Mountain Biking Culvert & Confluence in Auburn, CA

This weekend, Greyson and I checked out a couple of awesome, new to us mountain bike trails in the Auburn, California area. We’ve spent a fair amount of time on the Foresthill Divide Loop trail, which is a fairly easy cross country oriented trail, but had yet to ride any other trails in the area. Internet research led us to a loop featuring Culvert and Confluence trails, which looked awesome from the videos we’d seen (like this one by BKXC).

There are a few different ways you can ride these trails, including shuttling or starting at the top, but we decided to get the climb out of the way first. To access this trailhead, which is in the Auburn State Recreation Area, a little north east of the city of Auburn, you can put “Lake Clementine Trail Auburn” into Google Maps and follow the directions – here’s a link. We were there on a beautiful, sunny Sunday and we ended up having to park fairly far up on Old Foresthill Rd. Parking is $10 in the Auburn SRA, but if you have a California State Parks Pass, that covers your parking.

Clementine Trail // tahoefabulous.com
Foresthill Bridge from the trail.

We started by heading up Clementine Trail which is south east of the bathrooms/payment kiosk just across the little bridge. Clementine starts as a wide double track that parallels the American River that narrows down into single track. At about 0.2 miles in, there’s a Y in the trail, with the fork to the right heading up steeply. Don’t take it, stay left! (Greyson and I did – oops.) During the singletrack section, Clementine is pretty mellow, thought there are a few small rocky sections and optional drops and there’s some exposure on the narrow parts. The trail turns back into double track, and you’ll get to ride under the famous Foresthill Bridge, the highest bridge in California. After the bridge, the trail starts climbing steadily upward, gaining ~340 feet in about 1.1 miles.

Mountain Biking Auburn // tahoefabulous.com
Clementine Reservoir from the Clementine Rd. road climb.

Clementine Trail peters out on Clementine Road, which we continued climbing for another 540 feet of climbing. After about 1.4 miles on Clementine Road, there’s a gated trailhead to the right. Fuel Break Trail heads uphill on the right. Fuel Break is between a fire road and double track, and it’s the last bit of climbing on this route. The trail is about 0.7 miles and ~140 feet of climbing. It tops out at a gorgeous meadow, which is a perfect spot to stop for a snack, then heads downhill for about 0.1 mile.

Culvert Trail // tahoefabulous.com

Here we broke off from Fuel Break onto Culvert Trail on the left. Culvert is a fun flow trail, that drops through open oak woodlands. The trail is on the easier side of intermediate, with small berms and optional drops and jumps and a few small rock gardens. You’ll ride through a large culvert under Foresthill Road (hence the name), where you should probably take your sunglasses off, if you want to be able to see! Culvert Trail ends at Old Foresthill Rd. after about 1.2 miles at the sign for Mammoth Bar.

Confluence Trail // tahoefabulous.com

Head straight down the paved road, looking right for the Confluence Trail sign, which is at about 0.2 miles after the intersection. The Confluence Trail is definitely the most technical part of this loop but is completely rideable by a confident intermediate rider. There are some rocky sections and narrow parts with significant exposure – but everything is walkable if necessary. Early on, there was a short, slid out section that we needed to get off and walk across. The steep drop off into the American River Canyon is a little nerve wracking, but the incredible river views are the highlight of the route. Confluence is about 1.8 miles and ends back at the trailhead where we started. Including riding from where we were parked and a short, steep detour, this route was about 8.25 miles and 1,300 feet of climbing, which we did in two hours including breaks.

Culvert and Confluence Trails // tahoefabulous.com
Via Strava

I had a great time on the trails in this area, and I can’t wait to head back for more exploring. This area is pretty popular, not only with mountain bikers, but also with hikers and dog walkers, so be aware of your surroundings and practice good trail etiquette. One of the best things about riding in the Auburn area are the opportunities for awesome post ride beers. This time, we hit up Knee Deep Brewing Co., but Moonraker Brewing is another favorite.

Trail Stats
Location: American River Confluence, Auburn, CA
Mileage: ~7.25 miles
Elevation: ~1,100 feet
Difficulty: Intermediate
Nisenan Land

Trail Report: Mountain Biking Foresthill Divide Trail, Auburn, California

I am lucky enough to get both Lincoln’s Birthday and President’s Day off, so I had a four day weekend this weekend. I packed a lot of fun into this weekend, and I managed to fit two of my favorite things (beer and mountain biking) into Valentine’s Day. We’ve been having a bit of a dry spell up in the mountains, and while it’s led to fun, spring-like conditions for snowboarding, I was ready to get out of the Tahoe area and find some real spring weather. Greyson had heard some good things about the mountain biking around Auburn, and with the forecast calling for 74 and sunny, we decided to check out the Foresthill Divide Trail.

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Photo via Strava

The trailhead for the Foresthill Divide trail is easy to find – it’s 3.7 miles east from the Foresthill Bridge on Foresthill Road. (Note: Google Maps has the trailhead in the wrong location). From Auburn, the trailhead is on your right with enough parking for 15-20 cars. If you don’t have a California State Parks Pass, it will cost $10 to park. There are porti-potties, but not permanent bathrooms here. They were very clean porti-potties though! There are signs up reminding you to hide valuables and to lock your cars – locals we talked to agreed with that recommendation. Apparently, there have been break ins and thefts at the trailhead. The Foresthill Divide trail is open to horses, hikers and leashed dogs (but not OHVs), so be aware and practice good trail manners. We saw lots of hikers out yesterday.

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Some nice hikers took this Valentines Day picture for us.

The Foresthill Divide Trail is a lollipop with a very short stick, and it is very well marked. There are easily read “Foresthill Divide Trail” signs at every major intersection. As long as you follow these signs and stay on the main trail, you will be fine. After you leave the parking lot follow the signs, you’ll ride about 0.6 miles before hitting the loop part of the trail. The sign here points right, and follow that to do the loop counterclockwise. Pretty much every biker we encountered was doing the loop that direction. You’ll get the harder climbs out of the way sooner, and the steeper sections will be downhill.

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I’m feeling pretty out of shape bike wise, and the thought of lugging my heavy Sanction up ~1,600 feet of climbing sounded pretty miserable to me, so I did some research into whether this ride would be a good candidate for riding my hardtail. To be honest, that is my number one question whenever I am thinking about riding a new trail. Can I ride my hardtail, or do I need suspension? The research I did had me leaning toward hardtail acceptable, so that’s what I brought. Spoiler alert: the trail is definitely doable on a hardtail and it was enjoyable, but next time I will be riding a full suspension bike.

The Mountain Bike Project describes the Foresthill Divide Trail as “A very good intermediate Level XC Trail. Rolling singletrack that’s very well designed and maintained,” and I wholeheartedly agree with this description. The trail is hard packed dirt for the majority of the length, with a few rocky and rooty sections. The trail definitely had some erosion damage when we rode it yesterday, but it is generally a well built, FUN to ride trail.

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While I enjoy the more technical, rocky trails that Tahoe has to offer, it is just so FUN to be able to let go and ride fast on hard packed, sticky dirt. There are also long, straight downhill sections with lots of visibility ahead, so I felt safe getting my speed up and not worrying about coming up on unsuspecting hikers or horses. While there were rocky sections, none lasted more than a few hundred yards, and there was only one steep, rooty section that I felt like I couldn’t have handled on my hardtail. (There were definitely other sections that I chose to walk due to out-of-bike-shapeness). I said earlier that next time I’d choose to ride a full suspension bike, and that was more due to the bumpy erosion damage and hard packed dirt than the size of the rocks.

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Photo via Strava

While the ride had ~1,600 feet of climbing (according to Strava), none of the climbs were too steep to ride. I definitely stopped for many breaks, but I also haven’t been on a bike since October. You spend most of your time riding through classic California oak woodlands, but you pop out for gorgeous views quite a few times along the way, and we caught a glimpse of the American River a couple of times.

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The only major downside to this trail is the couple of times you have to cross a major road. You cross Foresthill Road at 5.6 miles and again at 10.3 miles. Cars are coming fast, and the corners are a little blind for my taste. We obviously made it across safely, but be careful, because there are no warning signs for cars about bike crossings.

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We had a great time riding the Foresthill Divide Trail, and I definitely recommend it as a good intermediate cross country trail. It would be a challenge for a beginner, but doable, especially if they’re in good cardio-shape. It’s rideable for an intermediate rider, and there’s enough going on that an advanced rider would have fun. Plus, there’s lots of other fun stuff to do around the Auburn area, and I plan on writing about that in the next week or so.

Trail Stats:
Location: Foresthill, California
Mileage: 11.0 miles
Elevation Gain: ~1,600 feet
Difficulty: Beginner
Click here for my Strava route.
Nisenan Land