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Foresthill Divide Loop Trail
|Trail Name||Foresthill Divide Loop Trail|
|Distance||9.2 Miles Round Trip|
|Elevation Gain||1,518 Feet|
|Low Point||1,587 Feet|
|High Point||1,938 Feet|
|Trip Reports||Foresthill Divide Loop Trail|
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This well maintained loop is among the newest trail to open in the ASRA, and it offers some beautiful views of Lake Clementine and both the North Fork and Middle Fork American River. Straddling the Foresthill Divide at elevations ranging from 1,600 to 1,900 feet, it provides a diversity of flora as it passes through all four American River Canyon eco-systems: yellow pine forest, foothill woodland, riparian woodland, and chaparral. It also passes through open grasslands that are abundant with wildflowers in the spring.
How to get there
Trailhead (west) is on Foresthill Rd, 3.5 miles east of Foresthill Bridge, at a large parking area on the right (known locally as the Grizzly Bear House turnout. Trailhead (east) is on Foresthill Rd, 7 miles east of Foresthill Bridge (0.2 mile past Drive Flat Road) at a large parking area on the left. Both traiheads have a porta-potty.
The Foresthill Divide Loop Trail offers a quintessential American River Canyon experience for hikers, bikers, and equestrians, and it is extremely popular year round. Starting the loop at trailhead (west) adds one mile to the 8.2 mile loop, but it is the closer trailhead coming from Auburn.
The trail begins at a green gate behind the parking area and then turns left into the shade of oak and foothill pines. About 100 yards east of the parking area, there is an old rock formation of a hotel nestled in the trees. This hotel served miners during the gold rush era and was called the Grizzly Bear House, appropriately named because the skin of an enormous grizzly bear was spread out on one of its walls, seeming to take the whole house in its embrace.
The trail soon opens up into large rolling grasslands dotted with majestic oaks and beutiful wildflowers in the spring. At 0.5 mile, turn right at the Drivers Flat marker, which puts you onto the 8.2-mile loop going counter-clockwise. At 1 mile, a side trail to the right leads to an overlook with a magnificent panoramic view of the Middle Fork American River from Poverty Bar to east, to Brown's Bar to west. This side trail adds 0.8 miles and 200 ft of elevation change.
Returning to the loop trail, it meanders in and out of shaded foothill woodlands ecosystem and sunny chaparral dominated by manzanita, buck brush and chemise. At 1.4 miles, the trail turns right while a dirt road continues straight.
Those interested in a shorter, 3.9-mile loop should continue straight on the dirt road; carefully cross Foresthill Road and go right for 200yards; turn left onto Upper Lake Clementine Road and go 0.2 mi. down the road to find the loop trail again. Turn left on the loop trail and proceed 2 miles to return to the west trailhead.
for those remaining on the 8.2-mile loop, the trail becomes narrower and more scenic. At the 2.2-mile point, there is a grand view of the Middle Fork and the Cool limestone quarry to the west. At 3 miles, a well-built, wooden bridge crosses a creek (running in winter and spring). A bit further, there is a fork in the trail. Stay to the left. At 4.1 miles, either continue straight on the loop trail or turn left and proceed up Drivers Flat. to Forest Hill Rd. Either way, when you get to the road carefully cross and proceed to the parking lot at the east trailhead. This marks the halfway point of the 8.2 mile loop trail.
From the east trailhead, the loop trail continues behind the parking area. It is mostly shaded with no open meadows, passing through dense yellow pine forest and foothill woodlands. The views are less grand on this side of the Forest Hill Divide, although glimpses of the North Fork American River and Lake Clementine can sometime be seen through the trees in the canyon below.
At 2.5 miles from the east trailhead the loop trail crosses Upper Lake Clementine Road. Cross Upper Lake Clementine Rd, go 3.8 miles through densely shaded forthill woodlands, and emerge on Foresthill Rd. Carefully cross the road and go 0.2 miles to a trail intersection. To return to the west trailhead, turn right and go 0.5 miles. To return to the east trailhead, go straight for 4.2 miles.