After completing Sweetwater Trail the rain had abated so we decided to continue our ride on Salmon Falls trail. Salmon Falls (Also called Darrington Trail) is one of the most popular trails near Sacramento. There is plenty of singletrack, a bit of climbing, and some fun technical sections.
The Salmon Falls trail forks in several places and as a rule of thumb the route which follows closest to the shoreline is the easiest route. This makes this a great trail for mixed groups, you can split at the forks and regroup when the trail merges back, allowing everyone to have a great ride.
Take Highway 50 East out of Sacramento to Eldorado Hills Boulevard. Exit on El Dorado Hills North and stay on El Dorado Hills for about 12 miles you reach Salmon Falls Bridge (Eldorado Hills Turns into Salmon Falls Road at Green Valley Road). Cross the bridge and turn left into the parking lot. The trail head is on the West end of the parking lot.
Salmon Falls - On a cold December morning I hooked up with the _trogs_ for a great kick butt ride that pushed all of our limits a bit. We started at Falcon Crest and rode all the way through Sweetwater, out Salmon Falls to Mickey Mouse and back. About 25-27 miles of up and down fun.
The trail starts out with a short moderately steep climb over loose rocks. When the trail forks we took the higher fork which includes more climbing and more technical riding. The short climb was particularly tough because the trail was slippery from the rain earlier in the day.
Pictured here is a short section of the trail seen from the opposite shore of the American River.
This photo shows almost the entire ride route. We started on the far shore in about the center of the photo. We headed East, away from the camera, to Salmon Falls Bridge which is just beyond the hills in this picture. After crossing the bridge we turned West and followed the shoreline to the base of Flagstaff hill.
When you hit the base of the hill you have the choice of either taking a left immediately after the the creek crossing to stay on the shoreline or biting the bullet and climbing straight up the face of the mountain. Today we went straight up without even slowing (I didn't even see the fork).
After the trail merges back with the lower trail the trail is fairly flat and winds in and out along the cliff face. This section of the trail is plainly visible from the road and from Salmon Falls Bridge.
The trail continues along the clifface for about 1 1/2 miles and eventually starts to curve away from the river/ lake. The trail descends a bit down to an old roadbed. The trail follows the roadbed for about 1 mile and ends at a short rutted climb which returns the trail to singletrack.
The next portion of the ride is a hilly/ wooded section with about 4 creek crossings. The creek crossings are almost always dry but they are challenging for beginning riders due to steep banks and lots of rocks. Today even though things were a bit slick from the rain we didn't even slow down for them.
After the last creek crossing there are some meadows (with cows today) then a small hill. From the crest of the hill we could see the old Salmon Falls Bridge. Here was our chance to bail. If we cut across the bridge it was only about 1-2 miles back to the car.... Hell no, it was still a bit chilly and the chance for rain was still there but we both wanted to go "just a little further".
We skipped the small trail off to the left which would take us to the old bridge and headed across the meadow. There is a moderate hill at the base of Flagstaff Hill (Mountain?). We took the right fork which goes up over the hill. This is the longest climb so far, but is really only about a 150' climb.
We pressed on and at the base of the hill the easier trail merged back in to our path. We stayed to the right and didn't even hesitate at the creek crossing which marks the base of Flagstaff Hill. We stayed on the wider trail on the right and uphill.
At this time I didn't even notice it but immediately after the creek crossing (at the base of Flagstaff Hill) there is a trail which goes off to the left - back towards the lakeshore. If you take this turn there is another 3-4 miles of fairly flat trail. Which eventually turns into fireroad and finally paved road. Continuing along the paved road it will start to climb significantly and after several miles of climbing there is a fireroad on the right hand side. On a later ride we took this longer route and used this fireroad to the top.
After a climbing for about a quarter mile the trail forks. We were 2 hours into our "quick rainy day ride", it was raining lightly now and the sky was darkening. Kevin took the hard right turn "I think Mickey Mouse is this way", which (unknown to me) committed us to a killer 45 minute climb.
The climb up Flagstaff Hill is not extremely steep but is unrelenting and mildly technical. There are plenty of embeded rocks and loose broken rock on the surface. About 10 minutes into the climb there is another Y in the trail. We were stopped to debate our route choice when a couple of riders came out from the left fork and told us that they had just finished Mickey Mouse. They pointed us up the hill (right fork) and told us to take the left turn at the four way intersection at the top of the hill.
We continued climbing for another 1 mile to the crest of the hill. The trail crossed at the low point of a "saddle" in the hill and there is a four way intersection. The trail continues straight ahead which takes you to the paved road I mentioned earlier. There is also a trail which is roughly perpendicular that follows along the ridgeline. We turned left which took us over a series of steep (even rockier) climbs, each higher than the last until we found the rusted out/ shot up car at the peak. Across from the car, amidst piles of broken glass is a small break in the manzanita brush which marks the top of "Mickey Mouse".
I have ridden Salmon Falls about 10 times so far, but this was the first time I had ridden Mickey Mouse. Mickey Mouse is a difficult descent under good conditions and downright treacherous on a rainy day like today. The descent starts with a windy corridor through the manzanita with steep rocky drops and tight turns. The trail flattens out for a while and after passing through some meadows climbs up to a small shed which is about 1/2 way through the descent.
Immeditately after the shed the trail turns almost straight uphill and there is a difficult but fairly short climb. Today it was worse because of the rain on the trail. I nearly made it to the top of the climb but had to take a short break after my rear tire lost traction. After the climb the trail flattens out for a bit and then drops straight back downhill.
The descent is steep at this point and there are fist sized rocks embeded into the trail. The trail the gets even steeper and there are some hairpin turns which turn you straight down the 45+ degree slope. We walked several of the hairier sections and we both got to work on our ass on back tire downhill technique. I am looking forward to riding this trail again when it is dry out to see exactally how much of it I can ride under better conditions.
After some more hairy downhilling the trail dumps back onto a fireroad. We turned left on the fireroad which took us back around to the fireroad climb up Flagstaff Hill. On a later ride we discovered that turning right takes you to some additional steep singletrack downhill and back to the singletrack which goes around the base of the hill.
By the time we finished Mickey Mouse we were both pretty beat. We barrelled down Flagstaff Hill and took the wimpy way around the hill at the base. When we reached the meadow there was no thoughts of going clear back to the Salmon Falls trail head and crossing the new bridge. We cut across to the old Salmon Falls bridge and got our feet a little wet crossing the 12" deep puddle at the start of the bridge.
My legs were jello on the sandy climb back up to Sweetwater trail and Kevin said he was pretty drained as well. Somehow our quick rainy day ride had turned into an awesome ride where we got to explore some fun new territory. I look forward to hitting Salmon Falls again so I can play around with Mickey Mouse some more.