Sunday, January 05, 2014

South Fork American River Trail

This morning I rode the South Fork American River Trail. Although it has been completed for over three years, today I decided it was finally time to check it out. I had been on some of the trail as part of the Cronan Ranch trail system, but today I wanted to ride the most recent addition that connected to Salmon Falls.

I started early, and I was not prepared for how cold it was. The trailhead is only about 20 minutes from my house, yet the temperature was much, much colder. I don't know what the temperature was due to a lack of cell phone coverage, but I can tell you that the water in my Camelbak drinking tube froze solid within minutes and I was unable to drink for over an hour until it thawed out. My finger tips were painfully numb even with warm gloves, and the wind hitting my face on the downhills hurt. I was colder than on any of my fat bike rides in the snow.

The trail is only 12 miles long, but the scenery is quite diverse, changing from open grassland to oak forest to pines and ferns to manzanita scrub.

As for the trail itself, you start off with a fine piece of well-made singletrack that rolls for a while before hitting a climb featuring a series of switchbacks.

From there you alternate between fire roads and trails for a while, and you are either climbing or descending; there wasn't much flat terrain. See the ride profile here.

Towards the end is a long descent down to the Salmon Falls parking area.

There are many trail junctions along the way, but the signs are frequent and I never questioned which way to go.

Overall I liked the trail. There was more climbing than I anticipated, so given my winter fitness level I ended up pretty tired at the end. When I am in better shape, I will attempt to add the Salmon Falls loop (19 miles). That would make a pretty tough 43-mile ride with a lot of climbing.