Mary West: The Day Hiker visits Stevens Trail
The Day Hiker
Celebrate summer with a trail filled with wildflowers, waterfalls, North Fork river views and more on Stevens Trail in Colfax.
Much of this trail is exposed so make sure you take plenty of water and sun protection for the nine-mile in and out hike that ends at the edge of the American River. Many of the trails in our area I would describe as a walk.
The Stevens Trail is a legitimate hike with significant elevation change, so go prepared.
The beginning of the trail runs parallel to Interstate 80 but the sound of traffic gives way to running water and the cool air of the wooded trail. Along the way, pine and manzanita line the path with oak and laurel. After crossing the balance beam across a small creek the trail opens to the sun and a trail sign sends you to the right. Not far along, the trail splits, go left along the canyon wall. Emerald green ferns seem to spring directly from rocks near the waterfalls in the shady inside curves that follow the mountain side.
This crossing is tricky. The rocks are not solid stepping stones. Watch your footing. After the crossing, be on the lookout for a shallow cave on your left to peek into. Once on your way enjoy breathtaking views of the American River and Iowa Hill Bridge far below.
The sheer variety of wildflowers makes this a must-see trail. The quantity and quality of the varied blossoms and blooms in pale peach, bright orange, blue red, the brightest white and deepest purple are just a few of the eye catching shades of color to enjoy. The air with strong wth coyote mint on my last visit. Look for the round blue blooms. The peach Monkey Face flowers grew in profusion this year.
Once at the water’s edge pick a spot for lunch with family and friends and relax. My boys, Canyon (named for the American River canyon) and Ocean (named for the Pacific) love rock hopping, stone stacking and swimming if there is an eddy I’m comfortable with. Rest up before the uphill return trip to the parking area.
Poison oak is also a factor along this trail which narrows in spots. Mountain lions have been known to inhabit the area so taking friends is always a good idea. Pay attention as there are steep dropoffs that may make you think twice if you have a fear of heights.
With the many cautions I have offered, you should know I have been taking my sons on this trail since they were seven and 10 years old. The trail is well marked and well worn.
Get to the Stevens Trail by taking Interstate 80 east to Colfax, exit at Canyon Way. Turn left and follow the frontage road to the end. The trailhead and paved parking lot with bathroom and signage are located here.
Mary West is author of the book series “Day Hiker – Gold Country Trail Guide.” The books are a collection of Day Hiker columns where West shares her longtime love of theoutdoors, and favorite hikes in Northern California’s Gold Country and beyond (Available on Amazon). West was the recipient of the 2017 CRAFT Award for Best Outdoor Column by the Outdoor Writers of California. You can follow West on Facebook and Instagram.
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