Grouse Falls

Tahoe National Forest / Foresthill / Auburn, California, USA

About Grouse Falls


Hiking Distance: 1 mile round trip
Suggested Time: 30-45 minutes

Date first visited: 2016-05-20
Date last visited: 2016-05-20

Waterfall Latitude: 39.09466
Waterfall Longitude: -120.62807

Grouse Falls (or Grouse Creek Falls) was a waterfall that we were willing to drive a bit out of the way for.

It was one of the taller waterfalls in the state of California as it was said to fall over 500ft or so.

Grouse_Falls_038_05202016 - Grouse Falls
Grouse Falls

For such a big waterfall, it seemed like not many people make it out here given that we were the only people pursuing this waterfall during our first time coming here on a Friday in the middle of May in 2016.

Of course the truth was that we did encounter another couple here when we finished our hike so it’s not likely that we would have total isolation here.

Nevertheless, when it comes to the serenity of being far from crowds and civilization in beautiful scenery, this excursion certainly fit the bill for us.

Even that other couple we encountered implored us not to tell anyone else about this place and keep it a secret!

Grouse_Falls_042_05202016 - Full context of Grouse Falls as seen from the overlook
Full context of Grouse Falls as seen from the overlook

In any case, if this place wasn’t so out of the way, I’m sure it would have drawn a big crowd while also having a dedicated park in its name.

Even though Grouse Falls had impressive size, it did seem like its snowmelt-dependent flow suggested that it’s a waterfall you’d still have to time your visit for.

In other words, being here while the snow would be melting (typically Spring up to early Summer) would be the season to get the maximum effect of seeing this falls make its dramatic cliff tumble.

Any later in the summer and the water may blend in too much with the cliffs for much of a visual effect.

Hiking to the Grouse Falls Overlook

Grouse_Falls_011_05202016 - Mom descending amongst a grove of tall trees as we made our way downhill to the Grouse Falls Overlook
Mom descending amongst a grove of tall trees as we made our way downhill to the Grouse Falls Overlook

We began from a pretty remote trailhead (see directions below), which was well-signed.

We took the lone trail from this trailhead, which promptly descended between a series of tall pine trees and fir trees as well as the odd sequoia tree.

The moderately downhill hike would persist for the next half-mile, which also meant that we’d have to get back this elevation loss on the return.

Nevertheless, my mother and I arrived at the wooden overlook platform after roughly 15 minutes away from the car.

Grouse_Falls_024_05202016 - Mom standing atop the overlook deck for Grouse Falls
Mom standing atop the overlook deck for Grouse Falls

The platform was in an open part of the forest where we we were able to get a distant view of Grouse Falls.

Moreover, we were also able to get partial looks at the deep canyons further downstream along the North Fork of the Middle Fork American River where Grouse Creek would feed into.

Given how distant the view was to Grouse Falls, we were left wanting more from the experience, but the terrain seemed steep and off-train scrambling didn’t seem like a wise thing to do.

So we were content with our view while trying to savor every minute of our time here before heading back uphill.

Grouse_Falls_082_05202016 - Mom hiking back uphill from the Grouse Falls Overlook to the trailhead after having had our fill of the waterfall
Mom hiking back uphill from the Grouse Falls Overlook to the trailhead after having had our fill of the waterfall

Anyways, we managed to finish our hike about 20-25 minutes after starting our return hike (or around 45 minutes away from the car).

The Threat of Snow

Since our visit happened to be during a day when it was threatening to rain or even snow, we couldn’t be lingering out here for too long.

In fact, on our hike back, we kept getting hail.

Since the trail was said to start at over 5,000ft, I’m sure snow can be a problem, especially given the remoteness of this place.

Grouse_Falls_078_05202016 - Looking down at small hail stones during our uphill hike from the Grouse Falls overlook to the trailhead
Looking down at small hail stones during our uphill hike from the Grouse Falls overlook to the trailhead

It turned out that we were lucky during our visit that the snow hadn’t really hit this area.

However, just a couple of hours later, it did hit the I-80 on the way to Truckee and Reno not far north of here.

It’s definitely one thing to keep in mind since getting stuck in the snow or the potential of losing traction on the winding and narrow roads could make for a dangerous situation.

Visiting the northernmost grove of Sequoia Trees in California

One thing we wished we could have done to complement this excursion was to visit the Placer County Grove of Sierra Redwoods.

I-80_to_Devils_Falls_008_mom_05202016 - Snow causing a lot of traffic on the I-80 just a couple hours after we had visited Grouse Falls so there was a chance that we could have been stuck in that remote forest had we lingered there longer
Snow causing a lot of traffic on the I-80 just a couple hours after we had visited Grouse Falls so there was a chance that we could have been stuck in that remote forest had we lingered there longer

This was said to be the northernmost grove of Sequoia trees in California.

The US Forest Service site wasn’t very helpful when I chanced upon it on their website concerning its directions.

Moreover, the couple we spoke to at the end of our hike mentioned this place as well.

But we couldn’t find it on our maps (admittedly, we weren’t that prepared in our trip planning for this extra excursion), and we couldn’t chance trying to aimlessly drive to find this place given the incoming bad weather.

Grouse_Falls_096_05202016 - The Placer County Grove of Sierra Redwoods was further east along the remote Mosquito Ridge Road, which was the same road that led us on the spur to Grouse Falls
The Placer County Grove of Sierra Redwoods was further east along the remote Mosquito Ridge Road, which was the same road that led us on the spur to Grouse Falls

So we’ll have to make the time to do it next time…

Authorities

Grouse Falls resides in the Tahoe National Forest near Foresthill in Placer County, California. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Grouse_Falls_086_05202016 - Looking in the direction of the Middle Fork American River while driving along Mosquito Ridge Road
Grouse_Falls_001_05202016 - Looking back at the dirt road in the last half-mile that we took to get to the Grouse Falls Trailhead
Grouse_Falls_006_05202016 - Mom on the pine-forested trail leading down to the Grouse Falls Overlook
Grouse_Falls_007_05202016 - While hiking on the downhill trail to Grouse Falls, we were surrounded by very tall conifer trees
Grouse_Falls_013_05202016 - Mom continuing the downhill trail through forest en route to the Grouse Falls Overlook
Grouse_Falls_021_05202016 - Approaching the Grouse Falls overlook just where the forest cover started to open up
Grouse_Falls_026_05202016 - Our first look at the impressive Grouse Falls
Grouse_Falls_049_05202016 - Here's an informative look at what you get to see at the overlook platform for Grouse Falls
Grouse_Falls_054_05202016 - Another focused look at the impressive drop of Grouse Falls as seen from a distance at the overlook
Grouse_Falls_056_05202016 - Broad look at the Grouse Falls from its overlook
Grouse_Falls_059_05202016 - Looking further downstream in the direction of the North Fork American River from the Grouse Falls Lookout
Grouse_Falls_064_05202016 - Focused look at just the main drop of Grouse Falls from the overlook
Grouse_Falls_066_05202016 - Broad look at just the main drop as seen from the Grouse Falls Overlook
Grouse_Falls_069_05202016 - Mom starting to head back up to the trailhead after having had her fill of the Grouse Falls Overlook
Grouse_Falls_071_05202016 - Mom got out her umbrella as it started to half rain and half hail on us on the way back up to the Grouse Falls Overlook Trailhead

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Grouse Falls was one excursion where it seemed like our car got more of a workout than our bodies.

That said, since it felt like we were pretty far from civilization, we did have to plan out our driving route before heading out to make sure that the GPS wouldn’t lead us astray.

Indeed, we did drive some 25 miles from the community of Foresthill, which was the nearest town of any significance to the Grouse Falls.

Grouse_Falls_097_05202016 - This was Mosquito Ridge Road, where we spent the majority of our time driving between Foresthill to the Grouse Falls Overlook Trailhead
This was Mosquito Ridge Road, where we spent the majority of our time driving between Foresthill to the Grouse Falls Overlook Trailhead

Therefore, the following was how we did the drive, and we’ll start from the city of Sacramento since the state capital would be a pretty good frame of reference when pursuing this falls.

The nearest city of any significance where we’d leave the I-80 for the mountain roads was Auburn.

So from downtown Sacramento, we left the I-5 and followed the I-80 east towards Reno.

We’d stay on the I-80 for roughly 36 miles from the I-5/I-80 interchange, and we’d exit the interstate at the Foresthill Road off-ramp.

Grouse_Falls_089_05202016 - This bridge was where Mosquito Ridge Road traversed the North Fork American River
This bridge was where Mosquito Ridge Road traversed the North Fork American River

It was a good idea for us to fill up on gas shortly after we exited the interstate since there wouldn’t be much gas available where we were headed.

Once that was done, we then headed east on Foresthill Road for about 16 miles (roughly 20 minutes) on fairly high-speed two-lane highways with plenty of passing lanes.

The road itself offered some impressive views of the Middle Fork American River early in the drive, and it would ultimately lead into the community of Foresthill, where we’d then turn right onto the narrower (but paved) Mosquito Ridge Road.

Next, we’d follow the twisty Mosquito Ridge Road for the next 19 miles or so (taking us nearly 40 minutes) until we turned left onto Peavine Road.

Grouse_Falls_083_05202016 - The well-graded Peavine Road, which left the Mosquito Ridge Road and eventually took us to the trailhead for the Grouse Falls Overlook Trail
The well-graded Peavine Road, which left the Mosquito Ridge Road and eventually took us to the trailhead for the Grouse Falls Overlook Trail

In our experience, Peavine Road was not signposted with its name, but we did see a sign on Mosquito Ridge Road telling us to turn left onto that road for Grouse Falls.

Peavine Road was fairly smooth gravel road, and we’d follow this road for just under the next 5 miles (taking us around 15 minutes).

Another sign told us to turn left for Grouse Falls, and at this point, we’d drive the remaining half-mile on dirt road (that seemed doable by passenger cars) to the trailhead for the falls.

Overall, this drive took us around 2 hours (more like 90 minutes from Auburn) in each direction.

Grouse_Falls_004_05202016 - The trailhead parking for the Grouse Falls Overlook Trail
The trailhead parking for the Grouse Falls Overlook Trail

So if you’re planning to make the drive out here, make sure you’ve allocated enough time.

Now one thing we wished we would have known before making our visit to Grouse Falls was the Placer County Grove of Sierra Redwoods, which turned out to be not far from the waterfall.

Once I finally spotted it on our map, I realized that its turnoff was only about 5 miles east of the Peavine Road turnoff along Mosquito Ridge Road.

So it was definitely possible to combine a visit to see the state’s northernmost sequoia trees with the impressive Grouse Falls!

Left to right sweep of the panoramic view at Grouse Falls before examining the waterfall itself more closely

Tagged with: tahoe national forest, foresthill, auburn, placer county, sacramento, northern california, california, waterfall, mosquito ridge, peavine road



Visitor Comments:

About how to get to the Sequoias (from Grouse Falls) August 22, 2016 1:39 pm by Barry - The stand of Sequoia trees you referred to is not far away indeed. When returning to the paved road (Mesquito Ridge Rd) just turn left. It will take you toward French Meadow Lake and the park with the Sequoias will be on your right about 15 minutes or so up the road. I believe it's… ...Read More

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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