Like treasure hunts? Then head for the hills near Auburn and have an adventure that could be straight from a sequel to The Goonies. A 2.5-mile, unmarked hike (or bike and hike) with twists, turns, and the eerie remains of a truck wreck takes treasure-seekers to watery riches: a series of three natural rock waterslides, separated by giant pools of cool mountain water. Known as University Falls, this whoop-and-holler triple wonder would thrill even the likes of “Mikey,” “Mouth,” “Data,” and “Chunk. Muster the courage to speed down the first slide. Then catch your breath and hit the next two while you listen for your own squeal. (There is a fourth slide, but it’s dicey and not recommended.) Hidden trails. Old car wrecks. Natural waterslides. And you… Join the adventure.
Arrive early (before 10 a.m.) or late (after 3 p.m.) to avoid the boom box-and-cooler crowd. As with all swimming holes, swim at your own risk; there are no lifeguards at University Falls and there have been accidents. University Falls is 30 miles (50 minutes) from Auburn. Head to Auburn on I-80, then take Hwy 49 south to the town of Cool. Go east on Hwy 193 to Georgetown. Go left onto Main St. (at the Napa store); this is Wentworth Springs Rd. Take this about 12 miles. Just after passing through the town of Quintette, find parking on the left. From here, allow 90 minutes to walk in. Walk past the bright yellow gate; 200 feet past the gate, continue straight on the fire road. Go left at the next fork (sign “12N67B”). Go right at “the bend” (look for blue arrows on the rocks). Follow this trail down and make a hairpin right onto the trail that follows the Pilot Creek water canal; continue about .5 mile. Look for the obvious side trail that descends to the left and take it. After 100 feet, go right at the first fork (look for blue paint on the tree). This descends to the falls. Dog-friendly!