Whether hiking or trail running, starting at or near the American River Confluence in Auburn provides many options.
For this installment of Your Weekend Hike, we’re recommending you start at the Quarry Trail and do a 12-mile loop that traverses parts of the famed Western States 100 Mile Run and Way Too Cool 50K courses. Those wanting a shorter jaunt can simply do an out-and-back on the Quarry Trail, which meanders 5.6 miles along the American River, which, despite drought conditions, still flows freely.
The loop starts at the Quarry Trail trailhead, off Highway 49 not 100 yards past the confluence and it’s deceivingly hilly, albeit easy hills. The real climb starts when you make the right turn onto the Brown’s Bar Trail (at about 3.5 miles) and literally reaches its peak on the unsigned Goat Hill Trail. Pay attention for Goat Hill on the right. It’s a right turn that immediately becomes switchbacks. If you go straight, you’ll eventually hit a housing development and have to retrace steps. After ascending Goat Hill, follow the singletrack directions below.
You’ll probably run into other trail users on weekend mornings – equestrians only on the latter segment – but at least no mountain bikers.
Your Weekend Hike: Quarry-Brown’s Bar-Cool Loop, Auburn/Cool
Distance: 12 miles (shorter options in out-and-back)
Directions from Sacramento: From Sacramento take Interstate 80 to the Elm Avenue exit in Auburn. Make two lefts onto Highway 49. Drive 2.5 miles down to the American River Confluence. Turn right at the confluence to stay on Highway 49. Make a quick left into the Quarry Trailhead parking lot. Cost is $10 per vehicle. Or you can use a yearly state parks Poppy Pass to park.
Route: From the trailhead, go 3.5 miles on the Quarry Road (veering slightly right and uphill at a picnic area 1 mile in) to the signed Brown's Bar junction. Go uphill 1.1 miles to the Western States/Robie trail. Turn right and go 0.3 miles to the unsigned Goat Hill Trail on the right. (It's a noticeable switchback heading uphill.) Ascend Goat Hill and continue for about 2.5 miles on a technical single-track with distinct elevation gains and losses until you reach the upper Highway 49 crossing. Cross carefully and follow the trail to a meadow in Cool. Veer right and follow brown signs for the Robie/Western States Trail downhill about 2 miles to the confluence. You'll need to cross Highway 49 again to get to the Quarry parking lot.
Call The Bee’s Sam McManis, (916) 321-1145. Follow him on Twitter @SamMcManis.