Codfish Falls is a 65-70 foot waterfall located on Codfish Creek in the Auburn State Rec Area. The creek, and waterfall, flows down toward the North Fork of the American River. The trail to the waterfall is roughly 1.5 miles long with pleasant views of the river, canyon and plant life. There is a small trailhead to park at.
In 1993, the Placer Land Trust, along with Protect American River Canyons (PARC), purchased 30 acres along the North Fork of the American River just south of Weimar. This acreage became known as the Codfish Falls Trail Preserve which contains a segment of the trail and a wonderful region filled with numerous plant species and wildlife.
Ponderosa Way remains paved until you reach a sign that welcomes you to the Auburn SRA. There are 3 miles left from this point, but at the 2.5 mile mark, a sign says “end county maintained road.” This is where the adventure begins. The last 2.5 miles of Ponderosa Way is a nightmare for low clearance vehicles. There are numerous potholes, cracks and rocks in the road. It’s recommended to take a high clearance vehicle like a 4wd truck or SUV. Additionally, this narrow road requires slow speeds as it winds all the way down the canyon to the river. The drive down is a few thousand feet drop in elevation. During inclement weather, drive very slow and safe. This section of the drive takes about 20-25 minutes and will eventually bring you to the trailhead right in front of the Ponderosa Way Bridge.
As you get closer to the trailhead, you will see signs that remind you of paying a fee, keep California green, and other tidbits like no jumping or diving into the water.
The trailhead is at the end of the road, with two port-a-potties in front of you and a bridge to the left. You have to park on the side of the road before the Ponderosa Way bridge, not in front of the port-a-potties. The fee box is next to the port-a-potties and costs $10.
The trail begins right behind the port-a-potties and runs along the river for about the first 1 mile. The trail is easy and has very little elevation gain except for at the end. The Ponderosa Way bridge is rustic looking and does provide for some scenic river photos.
Check out my article on the Ponderosa Way Bridge for more details and pictures
The river is very clear near the bridge and was flowing slowly. In fact, it was very peaceful under the bridge. It’s a nice place to fish or work on your cannonballs.
Along the Trail
After a few hundred yards, there’s a sign for the trail that says 1.2 miles. This basically tells you how far it is until the waterfall. The trail is well-marked out and takes you through some tree coverage and bushes.
However, if you go in the summer time or later in the day, you will be exposed to the sun. It does get hot and dry out there. I highly recommend that you go in the spring time. Along the way, there are two outhouses at a few tenths of a mile apart. I guess this is for the individuals who don’t use the port-a-potties before venturing out on the trail.
There are a few markers along the way but most of them have been damaged or destroyed. Eventually, the trail winds away from the river and up the hillside. This is the steepest part of the climb. If you go in the spring, you will definitely hear the waterfall before you see it. Also, right near the steep portion of the trail is a side path that will take you up to the top of the waterfall. Not recommended for kids or beginners.
Eventually, you come out of the trees and into an area with boulders and water flowing. As you get closer, the waterfall will be up to your right.
The biggest adventure on Codfish Falls Trail is in the last few miles of the drive leading up to the trailhead. Prior to this trip, I read plenty of reviews about the hike and the best route to get there. However, none of the reviews mentioned that the last 2.5 miles of the drive was down a winding, twisting road that wraps around the hills and is the equivalent of a bad rollercoaster ride.
In total, I spent roughly 2 1/2 hours here and the hike itself only took me less than 90 minutes, which includes the time at the waterfall. The hike is less than 3 miles round trip from the trailhead to the waterfall.
The trail is easy enough for kids and is dog friendly. Best time to go is early morning, unless you plan on swimming in the river. Bring sun block, bug repellent and $10 for parking. The park rangers did come out this way. In fact, they were practically laughing at me as they saw how slow I had to drive on the way back up the hill. Good times!!
Check out more of my Auburn State Recreation Area adventures.
From Sacramento, take I-80 eastbound to the town Weimar, which is roughly 10 minutes east of Auburn. Exit on Weimar Cross Roads and make a right at the stop sign. Then make an immediate right onto Ponderosa Way, which is almost like making a u-turn because you are going back along the freeway heading in a westward direction. Eventually, the road starts winding away from the freeway and recommends that you go 20 to 25 miles per hour. With all the twists and turns, it’s best to follow the suggested speed limits.