Canyon Creek, Ford's Bar, McKeon, Quarry Road, Rattlesnake Bar, Stagecoach, and Western States
American Canyon Trail – Third Gate
Description: This gentle descent into American Canyon takes hikers across two pleasant streams and to a secluded waterfall with a pool carved out of metamorphic bedrock.
Hikers start out under a canopy of foothill pine and Douglas fir. The trail’s descent heightens the steepness of the hillside. The first trail that joins your enters from above to the left. It is just a connector from the community uphill.
Wendell T. Robie Trail meets your trail head-on at 0.8 miles, where you will make a U-turn to the right, heading downhill toward Sliger Mine Road. The next trail junction appears shortly, and you will continue straight ahead as your broad trail narrows.
Continue heading north, your next trail junction is a crossing of the American Canyon Creek. Your trail will dip below abundant blackberry bushes as you approach this signed creek crossing. An ASRA sign will let you know your position both here and at the next creek crossing, Hoboken Creek, which is less than 100 feet along the trail. This area is also thick with fire bellies-in the water, under rocks, and in the leaves. Watch your step.
Walking above the creek, the single-track is lined with fairy lanterns and larkspur. This dirt-and-duff trail follows wherever the rock outcrops permit it.
A sign verifies your position at Dead Truck Trail–steeply uphill to the right. Look to the left as you face the trail downhill: a side trail angles across the slope beneath you, leading to a real hidden treasure-a waterfall.
Following the downhill trail in front of you, you’ll reach the lower section of this creek and then Poverty Bar on the river. Continue along the trail, & you will soon cross to the west side of the creek. Your trails stays just above and ten feet to the side of the creek as it descends by cascade and pool, stair-stepping its way through the forest to the river. A right at the first trail junction will take you down to Poverty Bar.
If you forgo the river, then head down the trail on the slope below you past the sedum-covered boulders, through the popcorn flowers and lupine, down to the sounds of water rushing below. When the pool first comes into view, the creek’s waterfalls are still hidden to the left. Descend to the water level to get a good look up into the narrow cascades.
On the return, head up Dead Truck Trail, climb the steep hill to view the vista points that awaits you out along the ridge. The trail intersects the ubiquitous Robie Trail; turn right toward Cool. The path crosses one creek’s washed-out footbridge before crossing the upended concrete culvert at Hoboken Creek.
Your trail is signed now with markers for the Western States Trail. Fairy lanterns and irises line the trail as you enter and exit several small ravines without gaining or losing significant elevation. Keep to the right when you encounter any unsigned trails in the next half mile. When you come to a picturesque glade with a small cascade pooling at the trail crossing, you will head uphill to the right. Your homeward turn comes at an intersection about 500 feet ahead that you passed earlier. Making a left uphill will return you to the trailhead, about 1 mile away.
Directions: I-80 East, drive 24 miles to the Elm Street exit in Auburn. Turn left at the traffic light onto Elm Street. At the bottom of the hill, turn left again onto High Street. Pass beneath the railroad tracks as you continue downhill on CA 49. Drive 2.3 miles down the winding highway to the confluence, where you follow the highway as it turns right across the American River toward Cool, where in 6 miles, you will turn left onto CA 193 toward Georgetown. Drive 5.3 miles, then turn left onto Pilgrim Court on the south. (This turn is before the village of Greenwood.) Your trailhead is on the right, just at that top of the street, before the gates to Auburn Lake Trails. Parking at the trailhead is limited, but you can park on the shoulder back down the road. The trailhead is signed American Canyon Trail – Third Gate.
Several trails between the Middle Fork and Sliger Mine Road traverse the
nicely wooded north-facing slopes of the canyon. On one of these un-named
trails, a mountain lion killed a jogger in 1994. The trails are generally among
the most peaceful and underused routes that are open in ASRA. You can make up
your own names for these trails. You will also have to make up your own
intersection signs. It is quite a large area and easy to get lost for a
Access is from the Quarry Road up the Middle Fork, Highway 49 at the quarry,
Sliger Mine Road, or several roads on the Georgetown Divide east of Cool.
Perhaps the easiest way in is to wade across the Middle Fork from Mammoth Bar
during the low water on summer mornings. Just make sure to cross back before the
water rises in late afternoon. The gate to Mammoth Bar Road closes at 8 pm.
The wide, gradual trail from Applegate to Upper Clementine Lake is unmarked,
not obvious, and seldom used. Yet it provides the only trail access to the north
side of the canyon at Clementine Lake and the lower North Fork.
To get to the trailhead, take I-80 to the Applegate exit. Proceed downhill.
At the 'T', turn left on Applegate Road. After the railroad underpass, turn
right on Boole Road. Continue 1.7 more miles to Cerro Torre Lane on the left. Go
uphill less than 0.1 mile to a wide spot on the left. The trail angles to the
Horses and hikers find easy going. Bikers in moderate condition to ride up
almost all the way without stopping. The route is easy to follow on an old dirt
road. Brush encroaches in spots, as no maintenance is provided. Until the
1980's, the trail was used by four-wheel-drive vehicles. It comes out on the
gravel bar just across the North Fork and upstream from the popular beach area
at Upper Clementine. It beats going down the Upper Clementine Road, which is too
busy and dusty during the three months it is open after Memorial Day.
The river provides refreshment, and is low enough to wade across in summer.
The gravel remains from hydraulic mining upstream, and Clementine Dam was built
to stop it from continuing downstream. The water is very warm in summer.
When the Upper Clementine Road is closed, this trail and the road provide the
only route crossing of the North Fork between Ponderosa Way and Foresthill Road.
There is no bridge, however, and the ford should be made only at low flow. Thus,
bikers, hikers, and horses can travel from the Applegate area to Foresthill Road
with only wet feet. The trip across the canyon takes about half a day. Camping
is sometimes open at Upper Clementine, except after floods. Boat-in camping on
the upper end of the lake is by reservation only, with access from Clementine
Built under contract by the Robie Foundation in recent years, this trail may be the best hiking trail and the best-kept secret in a generally obscure area. Take Highway 193 east from Highway 49 at Cool. Turn left on Sliger Mine Road and continue when the surface becomes dirt. About 1/4 mile past the park boundary sign, there is a road to the left and a 'No Bikes' sign on the right. The trail goes uphill to the right, then switchbacks several times. But it soon levels out on the grade of an abandoned ditch.
This is one of the well-built trails in the area that was not built as a road. The masonry work in the retaining walls is so good that you may not notice it, except for the the curved wall around a rock outcrop. This trail gives great views of the Middle Fork at Ruck-a-Chucky and the Sierras beyond. There is an open mine shaft next to the trail, easy to miss if you walk fast. Several other trails branch off as the trail goes all the way to Canyon Creek, perhaps 10 miles each way. The trail is posted against bikes, perhaps because it was funded by a horse-oriented group. An occasional boot or horse track may be seen on the tread, but vegetation is creeping onto the path. There is no better place to see north-slope trees and flowers in the foothills. Fill water bottles at any of the rivulets.
The Middle Fork is featured by the trail to Ford's Bar, about 4.5 hiking
miles from the end of Driver's Flat Road. The trail goes past Ruck-a-Chucky
rapid, then an offshoot goes down to the river. The main route may be easy to
miss. Ford's Bar is a pleasant bend with a beach. There are a few muddy spots
and small creek crossings. Check out the riverside blackberries in midsummer.
The river is a bit cold for much swimming, but large trout lurk in deep
To get there, take Foresthill Road east from Auburn and turn right on
Driver's Flat Road. Stay to the left. The road has a few rough spots, but got
some repairs after the washouts in 1995. Pass the camping area and raft access
point. Park at the narrow turnaround or further back. The trail is a gentle old
road for the first mile to Ruck-a-Chucky, then cuts to the left off the roadbed.
Poppies and purple lupines decorate heavily in spring. Bears eat berries along
the river. Old diggins mark the uplands. This trail grows on you.
Part of what once was Ponderosa Way, which traversed the Northern Sierra
Foothills, this road was closed to vehicles in the 1980's by the US Bureau of
Reclamation. Residents in the Spring Garden area had objected to traffic on the
basis of asbestos in the streets near their property, though that road is now
paved. It connects the Middle Fork at Driver's Flat Road to the Foresthill
Divide, following pretty Gas Canyon. This once-popular road is now a trail for a
few locals and their horses. The road suffered serious erosion after being
abandoned, but is still suitable for all non-motorized use. Views are good
across the Middle Fork canyon, and several side routes are worth exploring. Near
the bottom, it crosses the Western States Trail at an old homestead site.
Take Foresthill Road east from Auburn, turn right on Spring Garden Road. Stay to the right. Park on the side of the road near the gate, being careful to avoid the ruts. Ignore the 'Road Closed' signs on this public property.
The unmarked trailhead on Russell Road in Auburn is just a wide spot at a
turn. So is the bottom end at the Old Auburn-Foresthill Road bridge over the
North Fork. Yet this is one of the more popular trails for mountain bikers and
hikers alike. Bikers are practically forced onto it, since it is one of the few
trails in ASRA where biking is both legal and publicized. Hikers go there
because they know about it, but have not found the numerous other trails which
are more secluded. Overall, the route provides a good view of the canyon at the
confluence of the Middle and North Forks, plus 700 vertical feet of workout.
There is some historical interest as a former stagecoach road. It certainly
should be safer than joining the congestion on Highway 49 to get down to the
Take a wrong turn on this trail, and you'll end up on the North Fork, on
Foresthill Road at the high bridge, at the ASRA ranger station, or at the
Highway 49 bridge. If you do get lost on another route, you may find helpful
directions on little white and red signs placed by a local bike club. Otherwise,
side trails are usually identified by 'no bike' signs. Since parking is limited
at the top, consider starting from the bottom or from another spot in
It seems like bikes are going fast on this dirt trail, but the fastest bike clocked at random in a straight stretch was going only 17 mph, just over the 15 mph speed limit. The road/trail is plenty wide for a variety of uses.
From the popular Confluence area, where Highway 49 crosses the North Fork, a
trail extends along the south side of the Middle Fork to - well, forever. It
connects with the Western States Trail and several un-named trails up the slopes
to the south. But the basic road/trail is fine for a half-day round trip of up
to 15 miles. This is one of the few roads legallly open to bikes. The sound of
motorcycles sometimes intrudes as the trail crosses broad gravel bars and shady
slopes. Total elevation change is negligible, but short hills challenge the
biker. Ford the Middle Fork to Mammoth Bar for a loop trip (back along the
Or continue past the Mammoth Bar area to the Western States Trail. After
passing a picnic table under a nice oak on the left, the Western States Trail to
the upper ford drops downhill to the left. (Other trails continue upriver to
American Canyon or directly uphill to Sliger Mine Road and vicinity). The table
provides a nice lunch spot.
This important east-west trail connects the Folsom and Auburn State
Recreation Areas along the North Fork. It covers 9.5 miles from Maidu Drive to
the boat ramp at Rattlesnake Bar. Plenty of parking is available at the boat
ramp, but not much at the immediate Maidu Drive end. On Maidu, additional
parking is just to the north. Still, few park there. From Maidu, the trail
crosses the little Shirland Canal, then heads steeply down the slope to Oregon
Bar on the North Fork. Not far to the left, about half way down, one can cut
left to the paved Auburn-Cool Trail which goes over the damsite. But to avoid
the damsite and go downstream to Folsom Lake, stay to the right on the
switchbacks. Some fishermen use this route; the North Fork is open all year to
trout fishing below Highway 49.
On the last half of the way to Rattlesnake Bar, the trail contours above the
lake and well below the hilltop housing. Deer, turkeys and quail are commonly
seen in the openings and woodlands.
The Western States National Scenic Trail (WST) extends 100 miles from Auburn
to Squaw Valley. It hosts the Tevis Cup Endurance Ride and Western States 100
Endurance Run each summer. Riders and runners start at Squaw Valley, cross the
Sierra crest, and arrive in Auburn after dark. The trail is maintained primarily
by volunteers with the Western States Trail Foundation.
Spend an hour or a week. Most users only see part of the trail on each trip.
East of ASRA, easements are open to the public across private land. Much of the
route follows old roads and railroad grades, but most is still single track.
The Western States Trail provides key connections for the trail user. The
official western end is near the fairgrounds in Auburn off Pacific Avenue, but
an extension crosses under Pacific, ties into the paved road above the former
dam abutment, and extends to Maidu Drive and the Rattlesnake Bar Trail to Folsom
Lake. This can be followed to the American River Parkway in Sacramento. Other
trails cross frequently, with options for loop trips or cross-canyon travel.
Because the WST is perhaps the best-marked trail in the area, new visitors will
be more assured of finding their way than on some of the other trails.
East from the fairgrounds, the WST winds gradually down the hill and up the
river to the confluence area. Until 1996, it crossed the North Fork at
No Hands Bridge, but the
bridge was closed by the US Bureau of Reclamation. (No Hands Bridge is an
arched, former railroad bridge that has outlived many highway bridges near the
site). Now, a poor alternate route requires horses, bikers, and hikers to join
heavy traffic on the narrow Highway 49 bridge to cross the river. The WST
continues uphill west of Highway 49, downriver almost to No Hands Bridge, then
switchbacks up the hill. This section consists mostly of steep, eroding single
track, not well suited for bikes. (Bikers would do well to carry their bikes up
the buried pipeline route from the confluence to reconnect on more amenable
terrain). Near the limestone quarry, the WST crosses Highway 49 and drops back
down to the river. On the way, it ties in with Quarry Road up the Middle Fork
from the confluence. (The obvious shortcut is to cross Highway 49 at the bridge
and follow the Quarry Road until it meets the WST again. This saves several
miles and over 1,000 vertical feet of travel. Either way, one must deal with the
traffic to cross Highway 49). Then the WST drops down to the left past the
picnic table under the oak trees.
Soon you will find where, in 1997, the large gravel bar near the end flooded
thoroughly, and one must pick a way over sand and rocks for another mile to the
upper ford to follow the Western States Trail upriver. The river is always cold
and can only be forded safely at low water in summer until mid-afternoon, when
releases from Oxbow Dam arrive. After the ford, the trail continues up to
Driver's Flat Road, then follows that downhill and past the Greenwood Bridge
site and boating access. It cuts back uphill on old roads, past a former
homestead foundation, off into the Foresthill Divide and beyond. Good parking
spots for these trail segments are found on Driver's Flat Road, accessible for
most vehicles from Foresthill Road. Camping is also available in several
primitive sites along the river for a fee at Ruck-a-Chucky Campground.
In addition to the trail descriptions here, check out Natalie's Trails of ASRA page, especially for horse riding in the area.
Olmstead Loop Trail description
Mountain Biking in ASRA
No Hands Bridge history and status
Folsom-Auburn Trail Riders Action Coalition , or FATRAC
Bicycle Emporium - Our Favorite Trails diagrams Olmstead Loop and other trails
Yield to star thistles
ADDRESSES AND PHONE NUMBERS
1. California Department of Parks and Recreation
American River District
7806 Folsom-Auburn Road
Folsom, CA 95630
2. Auburn State Recreation
California Department of Parks and Recreation
Auburn, CA 95604
Office located on Highway 49 south of Auburn
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