Stevens Trail

Placer County, California 95635

Elevation Gain3,857ft
Trailhead Elevation2,389ft
Elevation Min/Max1223/2397ft
Elevation Start/End2389/2389ft

Stevens Trail

Stevens Trail is a hiking trail in Placer County, California. It is 3.8 miles long and begins at 2,389 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 7.8 miles with a total elevation gain of 3,857 feet. The Steven's Trail parking is near the trailhead. There are also restrooms.

Stevens Trail Professional Reviews and Guides

"A walk in the footsteps of the forty-niners leads to a long cascade and a great overlook of the North Fork American River.
The Stevens Trail dates back to the California gold rush, built and managed as a toll road by a pair of enterprising miners, one with the surname of Stevens.

The trail linked Colfax with the boomtown of Iowa Hill and was well traveled in the late 1800s. When the boom went bust, the trail fell out of service—and essentially out of sight. It began its renaissance in the late 1960s, when a Boy Scout from Sacramento rediscovered it."

"This descent to the North Fork is enjoyably easy. Of course, the hike in is easier, but the slope on the hike out is gentle enough for hikers of any age to enjoy. One attraction here is the wall-to-wall view of the North Fork of the American River, from above Iowa Hill Road and the bridge at Mineral Bar to the extreme close ups of the crystal-clear water at trail’s end. The Stevens Trail descends about 1,150 feet to the North Fork of the American River. Created nearly a century and a half ago as a foot- and horse-trail between Colfax and Iowa Hill, this vista-packed walk must be the easiest route down to the beautifully wild and scenic North Fork of the American River. Chinesebuilt railroad beds, hardrock-mine shafts, waterfalls and cascades, crystal-clear pools, and a flock of leopard lilies are all within easy reach of this historic trail."

"The Stevens Trail is one of the most popular Sierra foothills hikes for Sacramentans. Even though it is a path rich in history, it was virtually unknown until the late 1960s, when a Boy Scout rediscovered it. Now maintained and managed by the BLM, the trail provides year-round opportunities to visit the North Fork American Wild & Scenic River. Starting in the pines near Colfax, the trail drops more than 1000 feet down into a rugged canyon clothed in live oak and chaparral, providing magnificent views of one of California’s most scenic Wild Rivers. This former Gold Rush toll road once connected the mining town of Iowa Hill with the railroad town of Colfax and is on the National Register of Historic Places."

"This trail is very narrow and exposed. You must have well-developed skills. In particular, you need to be able to instinctively move your weight toward the cliff edge whenever your bike is getting too close to it. If you try to move your weight away from the cliff edge, your bike will probably turn toward the cliff and might run right off. You also need to be able to ride over rocks without getting thrown off the trail: There is little room for error on this ride. There are a number of class 4 maneuvers that caused me to get off and walk my bike, but each was very short, allowing me to ride perhaps 90 percent of trail down and 80 percent on the way back up. I’ve rated the first section at 2–3, meaning that it’s mostly class 2, but alternates with class 3 sections; and the second section at 3–4, meaning that it’s mostly class 3, but alternates with class 4 sections. The views of the river below are constant and impressive, but I suggest you stop riding when you look at the scenery! Highlights: A narrow singletrack perched on the side of a cliff overlooking the North Fork of the American River; a multitude of wildflowers in spring, especially yellow sticky monkey flowers; great swimming holes at the river. No motorcycles are allowed on the trail."

Stevens Trail Reviews

4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
icon8 Total
Very hard to finish
Stevens Trail located in Colfax, CA is just off I-80, Exit 135. The almost 4 mile trail descends 2,400 FT to the North Fork of the American River. The breathtaking scenery passes an old abandoned mining cave and several small water falls which are easy to cross. The most spectacular sight is the many varieties of flowers blooming in early spring, with breathtaking colors along the trail. I consider the hike to be moderate as one must hike back up the 4 mile distance back to the parking area. Suggest early morning start, most folks can complete within a 3 hour time frame. Bring plenty of water and snacks and enjoy a peaceful and well deserved rest along the shore of the river. Enjoy the hike, it is truly a wonderful way to stay in shape, preparing for a more rigorous adventure.
This hike is listed three times in with differing names and trail head map illustrations. There are also three different directions to the trail head. None of the directions are completely correct. Take Interstate 80 East to Colfax. Take exit 135 for Colfax, Grass Valley, and Highway 174. Turn left onto North Canyon Way, but avoid taking a hard left that will send you back onto the freeway. Go 0.6 miles to the Stevens trail head parking lot on the left. A sign at this point indicates the end of the county maintained road. UTM coordinates of the parking lot are 0677587E, 4330309. Neither the trail nor the parking lot show on the USGS Colfax quadrangle. There is a restroom in the parking lot. The "Ranger Station" depicted on the USGS Colfax quadrangle is really a CDF fire station.
Overall a good hike - 9mi round trip, fairly flat (slightly downhill on the way in \ uphill on the way out) with river access at the end for easy swimming. Some areas are sun-exposed so bring sunscreen, and if you come back at dusk the bugs will start to make an appearance.
Beautiful hike, with several small streams intersecting the path; even a waterfall. It was hot when I went, making the trail's destination (the American river) a very welcome midpoint. The hike was overall pretty easy, although there is some elevation change and uphill hiking on the way back. I liked it and will go back.
I-80 east from Sacramento; take Colfax exit, go left and stay on frontage road; it deadends at parking area for trail access (easy directions, easy to find). Trail is about 8 miles round trip; unfortunately, it's downhill first. Dramatic views of North Fork American River (not for the timid--the narrow trail has several long sections featuring a sheer drop of 1,000 plus feet to jagged rocks and the river). The payoff at the bottom of the trail is the crystal clear waters of the American River with great swimming and fishing. Keep in mind that the ride up gains 1,700 feet in 4 miles. We only saw three other people all day on the trail and at the river (it was a weekday); all were hikers.

Stevens Trail Photos

Trail Information

Placer County
Nearby City
Bureau of Land Management, Mother Lode Field Office, 5152 Hillsdale Circle, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762; (916) 941-3101; trail.html
Local Contacts
USGS Colfax CA
Local Maps