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Mary West: Exploring Stevens Trail

 

Celebrate summer with a trail filled with wildflowers, waterfalls, North Fork American River views and more on Stevens Trail in Colfax.

Hike this well-maintained trail before it heats up. 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. Steven’s trail is a legitimate hike with significant elevation change, so go prepared.

The beginning of the trail runs parallel along 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. Just beyond the sign look for a blanket of Baby Blue Eyes and clover before you head into the canyon. Not far along, the trail splits, going 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.



With the high-water flows, the rocky water crossing can be slippery and the rocks are often under water. This crossing is tricky. You can take the bike trail to the water crossing that is flat and wide but you are going to get wet either way. After the waterfall crossing be on the lookout for a shallow cave to peek into. One of the highlights of this trail is the view of the 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 is amazing. If you make the hike during poppy season the hillsides are blanketed with the state flower along with purple lupine.



One of the many pleasures of Stevens Trail is watching how the sunlight plays on the canyon walls and shines on the river below as you make your way along the trail throughout the day. Once at the water’s edge, pick a spot for lunch with family and friends and relax. Rest up before the uphill return trip to the parking area.

Poison oak is 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 drop offs that can give a second thought to anyone with a fear of heights.

With my many cautions, 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. Every trail has its inherent risks, that being said, if you enjoy hiking in our foothills, enjoy Stevens Trail for the flowers, river, canyon, waterfalls and the adventure.

Get to Stevens Trail by taking Interstate 80 east to Colfax, exit at Canyon Way and follow the frontage road to the end where the trail head and the paved parking lot with bathroom and signage are located.

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

One of the many pleasures of Stevens Trail is watching how the sunlight plays on the canyon walls and shines on the river below as you make your way along the trail throughout the day.
Photo by Mary West
The sheer variety of wildflowers makes this a must-see trail.
Photo by Mary West
Celebrate summer with a trail filled with wildflowers, waterfalls, North Fork American River views and more on Stevens Trail in Colfax.
Photo by Mary West
Signage along the Stevens Trail in Colfax.
Photo by Mary West

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