Pilot Creek Waterfalls (University Falls)

MODERATE 65 reviews

Pilot Creek Waterfalls (University Falls) is a 4.8 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Georgetown, California that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and bird watching and is accessible year-round.

Distance: 4.8 miles Elevation Gain: 941 feet Route Type: Out & Back


nature trips


bird watching




wild flowers


no dogs

Pilot Creek Waterfalls is on private lands and access is currently strictly prohibited. Please respect signs so that the landowners can work on alternatives to allow safe and legal access. No parking rules in the area are strictly enforced.

1 month ago

10/12/2019 started this hike mid morning; there’s a notice regarding the trail being closed *see picture*

private property
4 months ago

This trail is fairly easy for most of the hike until the last section of it. The difficult part of the trail has fallen trees that you have to navigate through and around, its still not hard too hard just pay close attention to where someone else paved the way around. Otherwise a super beautiful hike that isn't too difficult. I highly recommend seeing it at least once!

4 months ago

Locals or just Robert York has removed all signage except for no trespassing. Parked legally on the side of the rd and hiked 80% of the trail, but after attempting a few different “paths” down had to double back and the little one (6) ran out of energy. So we headed back to the car, We will be attempting the hike again after more research on the trail. Beautiful relatively desolate hike, no cell service so know where you are going before you head out there. passed about 8 others on the way back. The US Supreme Court has designated this waterway a public right and the no trespassing ordinance is null and void, Robert York will pursue you with empty treats and treats of towing your vehicle. Park legally and take pictures of your vehicle so if worst case happens you can have legal proof that is admissible in a court of law. But highly doubt any company would tow a legally parked car. Everyone that we talked to was friendly and helpful. Pack out what you pack in and pickup any trash you see.

5 months ago

It is open. Locals want you to think it is closed. They do two things. Report you illegally parking (Which alot of people do) and put no trespassing signs. Park legally meaning off roadway and not blocking road or access points. The access points are fire roads. I work as a Firemedic for CalFire. These roads are public easements. Anyone is allowed access via non motorize means. I love the falls and enjoy them regularly. All I ask is pack out what you pack in or more. I usually bring a garbage bag, collect others trash on the way out. Be safe and check depth before attempting to jump or slide. I don't need to do a rescue. Cellphones normally don't work down there. I usually bring a dual band radio. I have only dealt with abrasions and contusions while there. I wouldn't rely on the trail markings. Locals also like to mess with the arrows. Be careful and take pictures of your car. Locals like York might mess with your vehicle. I put a game camera hidden outside my vehicle and see people look at my truck. I think they leave me alone because I have a firefighter plate on my truck.

5 months ago

Pilot Creek Falls is open, not "closed." The California constitution explicitly states that the navigable waters of our great State are free and open to the people in perpetuity, regardless of the status of the surrounding lands. Responsible visitors have enjoyed the Falls many times in the last several years and have never been, and never will be obstructed or given a lawful ticket. Publicly funded UC Berkley is aware that its position is untenable. Therefore, its representative will make threats, but cannot and will not enforce their faux-closure--precisely because they know that enforcement efforts will not be affirmed in court. Therefore...be easy on the land, leave no trace, be aware of the natural and inherent risks of visiting any wild and undeveloped area, and enjoy!

5 months ago

Robert York is incorrect in being able to Close Public waterfalls by restricting access to private Land. The Supreme court of the United States has previously ruled Public Land and features such as beaches or this case waterfalls and rivers can still be accessed even if it means going through private property. The owner of the private property cannot block access to this site legally. SUPREME COURT CASE ON ACCESS TO A GREENWICH BEACH https://www.cga.ct.gov/2001/rpt/2001-R-0631.htm

5 months ago

Under California law and the constitution Landowners cannot block access to public waterways what Robert York is doing is illegal 1. U.S. constitution grants "Freedom of navigation and the public’s right to use rivers are guaranteed by the Commerce Clause. The congressional Act admitting States to the Union requires that 'all the navigable waters within said State shall be common highways and forever free.'" 2. California State Constitution, Article 10, Section 4 - Forbids individual, joint and corporate landowners from obstructing free navigation. It provides that “the Legislature shall enact such law as will give the most liberal construction to this provision, so that access to the navigable waters of this State shall be always attainable for the people thereof.” It also forbids landowners “to exclude the right of way to [navigable] water whenever it is required for any public purpose.” 3. California Civil Code, Section 830 - States the State’s ownership of tidelands, submerged lands and beds of navigable waterways includes lands laying below the ordinary high water mark of tidal waterways and below the ordinary low water mark of non-tidal waterways. The area between the ordinary high and low water marks on non-tidal waterways is subject to a “public trust easement” which is also under State Lands Commission jurisdiction. These falls and river are NOT PRIVATE LAND AS THE TITLE STATES THEY ARE FREE TO USE AND ACCESS PER OUR CONSTITUTION AND ROBERT YORK IS BREAKING THE CONSTITUTION BY RESTRICTING ACCESS https://law.justia.com/constitution/california/article_10.html

Sun Aug 12 2018

Jill B trespassed with her daughter, violating private property laws. She appears to have made it through without being caught, but most do not. Ongoing work to what was the trail is making access more difficult. The falls are patrolled and the Sherrif's office helps with enforcement. Do not assume that you can make it without being caught.

Wed Jun 13 2018

I did this hike with my daughter and had a wonderful time. The only difficult area is just before you get to the falls, where it becomes a steep climb. Bring a picnic lunch as the falls area is great for hanging out and playing in the water just be sure to pack your garbage back out with you.

Sat May 12 2018

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.

Sun Apr 22 2018

Ok so are you able to hike this still cause it looks like some reviews are from just a couple of months ago.. it was such an awesome summer place to go when I was younger.

Sun Dec 10 2017

I too regret not taking a swim here. A lil hard to get to but a great trail for the moderate hiker. At the very end there are beautiful natural water slides you can slide and swim in. Happy trails!

Tue Sep 12 2017

This was a beautiful and challenging hike. Especially the lower end near the falls where alot of trees and brush covered the trail.

Thu Jun 29 2017

I regret not taking a swim the time I went to this location! It was beautiful! The hike was pretty difficult, but oh so worth it!

Sat Mar 18 2017

Fire station recommended we not trespass over land and falls have been closed to public. Probably doesn't stop people but I'm not in the business of breaking rules dished out by handsome firemen. lol

Wed Nov 16 2016

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 ¾ 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 '€“ 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. It's a popular spot because in the summer months the river runs shallow and people can slide down the first two falls (but there's 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 wasn't 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 I'll 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 ½ mile we ended up on a ¾ 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: It's 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. It's 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 Nevada's. This is where I need to add a note to the city slickers '€“ 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 '€œFalls'€ turn left here and begin your 600 foot decent to the Falls. This area is narrow, steep and rocky, it'd 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 Sierra's 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

Fri May 27 2016

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.

Sat May 07 2016

LOVED this place! So sad it's closed..

Sat Sep 19 2015

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.

Wed May 27 2015

Can this trail be hiked still or no, not at all?

Sun Apr 26 2015

@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..

Wed Nov 12 2014

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.

Sun Aug 17 2014

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

Mon Aug 11 2014

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

Sun Aug 10 2014

The falls are currently closed. This is being enforced. The lands that completely surround the falls are private. For more info see http://ucanr.edu/sites/cff/Blodgett_Forest_Research_Station/Pilot_Creek_Falls_University_Falls/

Wed Aug 06 2014

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

Mon Aug 04 2014

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.

Mon Jul 28 2014

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!!

Thu Jun 05 2014

Local swimming hole, take this hike in the summer if you want to end your hike with a swim, spring if you want to avoid crowds.The trail winds down and down, be prepared for a hearty walk back up.The parking is very limited by a closed gate, -do not block the gate or they will have a legal reason to tow you.The trail is basically a road that has been closed off, back in the day most people drove as close to the falls as they could to go swimming.Obviously someone does not want people coming here because there are signs all over the place stating the water is polluted and you will be towed ect.,ect.....Either threats from nearby property owners or the county is getting tired of retrieving bodies from the water hazards, not sure which, but at any rate it does not seem to stop anyone.Follow the signs left by other friendly hikers and listen for the sounds of the rushing water to get there.When you reach the water you will see a series of waterfalls cascading over the rocks into deep pools.The rocks are worn smooth enough to serve as a natural water-slide, super fun if your daring enough, just remember this is not like at a theme park or something, you are taking chances and its a long way to any medical services,be careful.Also for some reason people often like to leave their trash around these kind of beautiful water features, often in the form of broken glass,now let me tell you, if i step on some broken glass an i see you littering, your gonna leave with a broken arm.Dont be a dick-clean up after yourselves, pick up the glass, diapers, water bottles and hey- it does not hurt to pick up a lil garbage now n then even if it was not yours.I would not recommend this for fishing as people are often swimming here and if you want to keep your catch you will have a long way to pack it out.This place is a little slice of swimmers paradise hopefully steps will be taken to preserve it and make it a bit more hiker friendly.

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