The underrated Confluence Trail in the Auburn State Recreation Area hosts a stone perch perfect for watching the north and middle forks of the American River collide and continue as one toward Folsom and beyond. A large Native American grinding rock sits just behind this point. I can only imagine people sharing stories and using this location to grind acorns while enjoying the river and the canyon it flows through.
After a good rain, the rapids are raging. The boulders and beaches on the Confluence Trail are a sight to see. Remnants of the first Foresthill Road are still evident in the bits of pavement visible along the trail.
While others are hiking the popular Clementine Trail on the north fork, the Quarry Trail across the middle fork, or the Canyon Creek Trail behind gate 150, the Confluence Trail remains lightly trafficked. Mostly used by mountain bikers coming down from Mammoth Bar.
A couple of volunteer trails early on take you down to the water’s edge with a beach to linger on. Back on the trail a beautiful rock outcropping shaped like a fin jutting out from the hillside is a reminder of my dirt-bag rock climber days when we scaled the tallest wall. A sign is posted now “No Technical Rock Climbing” but we used to scramble down and climb the face toward the river directly across from the permitted climbing area referred to as Little Yosemite or Cave Valley. I climbed there too.
If you follow the trail out to the road at Mammoth Bar you connect to a few other trails. If you stop at the road for an out and back easy to moderate hike you will have enjoyed the view for 1.75 miles making for a 3.5-mile round trip. From the confluence you are making a gentle climb up and an easy downhill on the return. Erosion has made a couple of areas a little technical, watch your step.
I enjoy this hike in winter for the waterfalls, and in early spring for wildflowers. In summer it is hot as much of the trail is exposed. Take plenty of water.
I said this trail is underrated, just between you and me, I say we keep it that way.
Mary West is author of the book series Day Hiker — Gold Country Trail Guide I, II and III (2nd edition Available on Amazon). The books are a collection of the Day Hiker columns where West shares her longtime love of the outdoors, favorite hikes in Northern California’s Gold Country and beyond. West was the recipient of the 2017 and 2019 CRAFT Award for Best Outdoor Column and the 2020 Craft Award for her second book in the series-Day Hiker Gold Country Trail Guide by the Outdoor Writers of California. You can follow West on Facebook and Instagram.