Spaulding Lake Trail

MODERATE 59 reviews
#15 of 124 trails in

Spaulding Lake Trail is a 4.7 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Nevada City, California that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is best used from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

4.7 miles
570 feet
Out & Back

dog friendly



nature trips





wild flowers


The beginning of the trail follows an old washed out roadbed for a quarter mile before climbing a series of switchbacks. The trail is mostly under deep tree cover along rocky ground. There is a significant climb of approximately 700 feet to the edge of lake Spaulding. In the spring there are substantial wet areas and small streams to ford. About 3 miles in you will need to cross under a large pipeline (penstock). Follow the pipline up the hill approximately 150 feet before continuing on eastward to the lake overlook. Alternately, follow the pipe line south to a small foot bridge that takes you to the overlook near PG& E's small hydeo-electric power plant. Return by the same route.

3 months ago

We started at Fuller Lake, which was very pretty. Trail was just OK, we were kind of disappointed. It was shady most of the way, which we liked. It just wasn't very scenic. We had to use the GPS quite a bit, esp near the end of the trail at Spaulding Lake. Even then we had a hard time finding an easy way down to the lake. Spaulding Lake was low, with only rock along the shoreline, rather desolate looking. No shade at all. It was a cool day or we would have gone swimming. We hung out there for a while and the dog had a lot of fun swimming. If you like solitude, this is the place - we didn't encounter anyone on the trail or at the lake. Good for off leash dog hiking. So the trail was a mixed bag for us. But it's not really worth doing again.

4 months ago

love this trail! there are a few detours due to trail issues, so bringing a GPS and following the alltrails map is a good idea, but you will end up at spaulding lake one way or another :). The water was not flowing too high so that was not an issue but in spring that could be a problem. beautiful lush forested area. dogs had a blast. had a nice afternoon thundershower to cool things down. There is a bit of up and down on this trail so be prepared for a moderate workout.

5 months ago

We loved this trail! It had everything we wanted, great wildflowers, dog friendly, not too strenuous, shady, sparsely populated. but we heard about a waterfall, and couldn't find it. maybe next time.

6 months ago

Had a great hike. Just moved here about a week ago, and this was my first hike in California. Trail was a little unclear in some spots. But still made it easily to the end. On the way back however I did come across a rattlesnake that was just off the trail hiding in a bush. Thankfully my dog didn't find it. Other than that encounter absolutely beautiful day.

6 months ago

Great Hike! More strenuous as you get farther on the trail. Lake offers a great stop for a snack.

6 months ago

Easy hike. Turn right after you cross the dam. Canal should be on your left. First time we hiked this trail. Nice shade on the hike in. We goofed and once we arrived at the lake, we went over the edge and had lunch, enjoyed the view. Trail lead further up and leads to the peninsula. Next time.

7 months ago

Went o. this hike with my 4 year old German Shepherd. It was drizzeling and a little cold and because of that, we had the trail to ourselves! Beautiful little hike. Had on a 50 pound backpack because I am training for Lost Coast and got a really good workout.
If you go to the parking lot with the toilets on the way in overlooking the lake, you've gone just a tad too far to catch the trail. GO back until you see a road (gated when I was there) and park on the side of the road then walk down the road, past the gate and over a small bridge for vehicles and you are golden.
There was a pretty massive bunch of rocks and boulders across the trail and detours around it, then under a big water pipe with my big backpack I had to crawl...the rest was awesome! Wish I could figure out how to post pics.
On the way out I decided that I didn't want to crawl, so we picked our way over the rock slide and cut about 10 minutes off our time...but it wasn't easy with a big dog and a big pack.
Read some of the other reviews. This place is well worth a day hike!

7 months ago

Beautiful hike! Too much snow higher up so this hike was perfect. Only passed one couple on the trail amazing for 11:00 am on a weekend and this encounter was near the car. App worked great especially since there were multiple trails. Download the map and gps it. No cell service.

7 months ago

we had a great time, really nice hike to perform during spring. we did it on a Monday and met only another group. All alone on Spaulding lake!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

My husband and I really enjoyed the hike. It took us though changing landscape from dense tall trees to open views of the lake. You hike by a waterfall, over bridges and under a large water pipe. We took our fishing poles and tried our luck at catching trout. We used spoons and small rainbow rapalas, but we didn't catch anything probably due to the late season. We only saw 3 people during our hike which was shocking that we had the area to ourselves. We walked up on a creative seating area built around a fire pit, made out of pieces of wood gathered from around the area. Very impressive. We will definitely return to explore more the area.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

It was OK. They had closed the floodgates between the last reviewer's hike and mine, so the water was a trickle. Also, there is a detour and several of the intersections/turn-offs were poorly marked. We missed two of them and only got back on track because we were running the AllTrails app. There were some great fern gullies and lots of big trees, but it was a little disappointing, too, that the lake was drained when we got to the overlook.

Monday, August 22, 2016

A friend of mine and I took our two 7 year old boys on this hike yesterday. It was a great hike and we did some fishing on Spaulding Lake where my son reeled in a 14" Brown trout. I'd definitely recommend this hike. Running creeks and the dam was wide open , so a ton of rushing water. Not a lot of shelter out of the sun on Lake Spaulding shoreline, so bring sunscreen and hats.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Beautiful waterfall rushing! Fairly easy hike. The detour made it a little harder to find the trail but we made it to Lake Spaulding! We enjoyed a refreshing swim in the lake with the dog and hiked back! GPS only said 3-ish miles but that could be due to the detour.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

great hike. Beautiful meadows, waterfalls and lake. part of the trail is rocky and fairly steep, not difficult but is not a hike I would recommend for families (children).

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Beautiful trail and lake. The trail is maintained very well by PG&E. You do have to go under a couple water pipes but other than that its so beautiful. One of the best trails I've hiked. Shaded most of the path, short trail, and not to bad on the ups and downs.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Nice lake!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Spaulding Lake to Fordyce Falls, a lovely trail with good tree coverage and some nice views of Spaulding Lake. It was interesting and sad to see how we transport our water into these man made reservoirs. Once you get past that, being in nature was still a plus. Tahoe National Forest has yet to disappoint me.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ever wish you can get the solitude of a 20 mile trek in without the mileage? Well that's what this trail offers. Bar none, my favorite local backpacking destination. We've camped here on Memorial Day weekend and still only ran into maybe 3 other backpackers. It is super easy to hike into, only 3.6 miles with a gain of only 600 feet. And the lake is gorgeous with perfect temperatures for swimming, plenty of great fishing and even a freshwater spring to refill canteens. Bring mosquito repellant though because the little buggers are in full force in late summer!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A nice walk along the lake into the Grouse Ridge area, the trail doesn't really go anywhere in particular. You can take it up to Split and Fordyce Falls or continue on to the network of trails further on. In either case it's a good idea to bring a topo map, the trail was fairly hard to follow last time we did it in November. The only real destination you can do in a day is the falls, and in that case make sure to leave early, I'll get a picture if I ever make it there.

7 months ago

6/17/2017 Hike
This trail is short but the destination is amazing! Careful on the rocks, I made friends with a rattle snake, it hissed, I screamed, we were both okay. Please note, shortly after turning on Bowman Lake Rd, which is a paved road btw, there is a portion covered/patched up with loose large gravel. Our low clearance sedan couldnt make it with passengers so my boys walked while the car went over. After that, the road is fine. Be sure to get there early or you'd have a hard time finding parking. We parked on the day use area of Fuller Lake ($7) and followed the trail map on All Trails from there. There are sections on the trail that are blocked off by PGE, just follow the detour signs and youd be fine. Worth checking out and I wouldnt mind going back.

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