Here’s a hike that is just a few minutes from my house and really has quite a bit to offer. This brisk and beautiful Saturday morning I decided to take a solo trip up the Boulder River trail. It’s an 8.6 Mile round trip hike with 700 gradual feet in elevation gain, but you can reduce the length to just a few easy miles if you just want to see the falls.
To get to the trailhead you’ll turn off onto a long, winding gravel road off of highway 530. This is a great opportunity to test your mountain road driving skills as the potholes are plentiful. Nothing my little commuter car couldn’t handle. The trailhead parking lot is a bit narrow, so be sure to park your car in a way that will be easy to escape if the lot fills up (which happened to me as I just narrowly escaped).
The rewards are pretty much immediate as you make your way up the trail which is an old railroad grade put in by the Boulder Railroad & Timber Company in 1909. It sits high above the young Boulder River on a ridge. At your left you will pass by massive boulder walls draped with rich moss and ferns. Just as you begin experiencing significant elevation gain you will hit the corner of a switchback where the terrain levels once again. On that corner is a faint side trail that is a quick, steep climb to an interesting tree stump and a peekaboo view of Mount Higgins. Get back on the main trail and you’re almost to the waterfalls where you can hike down to river level, walk up to the second falls and again work your way back up the ridge to the main path.
Waterfall #1- “Pre-Show Falls”
Waterfall #2- “Feature Show Falls” with random hikers for scale)
This is a great spot to call it a day and head home if you’re short on time, but there’s definitely more to explore. Including a third waterfall, Meditation Falls. The next several miles, however, feels like a never ending tunnel through the bushes as the trail narrows, but you’ll eventually end up at a nice secluded spot on the river to pitch a tent or have a picnic. In the summer you can hop along the many large boulders and let the wild river dance around you while you rest up for the long walk back. Used to you could hike all the way up Tupso Pass to the Three Finger Lookout from this point, but now the journey ends at the river. Yet a beautiful journey it still is.