Black Hole of Calcutta Falls: it’s all in the name

(Last Updated On: July 7, 2015)

The Black Hole of Calcutta Falls has one of the coolest names I’ve ever heard of for a waterfall. Located in Auburn State Recreation Area, this waterfall is easy to access and a decent introduction to waterfalls in Northern California. Another positive trait about this waterfall is that it’s a great option for beginners and children.

In Search of the Black Hole

The trail begins at Gate 150 on Highway 49 right near the parking area. It takes about 5 minutes to walk from the trailhead to the “No Hands Bridge”. On the way, you will pass the 2 port-a-potties and nice views of the American River. The bridge does provide for some wonderful pictures looking up and down the North Fork American River.

Check out my article on the “No Hands Bridge” for more details and pictures

Once you cross the bridge you continue along the trail. On your left side will be the American River and on the right is a steep hillside leading up to Highway 49. Pass through what some locals call the “bush and tree tunnel.”

Beyond the “bush and tree tunnel” you will continue on the trail and stay to the right. There’s remnants of the old railroad trestle that used to connect to the “No Hands Bridge.” Within a few minutes you will cross a tiny stream that is big enough to get your shoes wet or muddy but nothing to worry about.

About 5 more minutes beyond this little stream and you come to one more remnant of the old railroad. It’s a railroad concrete buttress that has the year 1921 carved in it.

By this point, you can hear the waterfall. Keep walking and you will see the waterfall. While here, you can take some pictures or continue past the fall and journey further up the river.

When finished, just turn around and head back the way you came.

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Hours and Fees

  • There are no official hours to hike on this trail but it’s strongly recommended to do it during the hours between sunrise and sunset
  • No Fees


  • Small parking area
  • 2 port-a-potties

Distance and Duration

The hike is roughly 2 miles round trip. It can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours depending on how long you spend at the falls, the bridge or the river.


This is a really easy hike with clearly marked trails. The only difficulties would be the smaller trails that lead down to the river. A great day hike for beginners and families with small kids.

No Hands Bridge in the Winter
No Hands Bridge in the Winter


  • Go in the spring time during the morning
  • Bring plenty of fluids
  • Bring a camera
  • Bring sunscreen
  • Bring bug spray
  • Be aware of the wildlife
  • Watch out for Poison Oak
  • Watch out for horse manure

Final Words

This is a short, easy hike that can be done by beginners and small kids. The Black Hole of Calcutta Falls is a smaller waterfall that flows year round. In my opinion the best part about this hike is the “No Hands Bridge” and the views up and down the North Fork of the American River.

It’s best to go during the morning when there’s less hikers and horses. Watch out for horse manure because it’s prevalent. I also recommend going in the spring when the weather is cooler because there isn’t a lot of shade on this 2 mile round trip hike. If you go in the summer, you can cool off in the little pool area of the waterfall or down by the river.

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Location and Directions

Gate 150 on Highway 49 just south of the split

From Sacramento:

  • Drive east on Interstate 80 for about 33 miles to Auburn.
  • Take the exit for CA State Highway 49 (South to Placerville)
  • Head through town and follow the signs for Highway 49 South
  • It will leave town and wind around the foothills along the North Fork of the American River for about 5 miles
  • At the split, make a right to remain on Highway 49 and head over the bridge
  • Once you cross the bridge, immediately pull into the small parking area on the right side of the street
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After many years of being a full time freelance writer, and a long time resident of this state, I've decided to turn my full attention toward California by exploring all that it has to offer. My goal is to inspire you to get out there and explore this amazing state. Please follow my adventures and news content by visiting Calexplornia daily or clicking on one of my Social Media accounts below.

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