How does this work?
Auburn State Recreation Area, California, United States

Quarry Trail

Walk along the river where the historic railway once traveled and end up at a stunning amphitheater of carved limestone

provided by
Viewed 53891 times
    This guide contains photos This guide contains audio
 (11 votes, 9 reviews)
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 3.5 miles / 5.6 km
Duration: 1-3 hours
Family Friendly • Dog Friendly
Overview: This great hike along the Middle Fork of the American River ends in a spectacular amphitheater of sheer limestone walls rising around you. Enjoy the natural beauty of the American river canyon and also pass by an enormous cave that was the site of both paleontologic excavations and more mining activities. Learn about the plants and animals present today in the canyon environment as well as the mining history of the region.

The trail is wide and smooth (some people even push baby strollers on it) and is mostly level in grade with the exception of the last bit up to the quarry.

The trail follows the path of the old railway that was used to carry out the limestone. When it existed, the railway had standard gauge sized tracks and the cars were actually backed down the path 4 times daily to be filled with limestone and taken 7 miles to Auburn for cement production. In 1942 the railroad tracks were taken out for scrap iron for WWII.

Tips: You can view a display of fossils from the Hawver Cave, including a replica of a saber tooth tiger skull, at the Placer County Courthouse Museum in nearby Auburn.

Points of Interest



There is a parking lot just off to the East side of Hwy 49. Make sure to leave your CA Parks Poppy Pass or your day pass visible on your windshield, the trailhead is downhill at the end of the parking lot.


Start the walk here. There are 2 rest stops with picnic benches along the trail and a few more at the end. Mountain bikes are allowed as are dogs on leashes.

Water Flow Gauge site

Notice the small grey hut on the opposite side of the river? Inside the hut there once was equipment for monitoring the volume of water passing by at any given moment. Upstream, pipes issue a controlled release of the water in this river. Water levels vary from about 100 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 1000 cfs. These conditions change the character of the river dramatically (especially for recreational pursuits) and thus the current levels are monitored closely by the kayakers and boaters. One public resource where you can find up-to-date and historical water level data is at the California Department of Water Resources homepage:

Railcar loading station

The cement structures you see here were used to load the limestone from the quarry above into railcars for transport out.

Trail to Quarry and Hawver Cave

Head up here to see the quarry and the cave.

Hawver Cave

Discovered in 1906 by Dr. John C. Hawver, Auburn Dentist and Paleontologist, this cave was the site of many fossil discoveries and geological interests. Later it was co-opted for the quarry operations as an easy way to transport out material. Now it is closed for public use however it may be opened up for scheduled guided tours in the coming years.


This limestone quarry represents the efforts to mine one of the purest limestone deposits in the US. Limestone originates from old coral reefs that have been metamorphosed by pressure and heat and solidified. This particular limestone was used primarily as an ingredient for cement.

Listen as Eric Peach from Protect American River Canyons (PARC) describes the quarry history over the years.
Please install flash to listen to the audio
Auburn Quarry

Canyon Foliage

The plants found along the quarry trail are representative of what can be found throughout much of the American River canyon. You have oak trees of a few varieties including Canyon Live Oak and Interior Live Oak and California Black Oak. There are Big-leaf Maples, Willows, Foothill Grey Pine, Ponderosa Pine, plentiful Buckeyes, Toyon, and even the occasional Fig tree, a species most likely brought in by the miners.

Rest area


Rest area


Canyon Animals

Be aware of River Otters you might see playing in the river down below. They enjoy feasting on Crayfish, an activity that often leaves the crustacean's empty shells strewn along the banks. Merganser River Ducks, Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies, Praying Mantises, Dragonflies and butterflies are sometimes seen along this stretch of river with California's State butterfly, the Dogface Butterfly, being a rare treat to see in the late Spring.
Pictures in this guide taken by: chris, Eric Peach,, pablo
Please help! I went for a hike on the quarry trail towards cool california and my boston terrier got away from us. we were by the river and she ran up towards the main trail. We couldn't keep up and eventually lost track of her. If you happen to go hiking around that area and see a boston terrier with tags, her name is Lucy. She's 1 yr old and I just adopted her about a month ago so she is still pretty fragile and frightened easily. I will check my account here for messages daily. Thank you in advance!!! 10/25/2015
Visited on Oct 25, 2015

by lostboston10_25 on Oct 26, 2015

by planetwin on Jun 02, 2015
beautiful place.... just heaven ...nice people

by thomsongreen on May 05, 2015
Bring water, there is limited shade and my dogs got very hot.
Really cool cave at the end of trail and beautiful scenery, I will return!!
Also lots of places to stop and have lunch and go down to the river and let the dogs drink and play

Visited on Jul 14, 2013

by MizMistalina on Jul 14, 2013
Great trails enjoyed the hike. to GPS it.... that's the challenge.... use your phone and map it for turn by turn driving directions use Google NAV. Once there, log the POI on your car's GPS to return. I did that because I am not from the area.
Visited on Feb 09, 2013

by careygrp on Feb 13, 2013
I went on a hike around this area. We basically just park when there are other cars along the highway just across a bridge generally so there is a pathway down to the water. Sorry I can't be more specific but it's better than paying to park and really anywhere you walk around here is beautiful. My sister took me scrambling along the side of the river over beautiful rocks. There is great swimming and fishing here! I particularly enjoy seeing the railroad tracks that had fallen in the water, which are perfectly visible in the crystal water. There are also a few large cement blocks tipped in as well that are fun to see. Very cool if you are into light rock climbing. Where we were at least. There are pathways around too of course! But if you want to climb all over things you can find the places to scale :)

by LaurelRae7.5 on Dec 18, 2012
We hike here a lot with our dogs. There are lots of trails off this one to keep you busy all day.
Visited on May 10, 2011

by hkashkouli on Jun 28, 2011
I went on this trail it was very nice. The only thing is we went beyond this trail and turned around at the sign for squaw valley, we saw a black tail doe and some other wild life. I would recommend it to any one who is looking to get away for the day. bring water :)
Visited on May 28, 2011

by hmurlot on May 29, 2011
This is a pretty easy trail along the river. The hike isn't particularly scenic or amazing, but the coolest part is when you reach the old mining grounds at the end of the hike.

At the top you can look into the mining cave and walk through the giant quarry, which makes you feel like an ant.

The walk is worth it to see the old equipment and quarry.

Visited on Oct 26, 2010

by chris on Jan 27, 2011

Quarry Trail Trail Map

POIs: numbers | icons View large Trail Map

Have an iPhone or Android?

  • Map your route while you move
  • Add trip photos to your map instantly
  • Share trips right from your phone
  • Find and follow trips from other travelers

Available For:
iPhone | Android

About the Author

84 guides
view chris's profile
I've been keeping track of my travels on my travel blog, When I'm not...

Quarry Trail 3 Day Forecast

Extended Forecast
How To Get There
Get directions from: