Cronan Ranch is one of those places that’s best hiked in spring or autumn. This wide open area is just four miles north of Coloma, off Highway 49. The turnoff is at Pedro Hill and it’s somewhat easy to miss. Pay attention, as it will come up on the left and if you blink, you’ll pass it. (There are two staging areas, Pedro Hill, and a larger one two miles further down on Highway 49, Magnolia Ranch Trail Head, better for horse rigs).
The area that envelops the park is formally known as Cronan Ranch Trails Park. It’s an old ranch that was bought by Michael Cronan in 1891 from the Central Pacific Railroad. It eventually ended up with the Bacchi family and was sold to El Dorado County in 2004. It’s a wonderful foothill area that is perfect for a day hike.
The 12 miles of trails wind through oaks, grasses, and open space. The main trails from the trailhead meander down to the American River and it’s not till you get to the river that there’s some respite from the sun. Summer hikes here are a bit toasty.
The trails are multi-use. Hikers, runners, mountain bikes, horses share the entire area. Etiquette on the trails is simple. Everyone gives right of way to horses, bikes give way to hikers, uphill has right of way over downhill and everyone, horses included, give way to rattlesnakes. If you do encounter a rattlesnake, stay away from it. They aren’t interested in you as long as you leave them alone, which is what is best.
The trails are relatively gentle, and most of them lead to the river. This part of the American River is absolutely worth seeing and after you hike down to it, multiple spots are great for relaxing and having a bite to eat. With the weather turning more gentle, this is one of the best times to hit these trails.
Another close-in hike is at Sly Park Lake, also known as Jenkinson Reservoir, in Pollock Pines. Take the Sly Park exit off Highway 50 and head down Sly Park Road until you get to the lake.
The lake is managed by the El Dorado Irrigation District. It’s open year round and is a popular spot for hiking, mountain biking, boating, camping and picnicking. Trails generally follow the lake shore.
The 8 mile loop trail around the lake can be a bit much for very little ones. There are ups and downs but nothing is overly steep. One of the more popular hiking destinations is the waterfall at Hazel Creek. Plan on about a 2 mile out-and-back if you start at Hazel Creek Meadow. Tailor your hike for whatever time you have and if you have children with you, how old they are.
These trails are also multi-use and the same rules apply regarding who has right of way. There are two main ways to access the trails. One is through the main gate at Sly Park Road, the other is from the Bumpy Meadows Trailhead, just past the second dam on Mormon Emmigrant Trail/Iron Mt. Road. There is a fee to enter the park.
Your hike will take you through a pine, cedar and oak forest. The lake is always close by and swimming is always on the menu. The entire area is good for just about any level of trekker.
Enjoy the cooler weather and the trails at Cronan Ranch or Sly Park. Get outside!
CLICK HERE to see the original article by Charlie Ferris from the Mountain Democrat newspaper.
If you would like to read more about Cronan Ranch, especially reviews and maps, go to our LINKS tab, click on the Federal, State, Parks, Camps and Trails section, scroll down to:
Cronan Ranch Regional Trails Park, BLM Guide
Cronan Ranch Regional Trails Park, Coloma Valley Recreation Guide
Cronan Ranch Regional Trails Pictures
Cronan Ranch, Magnolia Equestrian Staging
Cronan Ranch, Staging, Bandana Map, Review
Cronan Ranch, South Fork American River Trail MAP