Western States Trail: Michigan Bluff to Last Chance

HARD 19 reviews
#70 of 144 trails in

Western States Trail: Michigan Bluff to Last Chance is a 18.4 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Foresthill, California that offers the chance to see wildlife and is rated as difficult. 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.

DISTANCE
18.4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
7,746 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

backpacking

birding

camping

hiking

horseback riding

mountain biking

trail running

forest

views

wildlife

This rugged trail to a remote crossing of the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the American River traverses some of the wildest "foothill" country of the Gold Country - a region previously well settled with mining settlements. Campfire permit required if using a stove or campfire. Avoid this trail the last weekend of June due to Annual Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run and the Tevis Cup long-distance horseback trail ride, held in late July or early August.

backpacking
2 months ago

Tough trail in parts with steeper climbs and downed trees, but worth it for beautiful views of the American River.

backpacking
3 months ago

Went on an overnight out and back backpacking trip, camping about 7 miles in, near a creek crossing on Deadwood Ridge. The trail was definitely challenging but had no other redeeming qualities, other than a nice creek to rest at early on the trail. The trail is well shaded, but because of that there are few opportunities for good views. The trail was well graded and appreciated at first, but I found it to be monotonous after crossing El Dorado Creek, relentlessly marching up the side of the mountain. In addition, the trail going up towards the ridge was very narrow. There were few places to take a break. On the ridge, there were few good places to camp. I would not recommend the place I camped (creek crossing along ridge), I was running out of daylight. If I had more time I would have backed up a half mile and camped at the water pump. If you want to camp closer to the trailhead, there is at least one good spot (probably more) along El Dorado Creek.

I did not encounter any bears on my trip. That was a good thing because I forgot to put all my food in the bear canister. The food was not touched.

Some folks have mentioned parking issues but I had no problems parking at the end of the pavement, about 0.2 mile before the trailhead.

This trail is best for trail runners. Lots of elevation change and consistent grades. If I was trail running I would rate it 4 stars. I would not recommend for backpacking except as an early season shake-out.

backpacking
3 months ago

This listing is pretty mislabeled. This is a part of the Western States Trail and this portion should be labeled Michigan Bluff to Last Chance. Since you are going in and out of 2 canyons I would also label as Hard. Especially if you're backpacking and have a pretty heavy pack.
Here are some things we learned: There is no parking next to the trail head. We parked next to the old cemetery and the Michigan Bluff monument. We left our car for 3 days and it seemed fine. We talked to some locals when we got back to our car. They thought we were just going out and let us know about several locals recently losing dogs to mountain lions.
BRING BEAR SPRAY. It is also a good idea to have a bear bell and make plenty of noise on the trial. We saw a lot of trail runners out so the trail is well traveled. You will also do a lot of stream crossing depending on how much it has rained recently and how much snow is still melting.
Trail breakdown: 2.5 miles in is entirely downhill and takes you to the first bridge and river. Almost 6 miles from the trail head and just before Deadwood Cemetery you will find a decent place to camp. For an even better place to camp and a little more walking, head on to an established spot between Deadwood and Devil's Thumb. There is a great area with a picnic bench and water pump with potable water (if we had gotten an earlier start on day one we would have camped here). Ditch your pack at the water pump to lighten your load and make your way to Devil's Thumb. A closer look shows that it is not one big rock but many rocks. Head down the canyon from Devil's Thumb to get to the swinging bridge. Lots of switchbacks but the pay off is worth it.
What we did:
Day one: hiked in and camped right before Deadwood.
Day two: packed up and ditched packs at Deadwood. Made way to water pump and filled up. Hiked all the way down to the swinging bridge and had lunch. Made our way out of the canyon back to our belongings. We then hiked down to Eldorado Canyon (aka 2.5 miles from trail head) and made our camp near river in an established spot.
Day three: hiked out.
Things I wish I had known:
-how steep the trail was
-the amount of mountain lion and bear activity in the area
-how bad the ticks are
-the different points of entry for the trail and the relative location of established camping spots
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I know this review is long, but I'm hoping it helps someone who is looking at this trail.

7 months ago

The directions take you to someone’s drive way lol . They was not very happy to see me . Run this trail in reverse and do not try to park at Michigan Bluff .

hiking
8 months ago

I only went in about 3.5 and then headed back up the mountain cause I didn't want to be out there in the dark but still a great hike! Beautiful views, will have to go and do the entire thing!

hiking
9 months ago

I accidentally drove down the gravel road in search of the trailhead (blindly following my phone's directions), and one of the homeowners along the road was not happy with me. Back at the end of the paved road, there were a lot of "no parking" signs, so finding a spot can be confusing.
The trail is challenging, but you can make it as long or short as you want. As I increased elevation, I got swarmed by bugs, which was rather unpleasant. I only saw two people in the five hours I was out there.

backpacking
Monday, July 03, 2017

My husband, the dog, and I hiked this trail planning to make it all the way to swinging Bridge and camp. We made it to El Dorado Canyon and decided that was good enough. The good: no one out there, easy to find, lots of free parking at trailhead, firewood abound, and a couple creeks to access water. The bad: tons of mosquitos and the elevation changes. The uphill climb out of there left us pretty damn sore.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Trail was strenuous at best. (2,000 ft elevation gain in 2 miles). In total, there was about 2 scenic views. I don't recommend this trail to anyone who does not run 10 miles a week. It took 6 hours to do about 7 miles. I would not recommend this trail to anyone who is looking for a fun, scenic trip. Next time I'll do something in Tahoe.

hiking
Friday, November 11, 2016

It's a beautiful place and easy to get to with any kind of car. You park on the paved road Michigan Bluff and the walk up the bottom of the gravel road that goes past houses and leads you to the start of the trail.Took this trail because it seemed to the much more lightly trafficked than the other trails that are also close to the Sacramento area in these woods. The other trail heads I passed by while driving up there had a good amount of cars parked considering it was a Thursday afternoon.

I don't think I've ever seen so many manzanitas so big and all grouped together. That was really cool. The forest looks healthy and you probably won't see anyone. Could hear some pretty big wildlife walking around.

There were a couple of scenic views. Nice but not epic. The trail starts off down hill and you keep going down for a long time so plan to give enough time to walk back up. I didn't go but a couple miles in and back as my dog ended having a problem with her leg and I had to carry her back. The trail is a good definition of moderate. Not too easy, not too strenuous but still a workout.

Although it was pretty the lack of variety in scenery makes me more likely to find a different trail to try the next time I'm in the Tahoe national mountains.

hiking
Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Excellent area for hiking, so many trails connect so shorter or longer as you wish.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A lot of subaru driving, granola eaters hke this trail. If you drive a diesel be prepared to be bitched at.

trail running
Sunday, June 11, 2017

Monday, June 05, 2017

hiking
Thursday, November 10, 2016

Saturday, September 24, 2016

hiking
Saturday, November 12, 2011