Stagecoach is a fairly boring trail with the exception of the 1 1/2 mile section at the top called Manzanita. The Manzanita section is mostly narrow singletrack weaving through manzanita bushes. There are several tough technical sections and a cool "tunnel" where you go through a section of trail completely enclosed with bushes and vines.
After the Manzanita section the rest of the trail is fireroad. We generally park at the Stagecoach trailhead, ride Manzanita and down Stagecoach, cut across the river to ride the Clementine Loop and then ride back up Stagecoach to the car. Overall I don't think Stagecoach is worth riding by itself.
Starting From the Top
Take I-80 East from Sacramento to Auburn, exit on Lincoln, and turn right. Turn left almost immediately onto Russell Road and it will wind downhill (careful it's a 1 lane road) for about a half mile. You will see a dirt parking area on the left, park there. If you want to take Manzanita then DON'T take the Stagecoach trail at this point. Get on your bike and go down Russell road. Russell Road Y's after a short distance, go left and the road will dead end into the trailhead. After getting onto the trail you want to take a left onto the singletrack trail.
Starting From the Bottom
Take I-80 East from Sacramento to Auburn and turn off on the Hiway 49 exit. Carefully follow the signs to Hiway 49 South. Follow Hiway 49 into the Ravine until 49 turns right across the American River. At this point continue straight for another ~1/2 mile and start looking for parking. This area is the confluence of the North and South Forks of the American River. The road will shortly cross the North Fork of the river. The trailhead is on the West bank of the North Fork American River. If you start at the bottom and want to ride Manzanita ride to the top trailhead and follow the instructions above to take Manzanita.
As you start down the Manzanita section of Stagecoach you are winding downhill through a forested area which is filled with Manzanita trees. The trail is fairly narrow in places and once when I rode this section my arm got caught on a branch sticking out... Ouch, I still have a scar. This section is probably some of the most difficult singletrack in the area due to the unforgivingly narrow trail and technical nature of the terrain. Expect to encounter lots of tree roots, rocks, steep droppoffs, and towards the end exposed cliffsides.
This is probably the toughest section of the trail if you manage to clean this you have to deal with a short, steep descent followed by a small bridge. So far I haven't braved this section, I clip out and walk it, if it was just one thing I could probably deal with it but the entire section makes a difficult package.
One of the nice things about riding in this area area is the abundance of water in the form of small creeks, rivers and lakes. You probably don't want to drink this water, but it's great to dip your head in when you are dieing of heat.
This vine tunnel is one of the most memorable features of this trail. The Vines close overhead combined with riding down a rocky creekbed are a unique and fun feature of this trail.
As you get towards the end of the Manzanita section the trail follows along the hillside and some of the technical sections are quite scary due to the droppoff to the side.
Right after you finish the singletrack section you begin a long fast fireroad descent. The speed limit is posted at 15 MPH but unless you are closely monitoring your speed it is easy to exceed the limit. Towards the bottom there is an intersection, you need to make a hard right at this point making a hairpin turn. As you approach the corner and do the final descent you need to be extra careful because there is a large amount of foot traffic at this point.
If you started at the top of Stagecoach and are planning on riding the double loop you will your bike ride across the North Fork of the American River and turn left onto the trailhead on the far bank. Click here to continue on to the Clementine Loop. If you are just riding Stagecoach you turn around at the bottom of the hill.
Since we started our ride at the top of Stagecoach we finished the day with a tough climb out of the valley. The climb up from the valley floor is strenuous but not technical and consists entirely of a long fireroad climb. Take the well travelled left turn about 1/2 mile up the hill and stay on the main fireroad until you are deposited in the upper parking lot. The climb is steep until you get to the turn, but fortunately it levels off a little bit after the hairpin.
On this particular day it was very hot and I stopped for a minute to dip my head in this waterfall.
Although the Manzanita Section at the Top of Stagecoach is a blast it's just not long enough to make this part of the trail worth while by itself. The only time we ride Stagecoach is when we are combining it with the Clementine Loop to form a big doubleloop with tons of climbing.