Today, being my day off, seemed a perfect day to go hiking. I’ve had the hike to Windy Point, on the North Fork American River on my list for some time, so decided I’d give it a try.
The trailhead is on Iowa Hill Road about fifteen minutes out of Colfax. Iowa Hill is a well paved but steep, narrow, winding road, which drops down to the North Fork. The trailhead is just under a mile past Mineral Bar campground, and is not particularly easy to see.
The hike started out on an old dirt road, shady and tree-lined. After a few minutes it breaks out of the trees onto open hillsides and the path narrows to a singletrack trail. This section is absolutely beautiful, with stunning views of the North Fork, and open meadows loaded with wildflowers. The trail is quite good quality in this section, and is pleasant though sometimes steep.
The path re-enters the woods, and the quality of the trail is variable. Poison oak is with you the rest of the hike, and at many points you just can’t avoid it. There are a couple of creek crossings to deal with in early season, but nothing overly difficult. The hardest thing in this last section of the hike is just the steepness and poor quality of the trail. And the worst is saved for last as you are literally dumped out on the banks of the North Fork of the American River.
It’s all worth it though… a classic riverside picnic spot. I sat down and had my luncheon, and watched a group of whitewater rafters careening through the rapids. Though this spot is called “Windy Point,” it was a bit muggy and the air was pretty still… so I kept wondering at what point it would get windy.
Of course, what comes down must go up, so I packed up and climbed back out of the canyon. After bushwhacking my way out of the poison oak forest, I was back on the open hillsides, and ahhh… the breeze finally came!
The hiking guide “Sixty hikes within sixty miles of Sacramento” rates this three mile hike as “moderate” in difficulty. Because of the crummy trail sections, and the proliferation of poison oak, I’d probably rate it “challenging” despite the short distance. It’s a great hike though, and the wildflower show makes this the perfect time to check it out.
Kit: Osprey Stratos 24 backpack; Smartwool Versa-T; Mountain Hardwear Canmore shorts; Point 6 Merino hiking socks; Vasque Breeze Low GTX boots; MHW Canyon hat; Cloudveil wind jacket.
A funny side story… about fifteen minutes into my hike, I realized I had left my wallet at home, and had driven all the way up here with no driver’s license/AAA card/money/credit cards/etc. On the drive home I had my cruise control set for 64 mph. A Sacramento citizen tried to change lanes into me about 15 minutes from home…. all I could think about was how bad it would be if I was in a accident with no license.