Mary West: Day Hiker checks out Windy Point Trail
Teacher, author, lover of the outdoors; Eric Peach, first took me to Windy Point Trail in Colfax several years ago. The poppies on the hillside are epic with the American River below and a view of the canyons to hold your gaze is a celebration of spring and renewal.
Not just poppies, but the green grass, new foliage on the bushes and trees, the scent of tempting nectar from so many spring flowers in a variety of colors is invigorating.
To get there, get on I-80 East, take the Colfax Grass Valley 174 Exit. Take a right over the freeway to Canyon Way, another right then a left on Iowa Hill road. Enjoy the windy road lined with tall pines as you make your way down to the river. After you cross the river heading back uphill, look to your right. You find several boulders with a small parking area. If you look close there is a small wooden sign with Windy Point written on it in faded red letters.
The trail wanders down to the left with trees in bloom in pink and purple, bees buzzing, birds chirping. Follow the narrow trail and it will take you out to the edge where the wind blows through the canyon. Stop and take it all in; wide open views of the canyon and blue sky. Look across the hillside at the golden poppies at their peak, look down and see the flow of the American River. There is a small bench so you can take a break or just contemplate how grateful we are to live here.
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At 1.5-miles this could be enough for you, or carry on down the narrow trail and it leads to the coolest waterfall. Just before the water crossing is a rope, informally tied off to trees, I gladly use it to traverse the steep grade. The water just spills over large boulders, around thick vines and tree roots. The boulders are large enough for you to find a seat to sit and listen to the sounds of the water and simply breathe.
From here it can get a bit sketchy, but for those who are up for the challenge, continue down to the river’s edge. With the higher water levels you may find access difficult. This portion of the river is narrow and runs fast so I wouldn’t suggest swimming but just watching from a safe distance, and don’t be surprised if a kayaker swiftly passes by.
This is an out and back trail. At least it has always been the case for me. As usual the return trip is a completely different hike with the changed perspective. For one, it is uphill so make sure you take your time. Stop if you need to. Drink plenty of water. Enjoy a snack and stop to take pictures.
That bench at the edge of the canyon will probably be looking like a great idea on the way out so why not enjoy the view of the canyon and its field of flowering gems a bit more? One of my common refrains when on a hike is “Yes, because who knows when I will be here again”.
Say yes to taking the time to enjoy spring and Windy Point Trail in Colfax. I hope I see you on the trail soon.
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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