If solitude is what you seek, the Stagecoach Trail at the Auburn State Recreation Area is not for you. Better to venture farther afield, away from the nexus of activity along the American River Confluence, the armada of rafters on the weekends, roving posses of mountain bikers blasting the downhills, the battalions of hikers, veritable Reese Witherspoons in training, out to “touch” nature.
To certain veteran users of the area, Stagecoach and its offshoots are worthy of that old Yogi Berra malaprop about a popular restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore because it’s too crowded.”
Still, if you haven’t traversed Stagecoach, it’s mandatory. Do it at least once. In the fall, the crowds won’t be as bad, but the views will always be spectacular. Because this old wagon road is only 2 miles in length from the confluence to its Russell Road terminus, what say we piece together something approximating a loop with intersecting trails to add some new scenery? But really, you can get a fine 4-mile workout in just ascending and descending Stagecoach, which boasts an 800-foot elevation change.
As an alternative, I sought to bump this up to a 7-mile, loop-de-loop jaunt using as many new (to me) trails as possible.
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STAGECOACH TRAIL (7 miles)
Elevation gain: 1,700 feet
Directions to trailhead: From Sacramento, take Interstate 80 to Auburn, exit at Highway 49 south toward Placerville. At the junction of Highway 49 and Old Foresthill Road, the American River Confluence, continue straight 100 feet and park at marked spots next to the trailhead.
Route: From the sign saying “Stagecoach Trail to Russell Road,” go 0.2 miles. Make a sharp left to continue on the Stagecoach Trail. After 1.8 miles, turn right on the Upper Stagecoach Trail. Go for slightly less than a mile to a junction signed “Flood Road” to the left and “Stagecoach” to the right. Go right (downhill) past the junction for the Mossy Rock Trail to the Stagecoach Trail. Turn right and retrace your steps on the Stagecoach Trail. Turn left onto the Manzanita Trail. Go for 1 mile. Go through the Auburn State Recreation Area park headquarters parking lot, cross Highway 49 and go past a green metal gate with No. 136. Descend 0.4 of a mile to the Western States Trail, turn left. Before the No Hands Bridge, turn left onto a single-track trail that parallels Highway 49. At trail’s end, cross Old Foresthill Road and go up Tinkers Cut-Off for 0.3 of a mile. Turn right on the Stagecoach Trail and return to the trailhead.
Difficulty: Moderate. There’s climbing on the Stagecoach and Tinker’s Cut-Off trails.
Exposure: Mix of sun and shade
Toilets: At trailhead
Parking fee: $10