Euchre Bar Trail: Alta, CA

Okay, before we even dive into this one let’s start with a disclaimer…
Don’t worry, there are some pretty awesome perks too…

Youre ready for this hike if you

1) Have dreams of someday hiking [insert challenging, classic endurance hike: PCT, High Sierra…]
2) Have excellent tread on your shoes
3) Carry highly-effective bug-spray as a staple (let’s just say I had motivation to get back up FAST)
4) Have knees in great working order
5) Have absolutely no plans requiring you to look remotely acceptable in public post-hike

If so, then you can look forward to

1) The smell of fall leaves, even during the heat of summer
2) A gorgeous green 1950’s bridge over the water at the canyon bottom
3) Rolling, green, panoramic mountains for miles — more like Washington than California really
4) A pretty quiet, un-peopled hike
5) Even better, a lot of great not-people interactions (fox, fish, birds galore)

8 miles round-trip, if you do it all/have calves of steel/passed the litmus test above with flying colors. Even if you just do the down and up 4 mile stretch, that’s pretty back-pat worthy.

DIFFICULTY: No sugar-coating. Difficult is the right rating here. 1600 feet elevation loss, then gain!

DIST FROM SACRAMENTO: 1 hour, 15 minutes, via I 80E.

DIST FROM GRASS VALLEY: 45 minutes, via CA 174/I 80E.

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LOCATION: 36180 Casa Loma Rd, Alta, CA 95701 – in the Tahoe National Forest. {Can be Google mapped, BUT I highly suggest writing directions down the old fashioned way too…service was spotty for me, and you don’t want to forget which was to go after the 2nd set of double train tracks|. Also, highly suggested to park at the first (upper) parking lot by, or above the bathrooms. I wouldn’t recommend driving that rocky road, even for a 4-wheel drive vehicle.

That being said, once you’re parked you’re715 (3) good to go. As long as you’re alert enough to spot the one “Euchre Bar —arrow” sign on the right (which yes, I somehow missed as being a general, rather than a specific take-this-trail-down-the-canyon-now guidepost) you’ll be good to go. Yep, it’s 2 miles pretty much straight down, with some zig-zagging switchbacks along the way. Lots of ferns, glimpses of the river canyon and a pretty peaceful descent overall.

I will say…the extra mile-or-so trek I took down past the turn-off sign I missed did have even more open views though. So if you’re the kind of admirable person who likes doing an extra steep up&down warm up, knock yourself out and it may just be worth it.

Once you get down the water, things get so beautiful. This rusty green 1950’s bridge with wooden slats stretches across the North Fork of the American River, and I haven’t seen a more perfect picnic/yoga spot in awhile. Glance over either side and there are great swimming pools (even a rope swing already tied around a limb) and, if you’re still not tired yet – you can climb up along the river for another 2 miles. (Great views I hear, another day…)

FUN FACT: (More of a laugh). When you type this trail into Google you may get Euchre Bar Massacre as a result…don’t worry, it’s not the stage of some cowboys&gold kings kind of event. Apparently a 50 mile run somebody thought to call a massacre (hmm…deadly?) occurred here in 2013.

THUMBS UP: Spectacular rolling mountain views, dense forests, less-busy than many hikes, great swimming holes, new muscles the next morning…

THUMBS DOWN: The hike back up is pretty brutal, the bugs are awful and extra bloodthirsty (bug-spray, check?). Otherwise, this is one of my favorites I’ve hiked yet.

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Olmstead Hill Loop: Cool, CA

LENGTH: 9 mile loop for the main trail. Lots of side trails (both well-marked and not), if you’re feeling adventurous. As with the best trails around this area, you can get down to the water (fork of the American River) to cool off.

DIFFICULTY: Gentle overall (about 400 ft elevation gain), except if you take the gravel road down to the river, the hike back up is pretty unforgiving – steepness and shade-wise. But hey, with wet feet on the way back…totally worth it.

DIST FROM SACRAMENTO: 45 minutes, via I-80 E.

DIST FROM GRASS VALLEY: 45 minutes, via 49 S.

LOCATION: You can Google Map “Olmstead Loop Trail Trailhead, 7200 Saint Florian Court, Cool, CA” and it’ll lead you right to it. You’ll park behind the fire station in a well-marked lot. NOTE: $10 to park there, since it’s in the Auburn State Recreation area. The trail markers are pretty regular along the length of the trail (1/2 mile intervals and general guideposts) which is nice, as long as you’re on the main loop. But if you’re anything like me and choose the skinny less-traveled looking offshoots it shouldn’t be too hard to find your way back to a labeled trail intersection either.

The descriptions I read before I went talked about horse and mountain bike traffic, but the weekend I went I didn’t meet horses or bikes, just hikers. And the wildflowers – wow – some of the more beautiful ones I’ve seen anywhere, and that includes the legendary Buttermilk Bend Trail. I had to look a few up when I got home. On the left is the Coast Iris (which yes…you’d think would be along the coast, it sure looks like one though – endangered too) and White Globe Lily (native to CA).

Keep your eyes open, I saw more wildlife on this trail than I have on any other hike around here yet. Foxes to quail to river ducks…and more in-between.

Fun Fact: Olmstead Loop was named for Dan Olmstead in 1993. “Olmstead was an local avid mountain biker and hiker. He dedicated himself to creating harmony between hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians, and to multi-use of trails in this area. He also established a bike and hiking shop in the area.” Sounds trail-name worthy, huh?

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THUMBS UP: Well marked, lots of grand oak trees, wildflowers when in season.

THUMBS DOWN: Paying to park, there are a couple confusing forks that’ll lead you onto private land if you’re not careful, pretty rocky (not really a downside, just be aware you may want hiking shoes, not tennis shoes).

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