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Palisade Creek Trail

HARD 58 reviews
#20 of 193 trails in

Palisade Creek Trail is a 16.9 mile out and back trail located near Norden, California that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, camping, and backpacking and is best used from June until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Distance: 16.9 miles Elevation Gain: 4,648 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dog friendly

backpacking

camping

hiking

forest

lake

views

waterfall

wildlife

bugs

over grown

snow

A high-clearance vehicle is needed to access the trailhead as there is an approximate 3.5 mile rocky and bumpy dirt road to get to the trailhead.

hiking
bridge out
off trail
rocky
18 days ago

hiking
1 month ago

Steep out and back, best done as an overnight. Water is a must. Gorgeous scenic views for whoever partakes in the beauty that is this trail

hiking
2 months ago

Gorgeous scenery, the American River is perfect for swimming/rock jumping as of early Aug. The hike from the lower parking lot by the dam to the American river is a little over 7mi each way with 2800ft elevation. We did an out and back and it was brutal. Bring tons of water, a swimsuit and snacks for sure.

hiking
2 months ago

really beautiful trail, amazing waterfalls and some challenging parts too.

backpacking
bugs
off trail
2 months ago

Finding the trail head was not the easiest, entered the Royal gorge recreation area and then had to travel just past the lookout, Amazing views. Rated as hard and I would agree. once dropping into the tree line mosquitos where definitely prevalent. But the waterfalls and pools are breathtaking and well worth the work.

hiking
4 months ago

Did this trail down to the American river on June 15-16. By the end of the weekend, the trailhead was finally accessible to SUVs. (We has had to walk the last mile to the trailhead due to snow). The trail had 50% snow coverage at the top. Snow disappears about 2 miles in. Lakes are gorgeous and the American river was super refreshing at the bottom of the valley.

hiking
4 months ago

We’ve hiked this trail many times now! The lakes are pristine, the trails are well marked. A bit off roading to get to the Trailhead, so beware.

hiking
snow
4 months ago

We went up to the trailhead on 5-25-19 and there is about 4 feet of snow covering the road right at the entrance when you leave the residential area. From that point it was still over 3 miles to the trailhead. It’s not accessible even by 4x4 right now. Can’t wait to hike this trail when the snow melts!

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

You definitely need a 4x4 to get to the main trailhead. If not you can park at the first tower. It's only about 400 yards from there. It's seven miles from the trailhead to the main north fork Bridge. There are several camp sites there. The main waterfall is about 100 yards past the north fork Bridge.

backpacking
Wednesday, August 22, 2018

I visited 8/19-8/21, 2018 Regarding the 4x4 recommendation: time from I-80 to trailhead was 20 minutes with our 4runner. By my estimation, a sedan could make most of the journey through the unpaved road until JUST before the parking lot (using caution and low speed, of course). There is room to park before the road worsens and its only a 1/4 mile from trailhead. We saw stock trucks and SUVS in the parking lot so special offroading vehicles aren't necessary. Trail took us 3.5 hrs to reach north fork of the American River. Gnats surrounded us every step of shade we had, deet became necessary. Lower elevations have quite a bit of poison oak but it was easily avoided. The trail is difficult not just because of the steep decline but because the trail itself has many loose rocks. Almost twisted my ankle once or thrice. We camped just on the other side of the bridge there. I counted exactly 4 established camping spots in the vicinity of the bridge. We didn't see anyone out there at any point... Very secluded. LOTS of swimming holes that were fun to climb around and jump in. We saw bear scat throughout the trail and on our way back we saw even more fresh stuff. No bear sightings, however, we did see a baby rattler when we first got to our spot and after that we were extremely cautious about our footing anywhere we went. Trek out was intense but much more enjoyable than going down. I think our time out was 4.5 hrs since we took more breaks to catch our breath and eat lunch. I recommend getting out early so as to avoid the midday heat later since the last 3 miles is mostly unshaded traversing of granite (follow cairns). For the record, we did not hike up to heath falls and we regretted not making a small day trip up since an old timer we passed on our way out spoke highly of it. Our round-trip mileage was probably around 14.5 miles between trailhead and river. Would do again! Especially with a group to play with on the river!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Looking to get feedback before visiting... Getting to the trailhead, it says above off-road vehicle needed to access. Can a truck handle this or do you need legit off roaming 4x4 vehicle? Thanks! N

backpacking
Wednesday, July 18, 2018

This was a superb trail, and the falls are unbelievable! We camped at heath falls overlook and hiked down to the falls for day trips, very sweet situation. Went in mid July, lots of water, great trails well defined by way of cascades lake trailhead. We met a few homies who came in from the south end, sounded pretty steep, and it seems their trail put them out right near the main falls south of the bridge.

backpacking
Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Worth the views and almost a hidden gem! We backpacked this in June and had the trail and campsite (next to waterfall) to ourselves. Perfect for a 1-2 night trip and great for beginner backpackers.

backpacking
Monday, June 11, 2018

This is a well maintained hard trail with a great reward when you reach the North Fork of the American River. We did the round trip 14 mile hike in about 9 hours which includes an hour of resting by the falls and extra time to take in the views and lots of photos. You have Devils Peak on your right and a huge scene of the valley on the left while hiking on granite for the first 1/3rd and then switchbacking in and out along the creek and rock cliffs for the remainder 2/3rds. 2 litres of water in and 2 out, but may need more for mid-summer heat. There were mosquitoes in the more green meadows and some poison oak at the lower elevations. The hike out is a constant climb with some flat areas for relief. Once you reach Long Lake you know the journey is coming to an end.

backpacking
Monday, May 28, 2018

Great trail! Perfect for a three day weekend so that you can spend one full day down in the valley or up the other side of Palisade Creek. The waterfalls are huge and super dramatic - very impressive. Be aware, there is a long drive to get to the trailhead and it takes about 30 min. If you’re going early in the season there will be pools of water or even snow. We were there on Memorial Day weekend and there was no snow on the trail and very little mosquitos even though there is a lot of water. Very easy hiking. The first two thirds down is very easy slope downwards, the last mile or two down the valley is pretty steep with a backpack. One you’re at the bottom, there are lots of good camping spots. You can then hike up the other side. We went about 1/3 up but then stopped because you had to rappel down and I didn’t want to keep going. Lots of water, no worries on having tons of access points (at least early in the season). Tons of great fire pits and campsites. Beautiful views of the mountains and massive waterfalls. There is poison oak at the bottom 1/4. We saw a snake and fresh bear poop.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Amazing trail! Backpacked in for one night, was able to swim and enjoy its gorgeous water pools. Bring enough water for the hike down to the waterfall, you can replenish your water using a water filter for your way back up.

hiking
Thursday, August 17, 2017

BRING AN OFF ROAD VEHICLE. About a 3.5 mile dirt road of very rocky and bumpy terrain. The location is definitely worth the trip. Beautiful lakes and trails. Rope swings and rocks to jump off of. People are very friendly. **There are water snakes** They did not cause us any trouble though.

backpacking
Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Amazing hike with a beautiful waterfall at the end, it is safe (deep enough) to jump off the smaller ledge(~20m). There are also lots of fishing holes at the end, so bring your rod. We hung our bear bag off the bridge and didn't have any problems.

backpacking
Wednesday, July 12, 2017

This was a great trail! There is no snow on the trail as of 7/9/17. Right near the trail head is Long Lake, and there are a number of camping spots and a rope swing there. The trail goes mostly downhill on the way there, and you reach amazing water falls and rapids at the bottom. You can swim at the waterfalls, so make sure to pack a swim suit. This site has the trail continuing from there up the mountain again, but we skipped that part. On the way back, be prepared for uphill - it took us about 3-4 hours. When we returned on a Sunday, there were tons of people who were there for the day hanging out on Long Lake, drinking beer and chilling on tubes. Overall, I highly recommend the trail.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Your in for a treat once you get to the bottom. Make sure you pack a three day stay because it is worth it!! Snakes bears and bees/mosquitos. Map or gps will be key on this trek in. Switch back!! Look for markers and do not go off trail!!!!

backpacking
Monday, June 19, 2017

I did this trail for my first backpacking trip, and I agree with the difficulty level of this trail. We went mid-June so some of the trail was still covered from snow which made finding the path extremely tricky. The granite portion was confusing to follow: watch for the cairns and be prepared to spend extra time making sure you're on the right path!Downloading maps from AllTrails genuinely saved us from getting too far off course! We spent the night next to lake which was one of the most memorable nights of my life because of the view. From there the venture into the woods begins, which may seem easier than the granite but it's not. A lot of the trail was covered with fallen trees, so it increased the level of difficulty to climb over them with our bags in the summer heat. The most eventful part of the trip was running into a black bear along the path. Luckily we shooed him away by getting big and making lots of noise, but would highly advise others to be prepared to see a bear! Overall, one of the best experiences of my life. A must-do for anyone who loves nature and all it has to offer!

backpacking
Monday, August 22, 2016

The lakes at the beginning were beautiful and I'm bummed that I never went swimming in any of them. We often were confused about where the trail went due to the terrain and poor trails markers. About half of the trail is on bare exposed rock so it is easy to walk off trail. We didn't do the switchbacks up the hill after mile 6 and ended up camping next to the river at mile 6. I recommend going earlier in the season so that the river flow is higher and you have more opportunities to fill up water bottles (we had a few lakes at the beginning, some gross still ponds at mile 4, and a small waterfall at mile 6).

backpacking
Monday, August 01, 2016

Overnight moderate difficulty hike, stick to the trial, printout a map and reference location via phone gps if you'd like; My GPS worked almost up until the river/ creek confluence & waterfall area. Big guys bring 3-6L of water (one way) and you can refill at the river w/ some Purification Pills for the trip back. I will advise to bring a bear bag for your food supply and hang it in the nearby trees as there are Black Bears in the area. We had one devour our food that was roughly 20 ft from the camp, he circled the tent a few times at several different times during the night but didn't show any aggressive signs.

hiking
Friday, June 17, 2016

Perfect down and up/ out and back.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I didn't get to spend much time on this trail, but the first 2 miles were well marked and very pretty. There are many lakes along this route. I can't wait to come back and backpack this trail.

hiking
Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My husband and I did this hike in late July, so the waterfalls were not at high flow. Would definitely recommend as an overnight night hike as the return trip out is exhausting (especially with heavier overnight packs). Took about 3 hours for us to get to the confluence and about 4.5 out the next day, stopping several times to take photos and re-hydrate. This trail leads through several different types of landscape…very beautiful and worth the trip. Plenty of pools to swim at the confluence of the American River and several places to set up camp. Many trails leading around the American River so you could make this a longer trip if you desired, we only chose to make this an overnight. As mention in the other post it is wise to watch for the cairns and try to help out when you can by restacking them for others. Crossing over the granite ridge can get confusing.

hiking
Thursday, May 31, 2012

(Updated 6/6/2016) This trail is mainly about waterfalls. It goes by a few of them on Palisade Creek and ends at Palisade Falls on the American River. It's a bit hard to follow, especially early in the season, and especially for the first hour across the granite section. Just remember that this section makes many random 90-degree turns and watch for the cairns (aka ducks). It would be helpful if everyone doing this trail would fix the cairns as they go, as they're always getting knocked over. A few other things: While we have done this as a day hike, I wouldn't recommend it. It takes us at least 4 hours each way and you can't spend much time at the bottom. The actual stats are that it's about 6.5 miles one-way and 3000 feet of descent, so it's not an easy trail. I've seen a lot of people just day hiking down to Palisade Creek Falls though, which is a lot easier. The Heath Falls trail shown on the topo maps does exist, sortof, if you want to do that instead of the main Palisade trail, though the main trail is better. The first tenth of a mile or so leading off of the main trail has been buried in a bunch of fallen trees on the north side of the pond there. Just go north of the pond to about 39.254922° -120.408677°, where you should be able to pick up the trail as it follows the bottom of that little valley. It heads towards Heath Springs on the western side of the valley and eventually disappears in the leaf litter, so to get to Heath Falls you will need to just bushwhack east across the valley, ideally staying away from the river until you find the trail to the falls. There are "No Trespassing" signs all over the place since the land upstream is owned by the rich a$$holes up at "The Cedars", but as far as I can tell most of them are in the wrong place, being well inside the "Wild and Scenic River" boundary and facing all different directions, so I'm not sure where exactly they consider the boundary to be. Just ignore them and go to the falls. And FYI, the Heath valley is not a good place to camp. There's really no reliable water there, as that whole section of river runs through the gnarliest gorge I've ever seen, and Heath Springs is a suspicious copper color and is also apparently the spawning ground for all the mosquitoes in the world. The part of the main Palisade Creek trail south of the river going to Soda Springs Road, shown on the USGS maps, was destroyed in a landslide in 1996, but I've heard different things on how passable it is. The 5-mile dirt road to the main trailhead is usually barely passable to sedans - it floods and there's lots of loose rock. Towards the end there's a steep downhill section just past the Devil's Peak Lookout warming hut. If you don't have high clearance then park at the warming hut and walk down to the trailhead.

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