down. Took about 35-40 mins? There was lots of poison oak so I would recommend long lightweight pants and wash off animals if you brought any! Hike up back was about 60 - 70 minutes? definitely an ass kicker accurately described by reviews but again worth it!
@Jay Trock Your comment is complete non-sense.. I am a local and WE LOVE THIS PLACE.. However the EDSO (El Dorado County Sheriff) and I'm sure the forrest service have been trying to shut this place down for years, lots of people get injured down here and it costs them alot of money to respond, the access road goes through private lands. Legal Signage? All they have to do is post NO TRESPASSING sign doesn't have to be a state sign or anything else. (WE do the same thing around here to prevent hunters from hunting on our lands). There are things they could've done to fix the EMS response stuff but as the last .5 mile is not drivable and is on privately owned land they simply aren't going to do so . ALL us locals know the last fall (4th - really steep one) is the one that people get killed on but every year there's drunk out of towners going down the stupid thing. Last time I was there they had strung a rope down the fall to guide them.. Still looked very stupid.. Don't get me wrong I think closing it is a travesty but local law enforcement and the USFS has been working towards this for years.. Hell back in the day we could ride dirt bikes down to the final descent trail until they put up that big gate to to block that..
This is not really close. The Sheriff will not and can not enforce so call trespassing on fire road. This is locals trying to use intimation to keep you away. If you view all the people on the internet saying it is close it is locals. They do not even use real legal signage. I do understand some of their frustration at people that do not pack out what they pack in. It is funny they are trying to use EMS response time as a reason. I guess you should never hike anywhere when you do not have a cell signal. Enjoy the falls. I do.
Arrived today at 11am, Two "guards" at the gate today threatening us with fines and or arrest for trespassing. New and improved signage stating private property and all hazards and dangers of hiking down to and swimming in the falls. Gate guards took our pictures and said he was calling the sheriff to get the peeps who were already down the trail. Makes me sad because it is such a beautil place to enjoy a hot summer day. I hope they figure out a way to allow entry. At least I made it there once.... Peace & Love
Great little hike as long as you know where you are going. Multiple forks but they all lead to the falls. There was a person at the entrance saying that the falls was closed and no swimming was aloud but he let us pass and we were able to enjoy a great day at the falls. Pick up your trash and be respectful of others so this special place isn't ruined for everyone
The falls are currently closed. This is being enforced. The lands that completely surround the falls are private. For more info see
The falls are on private lands and access is restricted. You can be turned away and your car towed. See the landowner's website for up to date info. google pilot creek falls and select the ucanr... site
The reason you may not see trash is because people who care are packing it out by the truck loads. The local community is working on closing access to the falls because of the growing concerns of disease from human waste, tons of garbage, illegal parking, massive amounts of human waste on trail, and vandalism of private water agency water pipes. This is PRIVATE PROPERTY. Clean up efforts will stop and water samples will be taken, CHP will be called, vehicles will be towed. Too many people have ruined it for those who know how to respect nature. The water is owned by the state of California and the State Water Board will need to get involved. If you live down stream from this beautiful community you drink this polluted water.
This was a nice hike. We turned it into 7.5miles taking the first left after the gate. It's the 2nd left :) no worries easy hike down to the falls and lots of fun sliding and relaxing before the steeeeep rocky climb out. It was a Saturday and pretty crowded but I would guess only about 25% of the crowd was sliding so we didn't have to wait long. It wasn't as nasty as I had expected (from reading some of these reviews) most everyone packed out their trash. We are gonna go back again on a hot weekday soon! Good times!!