Ranger Liske has been patrolling the 35,000 acres of canyon lands that make up the recreation area for 18 years, keeping visitors both on the path of lawfulness while dealing with the many emergencies that regularly occur at a regional magnet estimated to attract more than 1 million people annually.
With two forks of the American River and miles of trail to cover, Liske has plenty of tips and observations to share to help make any visit one to be remembered for all the right reasons:
1. Favorite spot. If there’s one place in the park that a visitor should travel to at least once, it’s the viewing area – easily spotted by the bench – about halfway up the Stagecoach Trail linking the confluence with Auburn. The trail itself is a 2-mile climb or descent, with a relatively steady grade that isn’t too overwhelming physically. It’s the ideal training route for longer backpacking trips. The view from the bench is something worth taking a pause for along the route, with sweeping vistas of the confluence that the veteran ranger describes as incredible.
2. Biggest request. Liske said the No. 1 question he gets asked is how to find the “Black Hole of Calcutta.” Visitors learn about it through social media or a web search and want to check out the cascading water from Canyon Creek that flows under a new bridge built in 2015 by State Parks. The Canyon Creek bridge is about a mile past Mountain Quarries Railroad Bridge.
3. Forest faux pas. Liske ranks cyclists taking trails they’re not allowed on, people letting their dogs off leash and visitors littering as the Top 3 things park-goers mistakenly – or deliberately – do at the recreation area.
4. Strategic mistakes. Not anticipating how steep the park terrain is and not bringing water on a hike are two errors that can make a walk in the park a major disappointment – or disaster. Also not really knowing the destination before you set out is a judgmental problem that catches visitors unaware.
5. Helpful resource. A stop into the State Parks office on Highway 49, located on the left as visitors drive into the canyon from Auburn can yield helpful information. There are maps and brochures to make the park visit more pleasant. It’s open now seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
6. Don’t forget a $10 bill. The simplest way to access good parking is to buy a season pass that’s good for a year from the day you buy it. Otherwise, if you pull into a paid-parking area, it’s $10 or face a ticket.
7. Best time. Arrive early on weekends when parking spaces fill up quickly and the temperatures in summer are bearable. The park hours are 7 a.m. to sunset, except for campgrounds and activities at night with special permits.
8. Stay over. Campgrounds at Mineral Bar (17 sites) and Rucky Chucky (5 slots) fill up quickly on a first-come, first-served basis. If you arrive by noon on Friday, you can usually have your pick of locations.
9. New trails to tackle. The Recreation Area has developed new trails that may not necessarily be as well-trod as others – or allow cyclists. Check at the Parks Department office or with helpful members of the Canyon Keepers volunteer group stationed at the confluence to learn more. Stagecoach, Quarry Road and Manzanita trails are all open to cyclists, by the way.
10. Prepare for horses. Equestrians have the right-of-way over human walkers on the trail so be prepared to stop and make way. If you have children, learn about the right and wrong ways of approaching a horse on a trail and teach them to the younger ones.
Click HERE to see the original article in the Auburn Journal.