Western States Pioneer Express Recreation Trail

MODERATE 149 reviews

Western States Pioneer Express Recreation Trail is a 8.6 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Auburn, California that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

8.6 miles
1,259 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash



horseback riding

nature trips

trail running


rails trails




wild flowers


Enjoy views of the Middle Fork American River Canyon on this easy walk which includes a historic arched cement bridge and a waterfall. This short walk brings you up to and then across the Mountain Quarries RailRoad Bridge, which was the longest concrete arch railroad bridge in the world when it was built in 1912. Enjoy great views of the Middle Fork American River Canyon and marvel at what was a fantastic feat of construction for its time. The triple span bridge was built by the Mountain Quarries Company and the Pacific Portland Cement Company for the purpose of hauling limestone from the nearby quarry to Auburn, 7 miles away. Trains ran across the bridge down to the quarry 4 times daily until the quarry was abandoned. In 1942 the tracks were pulled out for scrap metal for WWII. You might also hear the bridge called the "No Hands Bridge". This is a throwback from the early years of the Tevis Cup Trail Ride, an equestrian race that goes from Squaw Valley in Tahoe to Auburn. Challenged by onlookers who noted the bridge's former lack of guard-rails, one of the riders, Ina Robinson, would drop her reins and go across "No-Hands". The bridge now does have metal guard rails, but the name has stuck with it.

1 month ago

Nice hike 8 plus miles around trip.

2 months ago

LOTS of ticks, but very scenic.

2 months ago

Great trail. Things I wish I knew: I suggest taking one of the routes closest to the water on your way out, then taking the highlighted route back. Great views by the water and also makes it a little more interesting. You can dip in the water if you want. Also, there were a few more interesting rocky areas (very short) where you had to climb a little.

There are some areas, maybe 20-30%, that are wide open in the sun and on a wide trail (which I disliked). But this was only a minor inconvenience. Bring lots of water - I went through all 3L on a sunny day.

Watch out for poison oak at the very beginning!

3 months ago

3 months ago

started at training hill. pretty easy mostly flat. beautiful views. lots of butterflies this time of year. just after the waterfall maybe 3 minutes is a picnic bench which is nice. sadly some lame people throw garbage over the side. this would be good for trail running. also the trail is about 70% sun and 30% shade.

4 months ago

Great hike with a little bit of everything — flat trail, inclines, rocks and streaming water! The pathway is very narrow. Enjoyed seeing all the greenery and a few small critters!

6 months ago

It was a great hike, but has a poor directory/ hiking trail instructions. we made it through thanks to the app. But I led our group into a shorter 6-7 mile hike by going down by the river and circling back up. Definitely will return in the warmer times to hike again!
note to all hikers and trail runners, watch out for horse poop

7 months ago

On arrival you come to American River Canyon Overlook park. Dont bother with doing the first loop or heading to the very end of the black trail marker. The area is fenced off so it forces you to go around.
Look at my return tracks.
The start of the trail is across the parking lot from the out building behind a big metal Flag pole in a chained off area. Drop down behind the flag pole and head left at the gate.
First impressions of the place was "what a dump"!
Things got better after the first mile and the views are nice. Typical river views.
Wear your muck boots as its obvious the people using their horses over feed them.

I'll return to the area to use some of the other trails but will consider parking at another location.
Lots of runners on the trail.

9 months ago

This was fun.
My friend and I started at 6:30 from the WS trailhead. We saw a chewed up deer leg right near the beginning. Then we saw 3 or 4 live male deer and a couple females along our way.
We are training for a backpacking trip, so this trail was nice because we could wander around on many different trails.
There are some steep areas, depending on the trail you take.
You continually run into people. The only reason that is a bad thing is because there are not many flat areas where you can wander off to pee, so I was usually right off trail with my friend having to warn any oncomers. :P

10 months ago

Cool trail--well maintained. Today was a lovely fall day. We saw a dozen or so trail runners, one other hiking party, and a bunch of turkey buzzards. We'd do it again.

10 months ago

So I accidentally ended my beginning of the hike at robie point and then had to restart my track lol but this hike was AMAZING! Did the entire 8.8 miles starting at American canyon overlook park. Plennnnty of places to park there. The hike was definitely a challenge, especially on the way back up. Bring lots of water! There were really nice views of the river and it was cool to cross "no hands" bridge! Interesting to read about the history on the plaques. There was also a nice little waterfall and small bridge to check out :] Definitely planning on returning to this hike in a few weeks! I really enjoyed the variety of sights to see along this hike and there were a few spots that were prime to sit and take breaks (bench/picnic table). That uphill really gets your heart pumping!

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Returned to this trail to take it All the way to the Calcutta Falls and it was great. Easy 2.3 mile in and out hike. Definitely start early morning this time of year (August).

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mediocre hike. Not much interesting to see for the 1st hour, but then the view opens up. Seems there is a trailhead at the end of the hike, and therefore may be a better starting point.

I took the Western states trail on the way back and this was much more interesting. GPS is a must for this hike as there are a lot of trails.

Would be nice for trail running, but I would not hike this again

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Nice, easy hike.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Cool little place!

trail running
Monday, June 26, 2017

Very beautiful views of the river and greenery, but also extremely challenging to run with some steep sections. Mix of single track and wider path. Was very muddy when I went, would like to try again under better conditions. Would also be a nice hike.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Good moderate hike. Surprisingly void of other hikers on a Memorial Day weekend!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Good hike, a little hard to find at first and not well marked. Lots and lots of different pathways to make for a fun adventure. Beautiful views. We started at the parking lot and went to the back to the right and saw the head of Overlook trail, and took that until we hit Western States. Took it all the way down to the river! Hike back was a b*tch uphill but do-able

Thursday, June 15, 2017

On a hot day, this is an excellent choice compared to other unshaded hikes in the river confluence area, such as the Clementine trail. It is well maintained, and was manageable for my 5 year old son. We did not walk the entire trail, but designated a waterfall as our destination. The history nerd in me enjoyed watching for remnants of the old train track that this trail follows, as well as walking across the "No hands bridge". I used my phone along the way to help guide us. Limited access to the river. Overall a great experience

Monday, May 29, 2017

A little to sunny today. Even though the temp was 82ish. A lot of open trail not much shade. Falls are dwindling.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

There are a number of trails and lots of options of paths to take. Some parts of the trail are well-marked and others are not. There is cell reception throughout the area so we were able to consult our map as needed. We ultimately created our own path, ended up making it down to river to sit and eat lunch, and then headed back up. Took us about 3 hours. A lot of the trail was shaded, which was nice. Saw a few fellow hikers along the way. Some of the hills are pretty steep, but we liked the challenge. Crossed a few small streams but no significant waterfalls, likely due to the time of year.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Loved it! The way back is pretty crazy because it's all up hill. But totally worth it!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

An easy, relaxing trail for novice hikers or those wanting to take a leisurely stroll. We went on a Sunday morning stroll (arrived 10am) and there were plenty people but not so much that others got in your way. Families with kids, jogging couples, riders on horseback - people from all walks can take this trail and enjoy the nice scenery.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Loved it! We had so much fun on this trail and our kids did great.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Great trail. Well maintained. Plenty of parking at trail head. We parked at Auburn staging area for access to the trail. Plenty of marking at the trail splits. The hike back up was a true workout. Especially when we saw the sign that it was 30 degree grade. Would definitely do this trail again.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

This is a good trail considering how close it is to civilization. Cell service the whole time, but still very pretty and lots of choices of paths to take. waterfalls and rivers and bridges to see make this a trail I will travel again.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

first real hike since losing 50lbs, was FANTASTIC!! Did NOT stay on path, did a lot of riverside rock climbing then ran all the way back from dam. Felt GREAT and got awesome pics of the green rushing water

Sunday, February 12, 2017


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Great trail system with many options. Light rain & lots of mud today, but glorious sounds from all the water.

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