Trails in Northern California

Trails in Northern California

Leave No Trace!

Visit for more information about Desolation Wilderness. Visit or call 1- 877-444-6777 to make park reservations. Visit Campfire Permits to get a permit online. More about Leave No Trace principles.

July 16, 2016

August 2018 update Grouse Ridge Lookout ~ and Trail Head

Experience miles of Grouse Ridge trails for backpacking, hiking, fishing, wildlife viewing, and swimming in many of the lakes.  

And take in the views!

One view from the ridge.  I bet if you zoom you could see Mt Shasta too.
Distance: 2 mi round trip or many more.
Difficulty:  Easy to moderate, according to your choice.  I have been comfortable taking an outdoorsy child who can hike at least 1 mile in downhill and then 1 mile out uphill. They would enjoy the lakes.  There may be some tree falls to climb over or go around, and strollers are out of the question. It is an excellent place for backpacking with youngsters.
Driving Directions:  Get onto Highway 20 West from Highway 80 west of Donner.  Turn right onto Bowman Lake Road, cross the South Fork Yuba River and turn right on Grouse Ridge Road (Forest Road 14). It is 6 miles. 

  • The road is dirt and we were happy to note that with a large lumber operation going on, the road is much improved most of the way.  There are wider spots to let lumber trucks get by. 
  • Camping and hiking are free, no permit required.  In the fall be sure to check hunting season dates. 
  • July 2018 cell service: Just before you enter the campground area, the dirt road turns to the left.  There is a large opening with a small u-shaped drive that some use for overflow camping.  We found that if we pull over there we get 1 bar on AT&T, enough to text and make a call! 
  • Much of the year, cows live in the lake s basin. We woke up to gently mooing and cow bells in July.  In August we didn't see any of the cows. The ones who visited were friendly anyway!
One campsite guest at Milk Lake in Grouse Ridge, California, July 2018

This is the link to the forestry website.

July 2018 There were wildflowers in full bloom and large meadows of color to enjoy.  We encountered that rain that wasn't forecast.  Always go prepared for any weather.
Aug 2018  Our three day trip was excellent, as was our trip last month.  We hiked to Carr, Feeley, Island, Round, Long and Penner Lakes.  The weather was in the 70's and the skies were clear!  It was a red flag warning for smoke so we were prepared for less pleasant conditions, but the views were just as far and gorgeous as I have seen!
Round Lake in Grouse Ridge, California, August 2018

For my son's first backpacking trip, we toured
the Grouse Ridge area.  We started out with a warm up hike
to the old lookout, built in 1923.  Surprise!
It is being refurbished to offer as a rental.  In Aug 2018 we saw lights and I would use it. I came home and looked for links to rent it but was not successful.  Here is the link to the forestry website that would have information when it becomes available. Lookout rentals
In good weather, visitors might see all the way to Mt Shasta.
We did!
Grouse Ridge Lookout
To hike to the lookout, walk south up the dirt road that forks
uphill off of the dirt road to the trailhead parking.
There is a closed gate without parking,
so plan snacks and water for a mile or so
uphill along the road, and the return hike down.
Trust me ~ it is worth the extra time and effort!
Wildflowers are blooming in profusion, so get up there soon if you enjoy these seasonal shows!
We had the pleasure of some snow blankets to play on,
although who knows how long they will last.

Mt Shasta is back there if you can zoom, though it is just a blur, you can tell it is the snowy peak.
Views from Grouse Ridge Lookout.
After exploring and taking photos, we headed down
to start our backpacking trip. Near the trailhead,
there are car camping spots that have been greatly improved, and
are well marked with tables, campfire rings, and level tent spots.
Widow maker's truck hikers pass near the start of the trail.  Each trip, I photograph the truck, which used to be red!  Moral of the story:  Do not park under a dead tree! The truck was still there this week, August 2018.
Since my son was out for a first backpacking trip,
and most likely over-packed,
we needed a shorter hike.  Just hiking to Milk Lake
to set camp seemed great, then we could hike
to many other lakes without all the gear.
A view of Milk Lake from the use trail,
breaking off from the main trail at the tree fall.  
We missed this sign.
A tree has fallen that blocks the old trail to Milk Lake.
 July 2018: the trail to the lake is easier
to see. It is apparently well used and heads next to the sign posted in this photo.
Milk Lake from the north hillside.  That little patch of snow is under the trailhead.
Grouse Ridge Trails are well marked as a rule.
We weren't thrilled to keep going
not having seen Milk Lake, but we bravely marched onward.
The trails are mostly shady, and there are enough tree falls to rest here and there.
Round Lake, Grouse Ridge Lakes Basin, California
We set camp near Long Lake, but Round Lake
would be fantastic.  We spent time there swimming
wishing for our fishing poles.

The south side of Long Lake is pretty shallow and marshy,
but the up side is it is warmer water for swimming and we enjoyed it.
We packed up to hike out, but the smoke
we had noticed while swimming seemed thicker.

The wildflowers were still a treat, but you can see the grey
skies moving in.  My throat was scratchy.
On our way in we could see Mt Shasta, and on our way out,
we could hardly see the close mountain ranges.
This map shows Carr-Feeley TH and many of the lakes in the basin.
Print it and take an 8.5" x 11" pocket map to keep with you.

Here are some other trails in Tahoe National Forest:
Tahoe National Forest
6+ miles
Moderate (kids do it though)
Snowshoeing PCT at Donner’s Castle Pass
9.3 mile loop
3.5 miles
1+ miles with many lakes and options
Easy to Moderate
5+ miles this trip
Whatever you choose
1 mile each location
Pioneer Trail near Spaulding Lake
Up to 25 miles; I did 5.7
Easy to Moderate
Sierra Discovery Trail with Bear Creek Falls
½ mile est. interpretive loop & picnic area
.7 mile
Stroller and WC friendly
3+ miles
Easy - Moderate
6 miles
4 miles
Easy - Moderate
Grouse Ridge Glacier Lake Trail Milk and Downey Lakes are closest.
.5+ many optional miles to many lakes, all pretty close to each other!
Easy to Moderate Car camping available near the trailhead.
Thank you for stopping by!  Happy Trails.
update July 16, 2016
Updated July 2018: notes about wildflowers, moving the template to the top, added a weather forecast link, note on Milk Lake trail improvement, cell reception and removed old truck notes.

June 02, 2016

Rock Creek Falls and One Eye Creek Trail 2016

Rock Creek Falls is reported to be 100 feet across at times
Rock Creek Falls in May 2016

MILES: 6-7 miles
ADVISORIES:  Poison Oak is everywhere!  The trail is steep, sometimes wet and slippery.

This marks the place you will either park or turn right and park at a junction of three roads.

1.      Take Highway 193 from Highway 49 toward Georgetown, California.

2.      If you are coming from Highway 50, turn right on Traverse Creek Road, or from Highway 80, turn left on Traverse Creek Road.

3.      Take Bear Creek Road to the right and pass Bear Creek Picnic area on the right (although this is a good place to stop and use restrooms since there aren't any at the trailhead).

4.      Continue for 0.7 miles to Forest Service Road 12N81 on the right, visible due to park signs posted.

5.      In winter park in the wide area on your left, and walk straight down the Forest Service Road until you come to the junction of three roads. In months the road is open you can drive back and park along here.

6.      Walk straight ahead and you will see a small post on your slight right at the One Eye Creek trailhead. Follow this trail all the way to the falls.

 At the beginning of the trail, there was scrub brush on either side, but the trail itself was clear and wouldn't be confused with animal trails. At one point it opened out into a small sunny meadow, but most of the area had manzanita and other brush.

Early on One Eye Creek Trail, these stickery bushes and vines had grown over the trail and caught on our backs and backpacks which made them a nuisance. The terrain is hilly and not too steep for any length of time until you descend to the creek and waterfalls. There was less poison oak in that area, except where the sun had more access to the trail. In May wildflowers were blooming.

A nice shady section is a tunnel.
And next is the most wild of all, the seeming meadow that when you look closely, you discover it is mostly poison oak!

About a mile into the trail you come to the "mine" shown below which is actually only a few feet deep, but a trail hazard that is fenced in with a small trail down the hill for hikers to see in.

The rolling trail finally opened up into this beautiful, cooler forest area that goes until you traverse downward to the creek.  Keep in mind it is deceiving because you are heading downward and on your return you will be heading upward, though slightly, you feel it.
After hiking all the way in, we had to bushwhack a little, but this time wasn't too bad.

 Going in we hiked the steady downhill and fairly easy trail. From about a mile away from the creek, we began to hear the waterfalls! As we made our way closer, the trail got steeper, and the pine needles were thickly layered and are sometimes slippery. Hiking poles and good shoes helped me navigate this section more safely.

 This section of trail could be dangerous due to steep slippery hills.  It makes having inexperienced hikers, inadequate equipment, or having children present inadvisable.  Lat/Long:38.82396, -120.759

It has been reported that the falls have been as much as 100 feet wide in flood stage. Here, there was a powerful current and as you can see, a large stretch of the 100 feet was, in fact, covered. The falls have also been estimated to be only a 25 foot drop, but with the current rushing almost violently, they were quite impressive!  To get to the bottom you had to creek cross and then climb down.  Others were there so we stayed up top beside the creek.

Our picnic spot along Bear Creek.
On our way out, we had to travel upward, and it felt steep and challenging in the wet, and especially with the weight of a backpack. Hiking poles really helped me there, too!

 Another alert: If you sat anywhere along the trail, it was on the damp ground with pine needles or poison oak! We also noted ticks, so check yourselves when you get out and wash all of your gear.

For fun here are some photos of wildflowers that were blooming:

This was a very worthwhile hike! On this trail, I have never met other hikers until this trip, when only two guys passed us, suggesting it gets little traffic, but the trail was in overall adequate condition. The views were memorable, and the trail was well marked. It isn't for the casual city hiker, due to the length and the difficulty near the falls. The elevation changes also required fitness, and being accustomed to ups and downs. Take some food, wear good hiking shoes with deep tread, and maybe take something dry to sit on in case it’s wet. Again, my hiking poles were helpful, especially on the climb out of the creek canyon. I wouldn't advise taking kids due to length, safety and difficulty level, until you have done the hike yourself and can make your own judgment about their abilities. Don't forget the camera!

The closest hikes you may also be interested in:
3 miles
Stifle Claim Trail (Traverse Botanical Special Interest Area)
0+ miles
Easy +
7 miles with closed road, 6 when it is opened

or see the Table of Contents.

February 11, 2016

Training Hill, Auburn, CA Feb. 2016

For a trail to get your cardiac workout on, and for now, a view of the snow-capped Sierras, this is your best hike in the Sacramento and surrounding area.

This sign is at the bottom of the Training Hill, but it isn't too late to take the easy trail to the left.  (WST is Western States Trail, also known as Wendell T Robie.)

Distance:  The Training Hill is 2.4 miles out and back from the trailhead.  You can extend this hike to much more using other options including the Olmstead Loop and Western States Trail.  Check Wikiloc or EveryTrail for GPS tracks.
Difficulty:  This one is short, but unless you are already fit, it is a hard one.  The trail is a rocky, washed out, mess.  Really fun for hiking-fitness enthusiasts!  This honestly is the best possible training hike near the valley. ASRA reports the grade at 16%-30% in 1.2 miles. You will LOVE the 16% breaks!

  • Poison oak in this area.  
  • Steep and has poor footing.  Take care to evaluate what you and your group are up to.  
  • Horses are allowed on these trails.  Please defer to them if you meet them along your way.  
  • Bears and cougars have been seen in the area in the past.  Keep your eyes open.  Keep your dog with you for safety.

Driving Directions: From I-80 take the exit marked CA-49S (toward Placerville) and 193E (toward Georgetown).  You will turn left at the signal just off the freeway onto Elm and at the next signal you will turn left again.  Follow the signs to CA49 and 193.  When you see the river, watch for the split where you can go straight ahead or across the river.  When you cross it, park along the right hand side (for free, while all other nearby parking has fees).  Park a bit diagonally as a courtesy to fit as many cars as possible along that stretch and to make it easier for everyone to get out back onto the road.
If you are coming from CA-50, you can use CA-49N, following signs to Auburn and Cool.  The road will have hairpin turns shortly before you reach the parking mentioned above, just before crossing the river.  (You can GPS from your location to Cool, then continue on 49 to this parking).
The "No Hands" Bridge, or "Railroad Quarry" Bridge
To Hike:  Go through green gate 150 near the parking along the highway, next to the river.  Head toward the Quarry Bridge, a beautiful historic bridge with classic arches. Look down into the river you see old mining remnants.
This shot was taken standing on the Quarry Bridge looking back to the CA-49 bridge.
 Just before the No Hands Bridge there is a narrow trail heading off to the left which has a sign marking mileage for Cool or Auburn, which points you toward the Training Hill and WST (Western States Trail, also referred to on some maps and signs as the Wendell T Robie Trail.)  The trail doubles back toward the road and through the trees and you can see the bridge and river.
This part of the trail is easy with some ups and downs.
 Arriving at the fork of the WST and the Training Hill, there is a sign you can't miss. You can get an idea of the difficulty, keeping in mind the trail rises sharply, but does have level sections.
WST is to the left and the Training Hill to the right. It is grueling going up until you are in great condition, and going down is....grueling.  If you see the Training Hill and get intimidated, you can hike up the WST.  It is beautiful and fairly easy.
Brace yourselves!
Some sections are wet, slippery at this time (February), with wet pine needles adding to slick footing.  There is significant water damage to the trail that helps me with footing.
The photos do not capture the steepness of the hill~just sayin'.  Be prepared.
This is a wonderful spot and in person the view is 
refreshing as you hike the mile upward.
A lot of the trail has stickers and shrubs beside it but there are 
some openings and small meadow areas to rest in.
Like I said, the camera can't capture what the eye can.  You can enjoy Sierra snow caps from this large meadow to the left of the trail near the top.
The fact that it was wet and slippery in some sections made me take small steps and traverse to avoid falling. This is hard on knees too so if you have even an older knee injury, at least bring a brace just in case.  Hiking poles help avoid slips too.
Olmstead Loop at the top of the Training Hill in Auburn, CA.
Olmstead Loop is, in fact, a loop that begins at the top of the hill which winds through trees but is a giant meadow area.  From it you can return to the cars following signs to the WST to Auburn (this way is 4.7 miles, and less steep) and by taking the first trail that forks to the left through the meadow. Its the shortest trail to WST that looks a bit narrow, very well traveled, still heading southeast, then nearer the trees will end up heading basically north. The WST will run parallel to the highway when it gets near the parking, but its up higher and in the trees. Or just hike down the Training Hill.
Wikiloc has tracks for this hike.

Happy Trails!
For more trails in the Auburn area:
Auburn State Recreation Area (ASRA) and Surrounding Areas
2.4-4.7 mile keyhole
Very steep with poor footing.
3 miles
1+ miles
Easy trail with minor creek crossing
About 10 miles
Moderate due to distance and unclear markings
3-7 miles
Easy with a minor creek crossing
3+ (I did 9) miles
2.8 miles
5.75 miles
Up to 19 miles available trails
Easy +
4.5 miles
4.3-18.9 available miles
Easy - Strenuous
Mossy Rock Trail (starts at Stagecoach)
Under 2 miles

See the full Table of Contents.
Updated with links 06-2016