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Lake Clementine Trail

Updated: Jan 15, 2023

Location : Auburn, CA.

Parking : Roadside, $10 fee

Trail type : Out and Back

Trail Length : 4.5 miles rt

Elevation Gain : 698 ft

Difficulty : Easy, trending towards moderate

Trails traversed : Clementine Trail

Dogs Allowed ? Yes, along the trail, but not in the river.

Post Hike Grub Stop : Moonraker Brewery, CA.

Lake Clementine and North Fork Dam

Located about 40 minutes north of Sacramento, Lake Clementine is a reservoir of the North Fork American River. An arch dam, called the North Fork Dam, was built in 1939, to contain gold-mining debris which were washing downhill. The Lake Clementine trail, runs along the North Fork of the American River and ends at the cascading falls of the dam.


>> Got a question about Lake Clementine Trail that you need answered quickly? DM me on Instagram @SolaraStills and I’ll be happy to help! I only accept DMs from followers, so hit the follow button before sending.


Parking : The entire trail is within Auburn State Recreational Area. A parking fee of $10 is required for all cars entering the recreational area, even if parked on the roadside. Self-registration kiosks are found at regular intervals along the road, and if you are out of cash, checks are accepted as well. There were plenty of roadside parking spots when we arrived on a Saturday at 9.30am, especially close to the trailhead. Dont be intimidated by the long line of cars parked near the river. There is sufficient parking further up the hill along Old Foresthill Road/Hwy 49. However, when we returned to our car at 2pm, there were no empty spots visible. Restrooms are available at the trailhead.

The Trail : The trailhead starts diagonally across from the restrooms, on the other side of Hwy 49/Old Foresthill Road. An iron gate and a sign marks the start of the trail. The first two miles are almost flat, with a few gradual inclines. Through its entirety, the route runs along the North Fork American River, and you can hear the river gurgling below you as you make your way toward the dam.

The North Fork river runs parallel to the trail

About a quarter mile into the hike, the tallest bridge in California, and the 5th tallest in the country, the Foresthill Bridge comes into view. Continue to walk towards and under it as you admire the magnality of the bridge.

Foresthill Bridge

As you continue on the trail, you pass by a few swimming holes, make a mental note on which one you want to visit on your return. When we went in early July, wild, sweet blackberries were growing in abundance all along the trail.

Delicious, wild blackberries

About a mile past the bridge, the rocky trail ends at a gate and turns into a paved road for vehicles to drive down for the boat launch ramp at Lake Clementine. Turn left at the gate and continue down the steep paved road until the cascading falls and Lake Clementine come into full view at the very end of the road.

Rainbow and the cascading falls

This is a great place to have a picnic while enjoying the mist from the falls. The adventurous can venture down a rocky and steep incline to get closer to the falls for some unforgettable pictures.

Once you have your hearts fill of the falls, trace your way back where you came from. The first quarter mile of the trail on the paved road is steep, until you hit Clementine Trail and the iron gate where you make a right and start going downhill. Make your way back along the trail to explore and cool off at the one of the swimming holes you saw along the way. The cold water with the view of the bridge in the background make it an idyllic location to spend a hot summer afternoon.

One of many swimming spots along the river

Please note that the river water is known to contain a toxin harmful to dogs. So it is not advisable for dogs to swim in the North Fork of the American River.

When you return to your car after a day of Vitamin D, head to Moonraker Brewery in Auburn for a cold one before you hit the road for the long drive home.


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