Cronan Ranch West Ridge Trail is a 12.7 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Lotus, California that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, trail running, horses, and mountain biking and is accessible year-round. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.
On a Wednesday in the month of May why is this parking lot so crowded? Three groups are milling about. Well, two horse trailers and four riders do not constitute a crowd, but what about the others? One large group of volunteers is poised to do oak restoration work. They are equipped with hoes shovels and lots of enthusiasm. The other is a high school group, on a field trip not doubt, bussed to the trailhead and headed down hill to the South Fork American River where they will make their way upstream along the river to Greenwood Creek and their campground observing nature, and maybe taking notes for a class report. To reach the trailhead drive about 10 miles east of Auburn on State Route 49 to Pedro Hill Road. The Park contains about 12 miles of trails. Seven main trails converge near this parking area. Our party of four chose the West Ridge Trail because it affords the best views and we could avoid being trampled by the two groups following us. The West Ridge Trail leaves the parking area at around 900 ft elevation, climbs 300 feet then descends 600 ft to the river. Were are we? I estimate our round trip covered about seven miles and takes about five hours walking at a leisurely pace, stopping for lunch, admiring the view, and examining the flora. This regional park is largely open grassland and rolling hills dotted with clumps of oak forest. There are some great views looking down at a white water stretch of the South Fork American River that is popular with river rafters in the summer. Hiker awareness is important for those who have known the miseries of poison oak rash. In some areas the stuff seems to thrive out in the open in great thicket besides the trail. Down near the river the trail passes into a shady forest, winds in and out of a ravine, crosses a creek and passes a bench containing the remnant of an old mining operation. Wildflowers are more abundant in this forested area, the more common lupine and paint brush, and the less common globe lilies, Chinese houses (they look like small blue and white pagoda-like houses stacked on top of each other), globe gilia (a blue puff ball on a long stem) and others whose names I cannot remember, but Bill, our resident wildflower expert can. At that point we turned around and backtracked uphill to place where several trails converge, the Long Valley Trail, the Cronan Ranch Road, and connecting laterals that lead to the river and other trails. It is also the site of a former motion picture set containing a ranch house, a corral, and a chicken coop all in need of restoration. We returned via the Long Valley Trail through an area where oak restoration work is in progress. Each oak sprig, protected by a three or four inch piece of tubing and a square of black mesh to keep critters from feasting on tender leaves and, no doubt, for other reasons not so apparent, is watered periodically by the restoration gang until the small plants get established. Surely that takes a lot of volunteer hours for which all of us outdoorsy folks should be thankful. In years to come their effort should show results when the area is again covered with oak forest.
Wide trail. Lots of horseback riders. Lots of up and downhill. My 12 yr old son and I went in January while it was cool outside and it was fine. I cannot imagine this hike during full sun, 65 degrees or warmer. Almost zero shade. Very open valley. The river is at about the halfway point. We did 4.44 mile loop.
Will return :)
Moderate to difficult depending on what direction via mountain bike. Leaving from Skunk Canyon lot starts out all uphill for approx two miles.
I hated this one. dusty and just not my cup of tea