Mary West: Exploring Cardiac and Cardiac Bypass trails
For my husband and I, this trail is our great compromise. He would love to just run down Cardiac Trail, cool off in the river at Oregon Bar and run back up the 800 feet in less than a mile for a good workout.
I prefer Cardiac Bypass Trail. The switchbacks allow for a variety of views of the canyon, river and wildflowers in their season.
We have made the trails a loop so we both get the trail we want. When we go together, we take the paved road, including parts of Cardiac Bypass in, and Cardiac Hill out.
To get there from Auburn, take Auburn Folsom Road to Maidu Drive. Follow Maidu Drive around to the Auburn State Recreation Area’s China Bar gate #144. You can park in the state park’s parking lot for $10 or park on the street behind PCWA for free. When the gates are open you can drive all the way down to the raft take out at gate 174 for the Pioneer Express Trail. That is our destination, so we head out from the top.
We start our loop by walking the paved road behind gate #144 and follow it all the way down to the Oregon Bar parking lot. You could drive down here when the gates are open, but again, we are here for the exercise as much as the destination. Bathrooms are found here. At the back of the lot is Oregon Hill gate #175. Walk out to the bench and take in the view of the river below.
Head off to the left and follow Cardiac Bypass Trail to Pioneer Express gate #174. Go around this gate to the river. Each winter the river swells with rain and snow and the deluge changes the sand bars. On our rafting trips, this would be our takeout. On this hike we are at our halfway point.
Once you have enjoyed the sounds of the rapids, dragonflies skimming the water and puffy clouds in an otherwise blue sky, it’s time to choose your route out. You could go back the way you came in, up the paved road, take Cardiac Bypass or Cardiac Hill. They all take you back up the 800 feet out of the canyon. We take Cardiac Hill. Many trail signs define where the Bypass crosses Cardiac in a series of switchbacks meant to reduce the extreme angle of Cardiac.
They both top out at the canal. From here, enjoy the shade, the canal, and more fine views of the river as you make your way back to the parking lot. On our last trip we found a Pacific Gopher snake warming itself in the middle of the road. Warnings of a mountain lion sighting were posted at the gate as well as great maps of the area. Be aware of your surroundings and enjoy this challenging three mile hike on Cardiac and Cardiac Bypass Trails.
Mary West is author of the book series Day Hiker – Gold Country Trail Guide I, II and III (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.
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