Opportunities for Wildlife and Water

Posted April 2017, updated July 2020

Auburn, CA- Families with little ones in tow are understandably more selective when it comes to choosing locations for outdoor exploration.  Many variables come into play and accessing terrific hiking opportunities with beautiful scenery can be a big challenge for families.

Black Hole of Calcutta Falls

Just on the outskirts of Auburn, lies the confluence of the North and Middle Fork of the American River and it’s quite the popular family hiking destination. If you’re seeking solitude, this isn’t the place. However, if you’re looking to take in some of that beautiful Gold Country scenery and great river views with the younger ones, the Black Hole of Calcutta Falls trails might just have your family breaking out their hiking shoes.

Approximately 20 miles northeast of Roseville, we penciled in the Black Hole of Calcutta Falls trail for exploration on a recent morning. We’re suckers for waterfalls and it’s nearby location is a no-brainer. Fire up your GPS and head down Highway 49 and make the right over the bridge toward Cool. The trailhead appears almost immediately on your right. Look for the free parking on the El Dorado County side since the Placer County will includes a fee.

Strap on your backpack and enter the trailhead. A couple portable bathrooms and trash receptacles are available shortly after entering the trailhead near the entrance for those last minute stop necessities. For the heat averse, early morning is usually your best bet.

North Fork American River
The North Fork of the American River snakes its way toward Folsom Lake.

Options for all abilities

While we no longer have young children, it was obvious from the start that this trail was popular among those in the season of life that requires a stroller. A good portion of the trail is flat and very easy to navigate. Even if you choose not to walk all the way to the falls (only about a mile), there’s still plenty of great scenery to take in and a worthwhile hike nevertheless. In spring, the rushing water, countless colorful butterflies and birds should keep kids and adults of all ages entertained.

For the more seasoned hikers, there are plenty of additional trails that branch off in all directions. While they’ll be more challenging and strenuous, you can be assured of some pretty amazing views. We scrambled down to the river and spent the afternoon climbing rocks, relaxing on the beach and splashing around the shore. Be forewarned: The icy currents run fast and can be deadly. Safety precautions are always a must. Plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat is a good start.

The popularity of the Black Hole of Calcutta Falls Trails doesn’t deter from the fun or sense of adventure. We encountered friendly people during our hike and people of seemingly every age and ability appeared to be enjoying themselves. This trail may just have more strollers per hiker than any other trail in California or at least it felt that way.

Black Hole of Calcutta Falls Trail is great experience for all and the parents with young children seemed quite happy and relaxed to be there.

Mountain Quarries Bridge
The cool, refreshing waters along the North Fork of the the American River set against the backdrop of the Mountain Quarries Bridge.

Black Hole of Calcutta Falls Quick Guide

  • Easy Access and proximity in South Placer
  • Great views
  • Stroller friendly
  • Hiking for all skill levels
  • Nice, if not overpowering waterfall
  • Heed safety warnings
  • Flat, easy hike for almost any ability
  • Hike down to the river for a quick cool down
  • Parking on El Dorado County side is FREE, Placer County side includes fee