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Foresthill Divide Loop

The Foresthill Divide Loop Trail is part of the 35,000 acre Auburn State Recreation Area outside of Auburn, California. The "Divide" is actually a divider between two branches of the American River. There seems to be quite a few trails in the SRA and our rides have only scratched the surface of what is available.  What we have ridden has been so much fun that we have gone back a few times.  It makes for a nice and easy one day vacation.

Park: Auburn State Recreation Area, Auburn, CA
Date: Multiple
Distance: 25.1 miles
Ride Time: 2:56
Total Ascent: 3,571 feet
Map: Detailed trail map
Overall Rating: 8


It is pretty easy to get to the trail. Take I-80 to the Foresthill exit and then head east (right if you are coming from Sacramento). Cross the Foresthill Bridge (the highest bridge in California) and continue until just past Drivers Flat, a small road on the right. Just past this is a large parking area on the left before a right-hand curve. Park here and the trailhead is at the green gate.

The trails are almost all singletrack through either forests or grasslands. The trails tend to be up, down or rolling. The climbs and descents are relatively short but numerous. Keeping your speed and momentum really helps overcome the short climbs, but some will require considerably more effort. The first trail section runs through the forest, keeping the trail shaded and cool. There is a trail junction about 4.25 miles from the trailhead. The junction is not signed. The Divide Loop bears to the left, crossing the highway (be careful about the cars as they are traveling pretty fast here) a short ways from the junction.

On the other side of the highway, the terrain tends to open up more into grasslands and scrub. There are two reasonable size hills to climb over the next 2.45 miles before you reach the high point of the trail. This is a nice open area with some logs to sit on and is a good spot to take a break. Continuing on, the trail makes a fast descent through the forest before entering a sections of mixed forest and grasslands. There is a short section of fireroad that empties into a large open area (access to the Rucky Chucky area). There is another gate just behind a porta-potty that leads to the trail up the hill and back to the parking lot.

If you stay to the right at the 4.25 mile junction, you are on the Connector Trail. This is a great section of singletrack through the forest that roller-coasters up and down in short sections as you start descending, though the descent is hidden by the undulations. One rider described it as being similar to a water slide. After the wooded section, the undulations are reduced as the trial descends more earnestly through some scrub down to a small bridge. At this point, the trail climbs about 150 feet in a fairly short distance before settling down to ups and downs before reaching a paved road. The road is the end of the Connector Trail and the point that we turned around. The trailhead for the Fuel Break is across the road and on the right. This trail takes you to Culvert (aka Stonewall), which goes under Highway 49 and takes you to the Confluence Trail. This trail descends the side of the hill down to near river level at the bottom of the Foresthill Bridge. Just across the road and on the same side of the river, the Clementine Trail starts as a road-width trail, narrows down to a singletrack and then expands to double track as it takes you to dam at Lake Clementine (aka North Fork Lake). This dam has a waterfall-like spillway that is nice to snap a picture of. You can then ride up the paved Lake Clementine Road back to the Connector junction. Some additional details about this route can be found here.

By the end of the ride, you will be hungry. There is a variety of fast food in Foresthill, but we went to the old town section of Auburn. There are quite a few restaurants and shops here, so you will have a good choice. We had a good meal and good beer at the Auburn Ale House and can recommend it. I have stayed at the Holiday Inn which had a nice facility and is walking distance to Old Town.

The local mountain biking organization, FATRAC, puts a lot of effort into creating and maintaining these trails and they have done a great job. We discovered that the strongly preferred direction on the Foresthill Divide Loop is counterclockwise (as described above). We rode a section in the opposite direction and kept running having trail conflicts. The Connector Trail seems to be out and back, so bi-directional traffic is expected.

This was a great ride. We really liked the trails. The amount of singletrack (without fireroads) exceeds any places in the Bay Area. The people we met were friendly and helpful. We will have to go back to ride these trails and others nearby.  For an overnight trip, Salmon Falls is nearby and makes a good second day ride.  There are some good breakfast restaurants in Old Town that are a good way to start a second day of riding.

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