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Flippin' Friday - Olmstead Loop - 9 miles - INT/ADV

Okay, so we're off on another Flippin' Friday adventure...this time avoiding the dreaded Training Hill and instead exploring the beautiful scenery along the Olmstead Loop.

Don't worry all of you TH junkies, if you really want to do it, you could always start at the bottom of TH and meet us up on Cool for the Loop part.  Let me know in your RSVP if you decide to go this route so that we can meet up on top!

There will be some undulation (rolling hills) and of course some streams to cross, so the 9 miles should be enough to get the heart pumping.

Let's meet at the trailhead behind the fire station in Cool (if you park there it costs $10, but if you park on the street it's free) at 9.30 am.

Bring plenty of water, snacks if needed, sticks, sun hat and as always, a great sense of humor - you'll probably need it on one of my hikes!

For those of you who have not yet done this loop, here's the description:

Distance: 8.6 miles; 4 hours (hiking), but a variety of shorter trail options/ cutoffs are also possible
Difficulty: Moderate
Slope: 2% avg; 14% max.
Trailhead / Parking: (N[masked]; W[masked])


Trailhead and parking are behind the fire station in Cool. Take Hwy 49 south to Cool and turn right just before the fire station and blinking red light. This is also the Cool staging area for equestrians. Trailhead is on south end of the parking area.

This beautiful loop trail, which parallels Hwy 49 on one side and the American River Canyon on the other, passes through open, rolling hills with several species of oak trees, and wildflowers in spring. It also includes steep canyon descents and climbs as it crosses Knickerbocker and Salt Creeks. Side trails on the canyon side offer panoramic views of the North Fork American River and of the Auburn dam construction site. Trail markers have been posted about every half-mile and at most trail intersections.

The Olmstead Loop Trail is especially popular in the springtime when wildflowers are in bloom, ponds and vernal pools are visible, and over 50 species of birds can be seen. Weekends attract many bikers and equestrians. Although bikers seem to be attracted to the mud, hikers are cautioned not to take this trail after a rain since most of the trail holds water and has a tendency to become very muddy, making hiking quite laborious. The Cool Mountain Bike Race, usually held in February, uses this trail and is well known for its large amounts of flying mud.
Proceeding around the loop in a clockwise direc-tion, most of the first section of the trail is fairly flat and meanders through a typical foothill oak woodland ecosystem. It passes a small horse ranch surrounded by sprawling hills where sheep roam, providing great views of the snow-capped Sierras in the distance. At about 3½ miles, the trail starts winding down through a pine forest to Knickerbocker Creek. At the creek crossing, you can enjoy the natural setting with its pools and rushing water before heading uphill again. The more adventurous may want to scramble down the rocks to see a beautiful waterfall and pools in the lush riparian ecosystem along Knickerbocker Canyon.
Continuing on the Olmstead Loop, the trail is a bit arduous beyond Knickerbocker Creek, but after another half mile you will be at the top of a hill that affords a grand view. The trail soon crosses a wide, paved road that was built to provide access to the top of the keyway for the Auburn dam (to the left). For a shortcut, take this road to the right for 1¾ miles to get back to the Cool fire station (for about a 7-mile loop).
The Olmstead Loop crosses the paved road and continues on for about another 4 miles. It inter-sects the Auburn to Cool Trail (labeled Coffer Dam Trail on the markers) twice, once before climbing up a rather steep hill and again shortly before crossing Salt Creek, which is at the
bottom of an even steeper descent. Past this point, a gradual climb affords lovely views. The terrain flattens out, and then another steady climb takes you to the top of a shady knoll. Here, the trail meets the Pointed Rocks Trail, (see separate trail guide) which descends left to the confluence area .
The Olmstead Loop descends gradually after this, winding to the right in a big U-turn past out-croppings of pointed rocks. It passes two side trails that lead to the Western States Trail (labeled Wendell T. Robie Trail on the markers), which both take off to the left. Tevis Cup riders and 100-mile endurance runners use the WST for their annual Squaw Valley-to-Auburn races.
At the bottom of a hill, the Olmstead Loop crosses the headwaters of Salt Creek, which runs through wide-open meadows. The trail then crosses another small knoll before returning to the Cool fire station.

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  • Elizabeth B.

    thanks for posting the great photos!!

    April 14, 2014

  • Ping C.

    I tried uploading some photos but they don't seem to be showing up. Is the gallery capped at 80 photos?

    April 12, 2014

    • Ping C.

      Never mind figured it out. Had to upload from my laptop. Couldn't do it from my phone.

      April 12, 2014

  • Elizabeth B.

    Great time with great people!

    April 12, 2014

  • Kathy

    Thank you Carla for leading another beautiful hike. I really enjoyed all the California poppies at the end. - wading in the swamp.....not so much but it was an adventure as always!

    1 · April 11, 2014

  • Carla

    Lovely spring day for hiking. Great job crew, as always...I'll miss you all next week, but will be back for another Flippin' Friday on 4/15...

    1 · April 11, 2014

    • Beatrice S.

      This was a long and beautiful hike! Thank you for taking our group out every Friday on a new hiking adventure, well except next Friday. See you again on 4/25 :-) Frohe Ostern!

      April 11, 2014

  • Karen C

    Wonderful hike Carla. Enjoyed meeting everyone. The wild flowers were beautiful, especially the poppies. What a great group. Thank you!

    April 11, 2014

  • Frank W.

    Thanks Carla. You picked a great day to see the wildflowers and feel the sunshine. Also, the dogs and I had fun in the little mud puddles.

    April 11, 2014

  • Ping C.

    Thanks for leading the hike Carla! Had a wonderful time and met some great people! If you want more info on the El Dorado Trail, let me know and I'll help as much as I can:)

    April 11, 2014

    • Carla

      Thanks Ping. It was a pleasure meeting you and Betty. And yes, I'll let you about the ride...we're tentatively planning on the weekend of 26 or 27th April. Just have to confirm with our friends.

      April 11, 2014

  • Cheryl h.

    This had to be a good hike, I'm exhausted and hungry. Thank you Carla, once again a beautiful day.

    April 11, 2014

  • Sandy

    Carla, Thank you once again for the great hike. Enjoyed seeing all the poppies and green meadows.

    April 11, 2014

  • Ron T.

    Carla, Great trail-- my first time on the complete loop. The tall green grass , wild flowers and the hikers made for a great Friday morning.
    Thank you

    April 11, 2014

  • Jan

    Anyone want to have lunch at the pizza place after?

    April 10, 2014

    • Kathy

      I would have loved to but the technician is coming to hopefully fix what ails my computer. Got to be home by 1:30.

      April 10, 2014

    • Carla

      Would love to, but have to work at the school book fair later in the afternoon, so like Kathy hope to be home by 1.30p.

      April 11, 2014

  • Karen C

    Anyone going from EDH or Folsom area want to carpool?

    April 10, 2014

  • Marcia A

    Sorry to be dropping out at the last minute. Hopefully I will make the next hike.

    April 10, 2014

  • Cheryl h.

    Absolutely, we can all drive together. I have a silver Prius with a large bike rack on the back, hard to miss. See both of you around 8:45.

    April 10, 2014

  • Gladys C.

    Hi Tom, I like to car pool we can meet at park and ride
    sun splash Rooseville, let me know the time

    April 10, 2014

    • Tom Collins 🍸

      Thanks, but I had to cancel off the trip. Didn't realize it was on a Fri.

      April 10, 2014

  • Cheryl h.

    I am in EDHs and would love to carpool. We can meet at the Starbucks in the Safeway shopping center on Francisco around 8:45am, if that works for you. I will be glad to drive. I do have a small dog who will sit in the back just for your info. Hope to hear from you.

    April 10, 2014

    • Karen C

      I can meet there also. It is near my house. What are you driving Cheryl?

      April 10, 2014

    • Elizabeth B.

      Glad you got the post, just emailed you back Karen.

      April 10, 2014

  • Ping C.

    Looking forward to meeting everyone!

    April 9, 2014

  • Christy

    Sounds like Marley and Sally might be there! (Without mama, tho... :-(

    April 9, 2014

    • Carla

      Cool...who is bringing them? Haven't seen them (or you) for ages...

      April 9, 2014

    • Christy

      Elisa & Joaquin, if they make it... I'll be there in spirit! Hoping this summer to have Friday mornings open again.. (And remember - reprimand Marley if he jumps up to get petted! :-)

      April 9, 2014

  • Amy W.

    Changed my RSVP. Century ride on Saturday. Sure miss you all and the hiking. Have a great flippin time and see you next hike

    April 6, 2014

  • Barbara C

    Anybody living in the Citrus Heights/Roseville area want to carpool from the park & ride next to the Water Park in Roseville?

    March 27, 2014

    • Tom Collins 🍸

      I live in CH and can carpool.

      April 5, 2014

    • Barbara C

      Oops. I apologize. I put this comment on the wrong meetup event. Sorry. I'm actually going to have to change my RSVP on this. I feel so dumb! But at least I got the discussion started . . . (Cringe)

      April 5, 2014

  • Peggy

    Really wanted to go on this one, but now I've got a schedule conflict. Have fun!

    April 1, 2014

  • Gladys C.

    Hi Barbara, I will be coming from W.Sacramento. I like to carpool I can meet you at the Water park, let me know the time. thank you.

    April 1, 2014

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