Hiking Euchre Bar Trail: It’s Wild
I didn’t hike Euchre Bar Trail down, down into the North Fork of the American River canyon just because my cardiologist used the gorge as an example of a trek a heart-attack patient like myself shouldn’t do. Dr. Mallery’s advice: continue hiking but travel uphill in the cool of the morning towards your destination; then you can return downhill in the afternoon heat of the day. I was pleased he knew enough of our trail opportunities to give the North Fork American as an example of what not to do, but…
The 1.5 mile, 1900-feet drop in elevation equates to a relatively quick 45 minutes. The pathway provides the only suspension bridge across the river. It is the only route in the Wild River segment hikable year-round. Over designated trails, it’s the shortest opportunity offering a “rim-to-rim” challenge. Instead of just dropping into an old mining site along the river, it offers a rare chance to follow the waterway.
But what goes down, down must come up, up and – for the North Fork – seemingly more up than down. I added the incentive of a personal challenge thrown down as a friendly gauntlet by my doctor, to test myself and my readiness to continue hiking. Fish, camp, swim, gold pan, explore the historic remnants, take photographs – if you’re in condition, do anything to encourage the trip. Then linger awhile.
I hiked in April when even afternoons were cool, but I followed doctor’s orders for one suggestion: I went with a friend. That gave me an extra bonus: my friend Wayde Carroll, a professional photographer, took these photos during our outing.
From the designated trailhead, the trail drops steadily through canyon live oaks with an increasing number of Ponderosa pine and switchbacks as it approaches the river.
Dedicated, energetic, whitewater enthusiasts even drag kayaks and carry rubber rafts down to one of California’s most rewarding, Class V runs. From here, they surge through 2000-feet high cliffs and gorge of Giant Gap and spurt out at the Iowa Hill Bridge. Near Euchre Bar, hearty anglers can expect to catch 10′-14′ Rainbow and Brown Trout.
Shortly up the trail after crossing the bridge, the trail forks. Take the less obvious fork veering uphill. The left fork is worth a detour as it follows the remnants of a miners’ ditch and abruptly ends at overpowering rapids cascading through a nick in the canyon walls.
In another 1.5 miles, the trail passes rusted machinery from the Southern Cross Mine. The trail splits; the lower section cutting though the mine site and upper climbing above. We chose one option going up and the other down. Immediately above are remains of a stamp mill operated with electricity generated by their powerhouse.
Officially, Euchre Bar Trail ends after dropping for 1.5 miles to the bridge and then rolling upriver for 2.4 miles to the Dorer Ranch Road where it terminates below the historic ranch house and Humbug Creek ends.
Richard Dorer, who left Germany for the gold fields in 1853, homesteaded the ranch. He and his wife Wilhilmena raised 11 children, all but one born at the ranch. Through 1918, the Humbug School taught both Dorer children and those of the Nisenan Hansen family that lived across Humbug Creek. The ranch is still private so you must respect the historic site and their lands.
Archeologists have located numerous bedrock mortars used by the Native American to grind acorns and seeds into food. The Humbug Creek basin was a rich collection of several of the best mines in Placer County.
You can choose to complete the rim-to-rim challenge and climb the long but relatively moderate 3.6 miles up the ranch road – assuming a climb of 2100-feet is ever moderate. A gate restricts traffic at the south rim and, except for the private landholders, motorized vehicles are not allowed. Such vehicles, including motorbikes, are not permitted within the designated Wild River Corridor. Through winter and well into spring, access roads remain snowed in above Foresthill. I wouldn’t do this unless I parked another vehicle on the south side, and this requires a long shuttle.
The more practical option is to continue upriver for another mile over the American Eagle Mine Trail. The river is delightful along the trail and noted for historic mining equipment remnants. Leave artifacts alone and don’t even think about going into the dangerous mine adit. During spring and winter, the biggest problem requires wading across Humbug Creek. Fall’s weather and stream level are ideal.
Hike as far as you like, keeping in mind the only trails out are uphill. Took me two hours from the bridge, but when I told my cardiologist during my next checkup about the trek, he smiled.
Shortly west of the trailhead is a rocky knob served by a short, SUV road a little above the parking area. The dramatic views of the beginning of Giant Gap are inspiring. Time outings appropriately and watch the sun set on the far side of the gorge. Take a bottle of wine, a picnic meal, and your favorite friend and it’s the perfect ending to any day.
Exit 1-80 at Alta and follow the paved Casa Loma Road south and east. In a mile, veer right; cross short bridge then railroad tracks after another 0.5 mile. At 1.9 miles from I-80, pavement ends at stop sign and second crossing of railroad tracks. Turn right and cross them. Follow gravel road 1.3 miles to trailhead with restroom facilities.
Trail description and maps available at: http://www.SierraOutdoorRecreation.com.
Hank Meals’ great “Yuba Trails 2” hiking guide includes historic facts used here.
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