Mountain Biking Adventures

Premier Mountain Biking in Northern California

Looking for some great mountain biking? The American River Resort has you covered! Right here in the Coloma/Lotus Valley and the surrounding area there are dozens of trails that live up to every rider’s expectations. Use our private, gated property as your basecamp as you explore the area’s numerous trails. Most of our staff are avid mountain bikers and they will be more than happy to give you advice and point you in the right direction.

There are so many things that make mountain biking such a rewarding experience. Not only will you be exposed to incredible mountain scenery, mountain biking offers the opportunity to push both mind and body. There is something extraordinarily satisfying about a great day of riding, pushing yourself physically, and rising to new challenges. Whatever your reward is at the end of a day of riding, you know you have earned it! And… mountain biking automatically kicks your level of “awesomeness” up a few notches.

During your next visit with us, make sure to bring your mountain bike and get ready to enjoy some great riding. However, you may need to be careful: mountain biking can easily turn from a sport to a lifestyle!


What is “best”? That really depends on what you are looking for, and, can change from day to day. Maybe one day you want to push yourself on some steep technical downhill; we have you covered! Perhaps the next day you want to take the kids on a nice level single track next to the river… yep, we have that too! If you’re looking for a group ride on dirt roads with river and mountain vistas, you guessed it! There are multiple opportunities within minutes of the American River Resort. Let us know what you’re looking for and we will point you in the right direction.

We have put together a list of what we believe are the best trails in the area that are no further than 45 minutes away from the American River Resort. We are always on the lookout for new trail recommendations, so if there’s one that you think belongs in this list, let us know!

Cronan Ranch Trail System

  • Length: 12 miles, shorter trails
  • Drive from the Resort: 10 minutes
  • Difficulty: Beginner
  • Snapshot: Single- and double-track trails with great views of the South Fork of the American River.

This loop features stunning views of both the North and Middle Forks of the American River, as well as Lake Clementine from the divide ridge which separates these two forks of the American. This is also a good trail for hikers and equestrians. Mountain bikers usually ride in a counterclockwise direction. Park at the trailhead (on right) on Foresthill Road, about 6 miles past the Foresthill Bridge. $10 parking fee if you don’t have a Poppy pass. In order to pay, you have to put cash in an envelope. Bring a pen with you as well!

Foresthill Divide Loop

  • Length: 11 miles
  • Drive from the Resort: 35 minutes
  • Difficulty: Beginner to intermediate
  • Snapshot: Rolling single-track with great views. Shorter loops are possible.

This loop features stunning views of both the North and Middle Forks of the American River, as well as Lake Clementine from the divide ridge which separates these two forks of the American. This is also a good trail for hikers and equestrians. Mountain bikers usually ride in a counterclockwise direction. Park at the trailhead (on right) on Foresthill Road, about 6 miles past the Foresthill Bridge. $10 parking fee if you don’t have a Poppy pass. In order to pay, you have to put cash in an envelope. Bring a pen with you as well!

South Fork American River Trail (South Fork ART)

  • Length: 11 miles
  • Drive from the Resort: 10 minutes
  • Difficulty: Beginner to intermediate
  • Snapshot: Cross-country single-track with some fire roads and lots of climbing. Fun ride, but very physical!

The trailhead is at Cronan Ranch, and parking is free. Start on the main trail and follow signs to the South Fork American River Trail. The Lollipop Tree is a good visual marker of your journey! The trail follows the South Fork of the American River, with epic views, no visible homes, roads or signs of civilization (for the most part). Do not forget your water, as much of the trail is exposed to the sun. There is some climbing at the beginning, then a good downhill section toward the river, followed by more climbing through switchbacks as you head up the side of the ridge, away from the river, close to the end at Salmon Falls.

This trail ends up at the NE corner of the Skunk Hollow parking lot, by the Salmon Falls bridge over Folsom Lake. This ride can be done out-and-back or one way in any direction. As there are somewhat equal amounts of climbing and downhill either way, there is no recommended way to run it.

Auburn State Recreation Area (ASRA) Confluence Trails

  • Length: 24 miles
  • Drive from the Resort: 25 minutes
  • Difficulty: Intermediate to advanced
  • Snapshot: Combines all the major trails in the ASRA, except for Stagecoach. Mix of climbing and rolling single-track. Technical, rocky and exposed sections.

The Auburn SRA has more than 20 single-track mountain biking trails spread out over the park’s 42,377 acres, and it covers 40 miles of the North and Middle Forks of the American River.

The starting point for this amazing ride is the Confluence of the Middle and North Forks of the American River. Park in the designated parking area ($10 parking fee) and get ready to climb! It will all be worth it in the end. Start with the 2-mile Clementine Climb. This “trail” will take you to Lower Clementine Rd, which you will use to the Connector Trail trailhead. This trail will then lead to the Foresthill Divide Loop, which then loops back to the Connector Trail. This is where the real fun starts! Follow this trail downhill along a narrow single-track with a short climb in the middle, before crossing Lower Clementine Rd again. Take the Firebreak Trail and climb up to the Culvert Trail. Follow this epic downhill through technical sections, berms, switchbacks and (yes, you guessed it!) a big CULVERT! This fun downhill will soon lead you to the Confluence Trail, which starts with a fire road and then narrows to a single-track with exposed sections. Enjoy the views of the American River and use the pumps if you feel like catching some air! At the end of this trail you’ll see the Old Foresthill Rd, and you’ll be glad to know there’s no more climbing, but sad that your magnificent ride is over!

If you want to avoid the 2-mile climb at the beginning, you can shuttle to the Foresthill Divide Loop trailhead or the Lower Clementine Rd crossing. This alternative will leave you with the best downhill Auburn has to offer!

Olmstead Loop

  • Length: 8.6 miles, shorter trail options
  • Drive from the Resort: 20 minutes
  • Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Snapshot: Rolling hills of oaks and ponds, abandoned homesteads and orchards. Easy, open trails.

The Olmstead Loop Trail is especially popular in the springtime, when flowers are in bloom. The trailhead and parking ($10 day use fee) are behind the fire station in Cool. Mountain bikers usually ride in a counterclockwise direction, starting parallel to Highway 49. This is not a technical trail, but it does have an exposed, but very cool, creek crossing! The only difficulties may be the length and elevation gain. There are, however, trails that lead nowhere or that are not open to mountain bikers. Bring a map with you and be aware!

Magnolia to Cronan Loop

  • Length: 8.4 miles
  • Drive from the Resort: 10 minutes
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Snapshot: Switchback downhills, intermediate climbs and views of the American River

The trailhead and parking are off Highway 49, at Magnolia across from Everhart Winery (there are no parking fees). Start on the Gerle Loop Trail. A fast downhill section ends with a creek crossing and then a climb through switchbacks leads you to the top of the ridge overlooking Coloma on one side and Cronan Ranch on the other. Take the Up Down Trail and connect with the East Ridge Trail. Make sure you ride clockwise, and you will enjoy the switchbacks on the downhill side.

Fleming Meadow Loop

  • Length: 6.5 miles
  • Drive from the Resort: 40 minutes
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Snapshot: Mostly single-track, full of flowy banked turns.

Park off Mormon Emigrant Trail in Sly Park and you’ll find the trailhead is on Blue Gouge Road. If you want, you can add about a mile to the loop if you start at a fire-road entrance on the right just after the second dam on Jenkinson Lake (NOTE: please do not block the gate!). Make sure you ride counterclockwise. This trail has lots of climbing, but we’ve heard through the grapevine that it’s well worth the downhill! Woot woot!

Jenkinson Lake Loop (Sly Park)

  • Length: 8.2 miles
  • Drive from the Resort: 40 minutes
  • Difficulty: Beginner to intermediate
  • Snapshot: Beginner trail with gorgeous views under the cover of trees

Right across the road from Fleming Meadow, this loop is beginner friendly and follows Jenkinson Lake (aka Sly Park). Park along the second dam and make sure you ride it counterclockwise. Relax and enjoy the views! There are no technical sections, mostly rolling single-track.

Darrington Trail

  • Length: 16 miles
  • Drive from the Resort: 25-30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Beginner to intermediate
  • Snapshot: Somewhat exposed in some areas, out-and-back single-track trail. Rocky at places.

The Darrington Trail is located off Salmon Falls Rd (right before the Salmon Falls bridge) and is an all-time local favorite. Parking is $10, or you can park across the bridge for free. Expect to pay on weekends.

The start of this trail is exposed and somewhat scary, but don’t let that discourage you! Just walk your bike at first (as the vast majority of us do), and then keep going! This is an awesome ride; you won’t regret it. The rest of the trail is a bit easier, although there will inevitably be some rocky features all the way to the turn-around point. This trail also crosses a few small creeks along the way. These are some of the things that make the ride so much fun!

Bonus points! If you ride this trail at a certain time of day (say… sometime between 2 and 5 pm) between May and October, you may spot a long line of rafts being towed under the bridge and towards the commercial takeout area. Keep an eye out!

Hidden Falls Regional Park (Auburn)

  • Length: 9 miles, shorter and longer trails possible
  • Drive from the Resort: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: Beginner to intermediate
  • Snapshot: More than 12 interconnected trails, very clearly marked

The Hidden Falls Park is located between Auburn and Lincoln, featuring many trails ranging from wide fire access roads to single-track switchbacks, which makes it perfect for beginner riders and family rides. The park is open from sunrise to sunset year-round. On weekends, holidays and peak days, there is a parking fee that must be purchased online in advance. Plan ahead and find out if you have to pay this fee before you drive out!

Mountain Biking in Georgetown

In the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, there are endless miles of single-track that’s great for mountain biking. Popular places like Auburn and Nevada City attract a lot of riders for their notable trails. Just Southeast of Auburn lies another mountain biking gem: Rock Creek OHV near historic Georgetown, which is a 15-minute drive from the Resort.

Motorcyclists have been enjoying the Rock Creek trails for years, but it is still a developing area for mountain bikers. The Rock Creek trails are multi-use, so be aware of other riders. If you hear a motorcycle coming, get out of their way!

The trails are fast and choppy. There are sections with loose rocks and baby heads that can send you spinning if you’re not prepared. These trails are more suitable for advanced riders. You should plan on getting shuttled to enjoy the descent.

Leave No Trace

As with any other outdoor activity, when heading out on your bike, please remember the seven Leave No Trace (LNT) principles:

  • Plan ahead and prepare
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Leave what you find
  • Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire)
  • Respect wildlife
  • Be considerate of other visitors

These principles have specific application to mountain bikers in a number of ways. It is particularly important to plan ahead: know where you’re going, what the trail will be like, and pack everything you think you’ll need (if you need ideas, check out REI’s Ten Essentials). Do you need a shuttle? Is there enough room for parking? Is there free parking or should you bring cash with you? Have all the important questions answered.

For mountain bikers, it’s very important to ride on durable surfaces! As “they” say, “keep single-track single”. The trail is meant to be followed! If you do not have the skills to ride a specific section of trail, you can always get off your bike and walk it. There’s no shame in it!

Remember to “pack it in and pack it out”. Along these lines, you want to “go” before you go on the trail. Also, if you want to take something, please just take a picture. The purpose of this is to leave it as you found it for everyone else to enjoy, too!

Being considerate to other visitors is especially important for the mountain biking community. We share trails with other types of outdoor enthusiasts, and properly yielding the trail to other users goes a long way. In case you aren’t aware, the technical rules of yielding are as follows:

  • Hikers yield to horses
  • Mountain bikers yield to horses
  • Mountain bikers yield to hikers
  • The downhill rider yields to the uphill rider

Yielding might mean stopping and letting others pass, but it can also mean slowing down and clearly communicating with other people who are using the trail. Horses do not quite understand bikes, so making verbal and visual contact with horse riders helps them realize that we’re humans instead of machines, and it usually relaxes them.

Rest, Relax and Recover

After you’ve finished your epic ride through the spectacular scenery of the Sierra Foothills and you’ve logged your ride on Strava, Garmin or whatever your preferred platform is, make sure you post pictures on Facebook or Instagram of the awesome things you saw on your ride! Then, make the mandatory stop at the local brewery, and swap stories with other bikers.

Since recovery is just as important as exercise, once you’re back at the Resort, take a hot shower and maybe, if you feel like relaxing some more, jump into our in-ground swimming pool and stretch your sore muscles. You can shower again after. And then, while you’re all cozy in warm, dry (and nice-smelling) clothes, relax by the campfire and have all the s’mores you desire….you have certainly earned it! With a full belly, sleep under the stars while dreaming of awesome bike trails, and that bike you saw on the trail, which you can’t stop thinking about.

If you want to take a day off from riding, at the American River Resort there are many other outdoor recreation opportunities waiting for you, such as whitewater rafting, hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing, road biking, prospecting for gold, and the list goes on. Oh yeah, and you can just relax on the riverbank and do absolutely nothing! … Sometimes it doesn’t get much better than that!

Other Resources

California Expeditions offers guided mountain bike trips and mountain bike van shuttles in Auburn and Georgetown.

Folsom Auburn Trail Riders Action Coalition is active in helping the Department of Parks and Recreation develop and build mountain bike trails in our region.

MTB Project has a decent trail inventory, pictures, instructions and directions to most trailheads.