The Technicolor South Fork American River Trail

“Did the colors look unusually vibrant to you coming down the trail,” I asked my hiking companion, Mary Ann Dann.

“They did! So much so that I took my sunglasses off because I thought they were distorting the color.”

For a little while there I wondered if I was dehydrated or someone had slipped some magic mushrooms into my lunch.

We experienced this folie a deux as we neared completion of our hike along the spectacular South Fork American River Trail yesterday.  The cool breeze that kept temperatures in the high 50s and low 60s swept away any haze that might have diminished the colors. Under the bright sun, colors crackled with vibrancy. The kind of day that would have inspired Gregory Kondos had he been along.

In the words of Stefan, “This place has everything.” The varied landscapes include pine forests, stands of oak, Manzanita labyrinths, broad meadows and beaches with smooth river rock and large blue and turquoise toned rock outcroppings. Beautiful vegetation: dozens of wildflowers; knee-high green grasses that ripple in the breeze and waist-high platinum-white grasses that have begun to die back. Lots of hawks and a red breasted merganser.

Trail notes:

  • Start and finish: We started at 8:45 a.m. from the Salmon Falls Trail Head, and like most everyone, parked on the other side of the bridge. We came off the trail at 3 p.m.
  • Blister count: 5 (epic fail of waterproof Keen low-cut hiking shoes)
  • Don’t miss: Some of the great spots along the river. We hiked as far as the old “movie set,” 5-6 miles in, and ate lunch about 11:30 at a beautiful beach next to the river at the foot of the hill there. Note: looks like the river rafting companies have set up picnic tables and port-a-potties here, which would make this spot less desirable if overrun with people. An alternative lunch spot would be below the picnic table and some rusty metal remnants (probably from a mining operation) that we came across at about 10:30 a.m. shortly after passing a creek that is completely dry at present.
  • Watch out for: low-growing poison oak about 3 minutes after crossing the pedestrian bridge and some waist high poison oak shrubs sidled up to some live oak here and there.
  • Whew: No mosquitoes, no snakes!
  • Head count: Not crowded on this Wednesday in May: 3 horses/riders, 3 other hikers, and 2 mountain bikers
  • Resources: We used Foothill Trailhounds map, which prints nicely from their .pdf
  • For an excellent review of the hike, check out Sam MacManis’ May 2 article in the Sacramento Bee 
Comment if I'm wrong but sure looked like poison oak to me

Comment if I’m wrong but sure looked like poison oak to me

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