--By Mary West
When was the last time you enjoyed the level, wide road that follows a 5.5-mile stretch of the Middle Fork of the American River from the Confluence in the Auburn State Recreation Area (ASRA) back to Main Bar? With cooler temperatures and fewer tourists, it may be time to go back. Not much has changed. The park placed giant blocks in front of the Hawver Cave in an effort to deter vandals. I will miss the rush of cool air on a hot summer day that came out the entrance through the large gates. I have so many fond memories of this trail. (Photo credit: Mary West)
I have sat out on the rock outcropping overlooking Murders Bar two miles in and watched the sun move across the sky and shine on the canyon walls as the river flowed over the boulders on its way to the Confluence. I had the pleasure of swimming with otters in the pools below the rapids. I have eaten my share of blackberries off the vines in one of the shaded bends of the trail.
The Canyon Keepers have installed some nice message boards to explain the concrete foundations found here. Along the way you see signs for the climbing area. some call it our Little Yosemite. I have climbed the rock faces of Cave Valley, thank you Gordy. I can’t adequately describe the euphoria of making it to the top. I can’t explain the view to give it justice, aside from saying you have to see it for yourself.
There are no waterfalls. No easy access to the river. You have to scramble down off the road to the get to the water, but it is always worth it. The water is colder on this fork as it comes from the bottom of Oxbow dam and is not warmed by the sun as much as the North Fork. Once back to Main Bar you find more trails to take you still further to waterfalls and other views and opportunities.
To get there take Highway 49 south from Auburn, turn right over the American River toward Cool. A quarter mile up the road on your left there is a small parking lot. The trail head is below the parking lot behind gate No. 151. State parks charges a $10 day use fee.
I will keep going back, the earlier the better to find a parking spot. I will pick up litter when I see it, as many of us do. I will keep telling people about it even though friends keep telling me to stop sharing all our best trails. Honestly, I like it for no better reason than I have so many memories that each step is like a page in an old photo album.
Mary West is author of the book “Day Hiker: The Gold Country Trail Guide.” Mary won the 2017 CRAFT Award for her hiking column “Day Hiker” from the Outdoor Writers of California. She is currently working on here the second Gold Country trail guide. Learn more about local trails by following Mary on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Instagram.