The Olmstead Loop Trail is a moderately challenging 8.6-mile trail in the Auburn State Recreation Area in Cool, California. It's a great destination for cool canines and hip humans wanting to spend a day enjoying diverse scenery and getting a good aerobic workout. The trail starts at a parking area behind the fire station and goes from there, providing an undulating path through several lovely landscapes.
The Olmstead Loop was previously called the Knickerbocker Trail. This route is made up of several trail types including fire roads and single- and double-track dirt trails. It connects with several other trails along the way, including the Salt Creek Loop Trail, Pointed Rocks Trail, and Wendell T. Robie Trail. The often muddy trail with many short ascents and descents is popular with mountain bikers. Be prepared to share the trail with them, though expect to enjoy relative solitude on this lesser-known hike.
As you and your pup make your way around the loop, you'll pass through ranch land, forests, meadows, grasslands, and a canyon carved by Knickerbocker Creek. At higher altitudes, you'll find pine and oak, while bay laurels and maples grow in the riparian zone near the creek. This lowland area next to the water is shady and particularly serene—it's a great spot to stop for a picnic and to give your pup some belly rubs.
The hills are alive with wildflowers in the spring, and with wildlife all year round. There's so much to sniff here! Spring rains create temporary waterfalls along the creek and bogs and pools around the trail, watering springtime lupine, poppy, and monkey flower. Black-tailed deer, turkey, quail, and over 50 species of songbirds thrive in the area around the Olmstead Loop. There's a lot to see here, too—high points afford vistas of the North Fork American River Valley.
You and your dog should plan a full day on this hidden gem of a trail. You're sure to go home with a smile and a wag, tired and satisfied with the sights you've seen and the miles you've logged.