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Stories from the valley

A Fun Hike Under the Foresthill Bridge to Lake Clementine

Contributed by Keli Gwyn

If you’ve traveled between Placerville and Auburn via Highway 49, you’ve no doubt seen the Foresthill Bridge towering high above as you crossed the American River. Exploring the impressive structure had been on my bucket list for years, and I checked off that item recently.

My husband, Carl, and I set out on a sunny Saturday in July. We parked at the Auburn State Recreation Area (ASRA) located on Old Foresthill Road at the Confluence Area where the North and Middle Forks of the American River meet. After paying the $10 day-use fee at the ASRA kiosk, we walked a short distance south alongside the road, slipped around an easy-to-find metal gate to our left and set out on our adventure.

The 2.3-mile (one way) Lake Clementine Trail is a busy one, attracting many hikers and mountain bikers. This is classified as an easy trail with a modest elevation gain of around 300 feet, but a short section that takes you under the bridge narrows.

One highlight of the trail is the Foresthill Bridge overhead at the half-mile mark. At 730 feet, it’s the tallest bridge in California and the third tallest in the world. Be sure to stop below the bridge, look up, admire the sight overhead and listen to the rumble of cars as they zip across the 2,248-foot span.

Continue another 1.5 miles, and you’ll come to a second gate at a paved road leading to Lake Clementine. Travel 0.4 miles down the hill for a spectacular view of the North Fork Dam, the second highlight of this trek. If the conditions are right, you’ll see a rainbow in the spray.

The trail is rocky in places, so sturdy shoes are recommended. Although the second half of the trail is shaded by the many trees that grow along the river, be sure to pack plenty of water, especially if you’re hiking in the summer. Many visitors to the area enjoy swimming in the river. Since there are dangerous undertows, life jackets are recommended, with some loaners available.

The Auburn State Recreation Area is open from 7 a.m. to sunset. Click here to view an informative brochure about the Lake Clementine Trail. Happy hiking!