Top Ten Trails

ofAuburn State Recreation Area

Featuring the Auburn-Cool Trail

...and the other nine, in no particular order:

American Canyon, Applegate, Canyon Creek, Ford's Bar, McKeon, Quarry Road, Rattlesnake Bar, Stagecoach, and Western States (click one to jump down).
Mapping the trails...

American Canyon

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 while.

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 left.

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 Dam.

Canyon Creek

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.

Ford's Bar

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 channels.

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 confluence.

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 Auburn.

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.

Quarry Road

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 Middle Fork).

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.

Rattlesnake Bar

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.

Western States

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.

Jump to...

Boating the Forks of the American River
River Information for planning noncommercial trips

The Tunnel and River Restoration

Auburn-Cool Trailpage

Other useful links:

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
Yield to Star Thistles


1. California Department of Parks and Recreation
American River District
7806 Folsom-Auburn Road
Folsom, CA 95630

2. Auburn State Recreation Area
California Department of Parks and Recreation
Box 3266
Auburn, CA 95604
Office located on Highway 49 south of Auburn.... Click for Visitor Map of ASRA or Aerial Photo of western ASRA

Signs of a bygone era