Duchess Mine Trail is a 4.1 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Vallecito, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and mountain biking and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail.
This is a loop trail with views of New Melones Reservoir and the surrounding area. The trail takes hikers past the remnants of the Duchess Mine, which operated during the gold rush era. It also takes hikers up onto a portion of Table Mountain, which is a 10 million year old lava flow that exhibits inverted topography - the lava formed in the paleochannel of the Stanislaus River, which is now the high spot on the landscape.
Stay to right along the water on the way up so you are facing the good views on the way down. First part along water is gradual and wide, good for mountain bikes. Trail is not marked at junctions, stay to right to do full 4 miles, left hand routes cut corners and make the loop 3 miles. Great winter trail, no cover, you will get cooked in the summer.
I have hiked this trail many times and have never heard of this name. The plaque near the trail says it it part of the Bret Harte - Mark Twain trail. It is best hiked in cool weather, don't do it in the summer!
I wouldn't rate this as hard. Maybe moderate. The only complaint I have is the low elevation brush can be a little miserable with stickers with parts of the trail being overgrown. The views definitely make up for that.
We went "reverse" ie clockwise with the steep section first. Our first mile was great! Very strenuous, but worth it, with incredible views. The table was a large grassy field with almost no sun cover or trails to speak of, and the descent was very, very difficult, not because of elvation but because of the nearly complete neglect. Sections between the mountain bike trail and table top are completely overgrown and would be missed without careful attention or gps. The trail is less a loop and more like two trails that connect via a field and bushwhacking.
4 stars for the steep ridge climb and views, 1 star for the remaining 3 miles.
Once you get the top can't find the path anymore. Overgrown with weeds but going up great and going fun
It's a nice short hike with some pretty steep inclines. I spent most of my time on goat paths accidentally vs. a groomed trail. The top of the bluff was beautiful. It was worth the steep last hump to get over.
Great for a quick but challenging hike. The trail makes a loop eventually rising over 1000 feet to a table-top like lava cap with a nice view and plenty of space to poke around on top. Watch for Mountain Bikers!! Counter clockwise is the longer and less steep route. However, from the trail head you will notice the path also cuts straight up the face of the mountain immediately on your left going clockwise. This way is quite steep. A good hiking stick is helpful either way. It's one of the better spots close to Sonora to get some fresh air and exercise! I give it five stars because it's well maintained with good parking. It's a great location for either Tuolumne or Calaveras counties. And it's also an interesting geographical location.
I live in Columbia and love having this hike nearby. The trail to the left is an awesome one if your goal is elevation gain with 1,000 ft in under a mile. At the top you can follow the trail across the field and go down the main trail creating a loop. Walk toward the aircraft tail (they use it for hellicopter training and cal fire) and stay to the right fork to find the down leg.
Spring windflowers are awesome on the first part of the trail. Trail is best in the fall, winter, spring. No shade and 100 degree temps make summer a little harder.
This is a challenging hike for how short it is and some parts can be pretty steep. I would recommend starting the trail on the trail that goes to the left and uphill instead of just going straight because it will be easier to get back down. If you mountain bike then you definitely want to check this spot out it looks like some people have been building up a course for some time now. There are jumps, drops, banks, and log platforms to ride on. The views from the top really make it worth it, it was pretty cool to check out the mine and watch melones snake into the distance.