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Day Hiker

Stevens Trail in Colfax

By: Mary West
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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. Stevens trail is a legitimate hike with significant elevation change so go prepared.

The beginning of the trail runs parallel to I-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 view of the American River and Iowa Hill Bridge far below.

The sheer variety of wildflowers makes this a must 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 Ocean) love rock hopping, stone stacking and swimming if there is an eddie 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 drop offs 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 7 and 10 years old. The trail is well marked and well worn.

Get to 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.

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.

Mary West is a retired radio personality and news reporter with a longtime love of the outdoors, sharing her favorite day hikes in Placer, Nevada, El Dorado and Yuba counties. West won Best Outdoor Newspaper Column for this column, Day Hiker, from the Outdoor Writers Association of California 2017 Craft Awards. Learn more about local trails by following Mary on Facebook and Instagram.