Back to index Steven's Trail (South) Hike
Trip Date:  05/13/2016

: 7.75 Miles

Vertical Gain: 1500'

Group Size: 3

Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard    Strenuous
Steven's Trail South Route
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Steven's Trail South Elevation Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 39 06.421, W 120 51.606     End Coordinates:   Same as Start Coordinates
Car Shuttle Req'd:   No Parking Directions:   Take Highway 80 to the town of Colfax, and exit off to the south.  Turn right on Canyon Way, and follow it about 3/10 of a mile to Iowa Hill Rd.  Turn left, and you will follow this narrow, winding road for about 10 miles all the way to the parking coordinates in the town of Iowa Hill.  Park on the side of the road opposite the General Store to begin your hike.
Hazards of Note:   Rattlesnakes, ticks, poison oak, mountain lions and steep trail. Crowd Factor:   Negligible.  This is a relatively unknown continuation of the very popular Steven's Trail from Colfax on the other side of the river.
General Notes:
From the parking spot cross over Iowa Hill Rd, and probably meet up with one or two of the local dogs (if you haven't already) who love to take people on the trail down to the river.  Talking to the owner, one of the dogs likes to do the trek 2 or 3 times in a single day.  The two dogs guiding us on this day were very patient, and would wait, and bark at us whenever we dawdled a little too long for their preference.  About 1/2 a mile into the trip is a small pile of rocks on the right, which lead a short way to an open pit mining operation.  Be careful around this, as we dropped a rock down and it took a long time for it to hit bottom.
Past this the trail heads into a mostly forested section, gradually working its way down toward the river with limited views of the water far below from time to time.
Rounding a bend after a couple of miles the forest opens up, and you are presented with much better (and much closer) views of the river below.  About two miles in there is a washed out section of trail which requires some careful climbing up the rocks to continue onward, which can also be walked around on the high side by using a side trail which is faint but obvious just a little before the washout area.  It is covered with poison oak, however, so it may or may not be a good option.
Nearing the river, you can see the trail meandering along the opposite bank, and if you are very lucky you will seem some mining camps and possibly even some of the local dredgers in action.
The turnaround spot is almost directly across from the turaround spot from the other Steven's Trail section, but offers enough isolation to feel you have the river all to yourself at this point.
The trail back up is long and uphill all the way, but the mostly shaded aspect of it makes it a better afternoon or summer adventure that the scorching opposite side offers.

Trailhead information sign just behind the general store (to the right.) Trailhead
The early section of the trail is fairly flat and open, and actually goes by a small open pit mine a little off the trail past the signs which indicate "next 2000 feet are not maintained."  Worth a look. Early Trail 
A local pup who will greet you at your car and shepherd you all the way down the trail to the river and back.  No charge! Guide dog 
Nearly the entire trail is shaded, and it makes the environment very lush and green in the spring and early summer. Very lush
There were a couple of water crossings along the early trail, including this one which invited exploration up the canyon. Water crossing
Rounding a bend almost two miles in we began to see the river getting closer and closer, indicating our progess down and how much we had to climb back out after reaching the river. River Views
My friends Mark and Tracey enjoing the open scenery from one of the many river lookouts along the way. Viewpoint
Using the telephoto lens we were able to spot a gold dredger relaxing on the shore on the other side of the river.
Gold miner
For a mostly unknown section of the trail, it definitely sports some pretty fantastic viewpoints of the North Fork of the American River. More views
Less than a mile from the river there is a section which has washed out over the years, requiring either a careful climb up a rocky face, or taking a side trail 100 feet back which goes up and around but is COVERED in poison oak.  You choose.
Just past a spot where you can look across the river and see the turn-around point for the Steven's Trail on the other side of the river is a wonderful rocky area with great views of the river and the hikers on the other side making their way down the trail.
Approaching River
The river view to the west with some deep pools immediately below this point which waders have been known to frequent when the water is much lower and warmer later in the summertime.
River view
A drop in visitor we had for lunch.
Lunch company
Our merry band making its way back up the trail on one of the only sun-exposed sections of the trail.
Heading back up
Looking east up the canyon on the way back to Iowa Hill.  There is another strenuous hike which skirts down the face of the canyon in the background.
Looking east
GPS Track of the full hike. GPS Track of Hike