South Placer County’s Most Spectacular Spring Hike?
Newcastle, Calif.- On a Tuesday morning, with a balmy, sunny 80+ degrees in the forecast and a few hours of early morning work already completed, the outdoors beckoned. I decided to take the call.
Sometimes, choosing a hike is no easy decision. Should you opt for an easy stroll or a shin busting marathon? Was the High Country or Foothills calling? Should you go with the tried and true of a favorite trail or explore a new adventure? After a few minutes on Google Maps, I opted for a new trek at Rattlesnake Bar in Newcastle. It’s proximity to Roseville would be the deciding factor on this day.
Within a half hour, I was at the gate of Rattlesnake Bar. A conversation with the young attendant offered little hope. He informed me that it was primarily a boat launch with not much hiking and a $12 parking fee. Thankfully, there are a few dirt parking spots just before you enter, so parking and walking in for free seemed the better choice. With no expectation of hiking, I didn’t plan on staying more than a few minutes to check things out.
Almost immediately upon entering the park, I came upon a smiling woman on horseback. She didn’t appear to be launching a boat, so we chatted. She pointed me to a narrow trail that seemed more appropriate for a deer, but her enthusiasm sold me and off I went. (Main trail access is available at the bottom of the parking lot on the left. It’s a steeper climb here.)
The trail quickly broke through dense forest onto a sunlit ridge where you can see parts of the North Fork of the American River. I became hopeful. The trails were bursting with wildflowers and it was impossible not to notice the abundance of active, orange, black, and purple adorned butterflies who were seemingly quite happy to participate in my photo shoot. I thanked them, said goodbye and pressed on.
Destination: Avery’s Pond
Continuing north, the wooded trail gently rose higher to offer stunning views of the North Fork below. The opposing shoreline was blanketed with vivid, purple wildflowers offering a stark contrast to the green covered hills. There is a lot for the senses to take in and time easily slips away on this trail each time you find yourself stopping to absorb a portion of it. Before long, you’ll arrive at the diminutive, yet character filled Avery’s Pond which is adjacent and a stone’s throw from the river. The pond has a short loop trail that encircles it and offers a great opportunity to take a break, have a picnic and enjoy the beauty.
At first glance, Avery’s Pond was rather quiet and uneventful. Looking a bit more closely, it becomes clear that you’re in some sort of Turtle Nirvana. Despite being shy creatures, it became impossible to count all the turtles. Some were floating and playing dead, while others with their tiny heads just above the waterline were effortlessly swimming at a turtle’s pace. You just might wish to bring your entire family along for the hike.
Cool Off and Quick Swim
After Turtle Nirvana, a short walk down to the river which was clear and cool on this April morning offered sweeping views of the shoreline and a picture perfect end to an amazing hike. It was time to retrace my steps and call it a day.
Avery’s Pond Trail is an easy, family-friendly hike just a short 15-30 minute ride by car from the Roseville and Rocklin area. Entering at Rattlesnake Bar in Newcastle, there is a $12 parking fee if you need to use the paved lot or boat launch. Great water views, opportunity to enjoy wildlife, water access and plenty of wildflowers. Bring plenty of water and a snack. Weekdays are best.
Rattlesnakes are common during warm months and mountain lions frequent the area, (fresh scat on top of rocks is a telltale sign) so plan accordingly.
FREE Parking Gone: The small, dirt lot just outside park that provided some free parking for hikers is no longer available due to No Parking signs. Hikers now must drive all the way down by the boat launch or horse assembly area to park and make the long trek back up the road to access some of the trails. On the upside, the trailhead available next to the boat launch makes the hike to Avery’s Pond shorter and easier for those that may need it.
(Article first published April 2013)