Back to index Cardiac Hill to Pioneer Express Trail Hike
Trip Date:  03/10/2015

: 10.0 Miles

Vertical Gain: 1950'

Group Size: 1

Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard    Strenuous
Cardiac Hill Route
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Cardiac Hill Elevation Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 38 52.514, W 121 03.946     End Coordinates:   Same as Start Coordinates  
Car Shuttle Req'd:   No Parking Directions:   Take Folsom-Auburn Road to south Auburn, and then turn east on Maidu Dr.  Just after the road bends to the north about a mile down, find the parking area for China Bar on the right hand side of the road.  This is a State Park and there is a fee of $10 as of 2015 for parking here.
Hazards of Note:   Rattlesnakes, ticks, poison oak, mountain lions. Crowd Factor:   High.  This is a popular area for North Fork canyon viewing, and Cardiac Hill is a standard destination for hikers and bikers looking to get in a local extreme workout.
General Notes:
From the parking area find an opening in the fence to the south, and pick up the trail along the small canal that parallels the trail for a little while.  When the trail either meets up with the asphalt road or when the Cardiac Bypass trail cuts across the canal trail, follow this to the right and head back up almost to a gate on Maidu Dr just before it bent to the north on your way here.  Turn left, and follow the signs to Cardiac Hill in about 3/10 of a mile.  The trail soon starts down sharply, with a number of curvy switchbacks leading you down a very steep slope that you will have the pleasure of climbing back up at the end of the hike.  There are also side trails which are marked Cardiac Bypass trail, which looks to extend the path a little bit to take away some of the extreme elevation gain on the way back up.
When you get to the bottom of Cardiac Hill you will see a sign pointing to the Auburn Staging area (not the way you want to go.)  You instead will turn right, pass through another gate and head on toward Rattlesnake Bar, 8 miles beyond.  This picks up the trail along the river, which you can follow as far as you want before turning around and heading back the way you came.

This is the canal trail that you will follow from the parking area for about half a mile (or less.) The canal trail
Look for signs from the road that will get you onto the Cardiac Bypass trail. Cardiac Bypass trail
After jumping on the Cardiac Bypass trail from the canal trail, you will be on a flat area for about 3/10 of a mile before starting the steep descent along the Cardiac Hill trail. Starting the Pioneer Express
The path along the top of the hill is very flat, through a nice green meadow (in winter.)  There are a number of nice homes to the west which enjoy this area as a view from their backyard. Easy flat at the top
This sign is the start of the steep descent into the canyon, where you will wind up pretty much at river level in the next mile and a half. Cardiac Hill
A local property owner has granted permission onto his property to allow people to still use the Cardiac Hill trail, but there are signs letting you know very clearly where not to go.  And, of course, many trails which lead off into the private property. Heed the signs
There were many of these all along the trail on this day.
Spring butterflies
Lots of switchbacks on the Cardiac Hill trail, including this section where you could see three of them at once. Steep
Finally down at the river level, the rest of the trail pretty much followed it without too much elevation change, but there were a few sections which climbed a bit and afforded nice views in the canyon.
At the river
Even in a pretty low water year, this spot had a nice view into a deep blue pool along the way.
Deep overlook
About 2 1/2 miles along the river trail the actual start of Folsom Lake could be seen.  Still a bit low but much better than the year before.
Start of the lake
On the way back I decided to take a slightly different way (partially up the road,) and was rewarded with the surprising sight of Knickerbocker Creek Falls out of Cool.
Knickerbocker Falls
Especially enticing is the lowest falls in the series, which reminds me of some of the Maui waterfalls we have enjoyed.
Knickerbocker Falls
This small memorial for jogger Bill McCullough is in memory of his sudden passing at this spot in 2001 along the Cardiac Bypass trail due to a previously unknown heart condition.  
GPS Track of the full hike. GPS Track of Hike