With our enthusiasm still bubbling over from a recent hike at the beautiful Cronan Ranch, we remembered a fellow hiker that gently encouraged us to check out the nearby Magnolia Ranch Trailhead. Seeking out suggestions and following the advice from positively impassioned people rarely fails to deliver a great experience, so it was with excitement that we gladly returned along Highway 49 for a visit to the Magnolia Ranch Trailhead. We weren't disappointed!
Due to its proximity next to Cronan Ranch, we expected a similar experience. While both hikes offer lots of common terrain, we were pleasantly surprised by the diversity in scenery and overall hiking experience.
Initially heading out for an easy stroll along the 2.5 mile Gerle Loop Trail, we missed a trail marker and before long found ourselves crossing back over into Cronan Ranch as we navigated a trickling creek and forged ahead on a mostly shaded ascent toward the top of the hills. The views were stunning. Although we didn't see a single soul during this portion of the hike, there was a sense that mountain lions might have been aware of our presence. Fresh scat on top of rock formations is often a telltale sign and our cue to be on alert.
The afternoon heat had begun to kick in and gazing upon the cool waters of the American River in the distance far below helped make it an easy decision to begin our descent. Eventually, we found our way back to the Gerle Loop Trail and our weary legs enjoyed the flat and level trail. This shaded portion of the trail gently winds above the American River and we occasionally glanced down to watch and hear excited groups of rafters passing through the area.
As we descended further, a trail to the river's side beckoned and we eagerly obliged. We arrived at Greenwood Creek River Access point as seasoned kayakers made final preparations to begin the 9 mile, Class 3+ wilderness excursion. The beach also marks the ending point for beginning and casual rafters heading down from Coloma along Class I & II Rapids. The beach access was perfect for a quick stop to cool down and watch the adventure seekers enjoying the river before we called it a day.
Magnolia Ranch Trailhead, specifically the 2.5 mile Gerle Loop is an easy, mostly flat trail ideal for almost any ability. Rolling hills and bright sunshine give way to plenty of shade, river views and waterside access. For a more ambitious workout, explore The Connector Trail which ties into Cronan Ranch's network of trails.
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