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Fordyce Falls Via Spaulding Lake Trail

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Tahoe National Forest

Fordyce Falls Via Spaulding Lake Trail is a 11 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Alta, California that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, running, nature trips, and backpacking and is best used from June until September. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length 11.0 mi Elevation gain 1,437 ft Route type Out & Back
Dogs on leash Backpacking Hiking Nature trips Running Cave Forest Lake Views Waterfall Wildlife
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Getting There

Excellent summer 11-miler out-and-back hike through the woods and a lake with pleasant views to arrive at a delightful and invigorating Fordyce Falls (~4 miles to the falls, continue on to Grouse Ridge Trail and end up at Eagle Lakes). Plenty of open granite slabs around the creek to nap, picnic, and do some excellent photography. Some of the Spaulding Lake Trail passes through large pipes carrying a multi-lake water collection and transportation system for hydro-electric generation. This system is minimally intrusive to the natural habitat and beauty of the region. The Spaulding Lake beach along the trail is a nice place to take a break in and out of the Falls. After heavy rains there can be high water near the start of the trail. Some of this old trail is not maintained well and is difficult to follow. Note: Many users have reported that this trail contains rattlesnakes. It is not recommended to take unleashed dogs along this trail.

The trail head has easy access without having to drive on the many rough dirt roads in the area. The trail starts out following some PG&E maintenance roads but quickly leaves those roads behind. The trails is easy to follow most of the way with a few recent wind fall of large trees. There are beautiful views of Lake Spaulding and would make for a great shorter hike if desired. The whole trail is under 5600 feet in elevation. Late spring or early summer would be the best time to see the falls. Much of the trail would not be passable because of water on the trail if you go too early in the year (or there may be snow and ice). Lots of small brooks to ford but most of well places rocks to help. From the parking at the trailhead, walk around the gate and find a small sign indicating the Spaulding Lake Trail in a tree near the road. Follow this wide dirt track for about 3/4 of a mile, past the inlet for the Zion Hill tunnel to your right as you cross a bridge over a cement flume. Off to the left around a mile in is an open meadow, with an old picnic bench which has completely collapsed under the weight of many years of snow. A detour was in place to take you around the excessive runoff from Fuller Lake a mile and a half into the trail, with hikers needing to crawl under a large water pipe and then immediately turning left to head across a bridge and find the trail again a little bit further up the pipe. The next three miles parallels the north side of Spaulding Lake, and once at the end of the lake the trail continues into forest for another mile until it comes out at Fordyce Falls, you can turn around here for an 8 mile hike.

Take highway 20 NE of Nevada City, Ca for about 20 miles. Turn left onto Bowman Lake Rd. Continue up the narrow paved road - look for the Spauling Lake Trailhead at the junction of Bowman and Fuller Rd. Or take highway 80 from Truckee or Auburn and exit on Highway 20 westbound to Bowman lake Road. Bowman lake Rd. is approximately 5 miles west of highway 80 between Auburn and Truckee.

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Reviews (158)
Photos (316)
Recordings (128)
Completed (230)
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Austin Hess
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Hiking
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Jorge Jorge Santillan
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Hiking
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Erik B
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Hiking
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Don Rush
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BackpackingGreat!RockyScramble

I hiking out on this trail for an overnight backpacking trip. I hadn't been out backpacking in about 10 years and it was my first solo trip. So this was more of a shakedown trip. I had read some reviews of this route and it looked good, but I had never actually hiked it before this trip. I am so glad I decided on this route. It was everything that I needed. A moderate but achievable mileage and terrain. Alone this route it was mostly easy to follow established trail. It did have as mentioned in other reviews a detour. But the detour is not well marked at trail intersections. So it gave me a bit of the unexpected to deal with. Some scrabbling through empty riverbeds and exposed granite. Outside the woods and into the granite fields you have to pay attention for trail markers else you might end up off trail; though not hard to get back with a GPS. I ended up camping near the bridge for the night (about 7 miles in). All of the established camp spots were open and available around noon on Saturday. They also all had built fire rings in them. I won't really get into the details of what you might see. I think other reviews do enough for that. I just really loved this for an easy overnighter to test our gear and ability.

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Gabriel Thomas
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Hiking

Good trail. A little too long. Do yourself a favor and make the waterfall the out and back point. Beyond the fall, there is some beauty but nothing you haven’t seen on the way in. It is difficult to stay on trail after the falls. A lot of the trail after the falls are washes. Also the beginning is a little difficult to navigate due to trail closure and detours. Over all a good day hike.

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Shana McCarl
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This hike was much more enjoyable than expected! It's beautiful, full of more shade than most, and is challenging enough to get the heart pumping but not so much that you feel drained at the end. There are several places where you can lose the trail but there are cairns set up to help guide the hikers if you look for them

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Anita DuPratt
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HikingGreat!

I do this hike every summer; it is one of my favorite hikes. The trail meanders through forest and granite slopes, and is easy to follow (some years not so much.). The water at the falls was not as full as some years, but still flowing and gave a terrific ROAR. Lots of wildflowers. More mosquitos than in year's past.

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Jorge Perez DC
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HikingBugs
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Chanelle Newcomer
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Hiking

We just planned to get to the lake, hang a bit and head back, and it was nice for that! There was a PG&E sign indicting a “detour” that took us off the trail and below it on the lake, so we took that and then walked the lake edge back up to where the trail was closest to it, then walked the trail back. There were several downed trees on the part that was “blocked” by the pg&e sign but it wasn’t difficult at all to pass through. We didn’t see many people—maybe 3 groups total—which was a pleasant surprise for a Sunday on a holiday weekend. The lake was gorgeous and it was a really lovely time. We will definitely head back.

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Justin Lagge
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Hiking

Nice trail. They have made a few minor changes to the trail. Only saw 2 other groups.

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Greg Bobo
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Hiking

Nice and easy to moderate trail. Gorgeous terrain and views. The falls are relaxing though they are not more than 20-30 feet. Beyond that is a pleasant (but exposed) trail to some smaller lakes. Great backpacking camping sites. Overall it took my friend and I about 8 hrs (many stops and snacks). I recorded 13.3 miles and my friend was 15.5 miles. So who knows for sure.

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Val Phillips
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HikingBugs

Great trail lots of mosquitoes!! I saw 4 different rattlesnakes on the trail, I hike a lot and that was too many for me. There was a few people not too bad saw 10 different groups of people

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Karen Henderson
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Backpacking

We camped for two nights next to where the large bridge crosses Fordyce Creek (about 5 miles in). It’s a pretty walk and good for beginners, not much elevation change. This time of year there are fields of lupines full of giant jet-black bumblebees. We saw many reptiles, blue-belly lizards, blue-tailed skink, an alligator lizard the rusty red color of manzanita bark, a red-belly newt, a garter snake, and a pond turtle with a shell not much bigger than a doorknob. There is a nice swimming hole at the falls that are 3.5 miles in, so that would be a good spot to day-trip and picnic. We explored all around the Eagle Lakes, they are swampy and wouldn’t be pleasant to camp next to. There are a couple of campsites on the lakes that were used by people who like to 4x in and leave a bunch of garbage and toilet paper and crap within ten feet of the water. The ‘lakes’ are infested with millions of tiny crappie, 30 fish will descend on anything thrown in, but the largest one is about 4 inches long. There are trout in Fordyce Creek, but we didn’t see any larger than 6 inches, so the fishing is a bit anticlimactic. The mosquitoes weren’t too bad, but they are present. The water was so cold we could only dip ourselves in for a couple of minutes. Lows were 60 Highs were 80, and that felt balmy and perfect.

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Ellen Smrekar
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Hiking

Great trail! This map actually goes past the falls (which are around 3.5 miles out) and all the way to the Eagle Lakes.

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phil&ellie takeahike
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 1, 2020
Hiking

Well we have never “lost the trail” before but we did this time...but it was 12 miles of awesome! Where these directions take you is to two miles past the crowded parking lot. Where you park (on the side of the road) there is a tiny sign that says Spaulding Lake trail.. we had to ask for directions many times but everyone was so helpful! Follow the “detour” sign under and up along the pipeline and you will find the trail. Since we went the wrong direction in the morning the first half our hike we went up along the river to the campground...it was so pretty! Once we got clear directions on how to follow the pipeline we hiked back and found Spaulding Lake.. breathtaking views! We saw very few people (but the ones we did see were friendly and added to the enjoyment of our adventure) The only snake we saw was a dead one but we saw tons of fresh bear poop! We will def be back to hike to eagle lake!

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Samuel Jain
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Hiking

Gorgeous trail, saw 3 snakes, fairly crowded

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Patrick Lacson
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HikingBugsMuddyOver grown

Very popular and crowded trail. Saw lots of garbage, plastic bottles, granola bar wrappers in various campsites. Will probably not return to this very crowded place. Also lots of gunshots being fired throughout. The welcome sign is riddled with gunshots.. should have been a clue for how this trail will be. I'm not against guns but shooting with this many people on the trail is foolish.

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James Ford
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Hiking

Nice mellow trail rated moderate simply for length. A good spot for a family backpacking trip. Saw a couple rattlers so that’s always a consideration, be careful where you step.

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Mike Siders
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HikingBugsMuddy

I only hiked 3 miles in on the trail and turned back as I had my son with me but the trail is in good condition up to that point. Didn’t see any snow and the mud and running water is minimal right now. Views of the lake are beautiful. This is a nice hike and not super hard. It is harder coming out then going in as there felt like more climbing but highly recommend this hike. This is the second time I’ve done it but I’ve still not made it to the falls. Last year the trail was washed out and impassable. Hopefully can make it all the way next time!

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Thomas Sterling
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HikingMuddy

I took my first solo backpack trip this week, a few other hikers out who were helpful to direct me past the big water pipes. Trailhead is not marked and signage is non-existent, but maybe that's intentional to keep the trail traffic light. Lovely views of the lake, easy to pop down and enjoy a lunch or swim. Late May there is still a lot of little streams and the trail is quite wet. I saw one rattle snake. Fordyce falls is a lovely little cascade with a series of upstream pools that will be nice mid- to late summer. Water is fast and cold, so be careful dipping your toes. The trail ends at the fast moving headwaters and I was unable to find a fording to cross and continue, perhaps later in the year it's possible to continue this hike and join the next series of trails. All in all, an easy hike, peaceful and a beautiful way to beat the Valley heat.

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Jessica Ashton
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HikingBugsMuddyOver grownRockyScramble

LOVED this hike! Have a hard time saying that because now more people will go... but it’s my new favorite. The terrain is beautiful, no gorgeous. You have periods of up and down going both ways so it’s never just steep for a long time. Sweet lookouts along the way and places to stop. Just remember to keep going, it is a bit hard to navigate but it’s absolutely worth all the energy to do even a small portion of this hike.

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