This hike was from the Iowa Hill Store, in the old mining town of Iowa Hill, down to the North Fork of the American River. We had hiked the northern Stevens Trail from Colfax to Secret Ravine and really enjoyed it. Then we found out about this "forgotten side" of Stevens Trail that also takes you to Secret Ravine, but from the south and on the opposite side of the river.
Coming from Sacramento we took I-80 East to Colfax and exited at Canyon Way (Exit 133). Turn left onto Canyon Way and then in about a mile turn right on Iowa Hill Road. This road will wind you through the hills for over 8 miles, including some pretty scary, unguarded drop-offs. That was an adventure in itself. We stopped midway at Mineral Bar Campground to use the restrooms there, then continued up Iowa Hill Road to the Iowa Hill Store.
We had heard you can park across the street the from the store, but there where some pickups there, so we parked at the store and asked if it was ok to leave our car there. The man behind the counter said "Sure", so we started loading up our backpacks and gear from the car. This is when 5 dogs came to greet us. There were 2 adorable Red Bone Coon Hound puppies, 2 Pit Bulls, and a yellow Lab. A friendly local man came over and told us how one of the Pit Bulls, "Shorty", loves to go with people on their hikes. Shorty's owner was there too and wasn't opposed to Shorty accompanying us (although I don't think he could have stopped him anyway). Well, not only Shorty, but a smaller Pit Bull ("Spike" maybe???) and the yellow Lab ("Moose") came with us. They had a blast running up and down the trail and up and down the hillside, but always stopped and waited for us to catch up. They did the entire 7 mile hike with us. We were told by the locals that Shorty would also protect us from bears, but we didn't have to put that to the test. Shorty even has a business card that says "Iowa Hill Hiking with guide Shorty".
The hike itself was awesome. Very woodsy, so not much need for sunscreen on this one. It can get buggy though, so you might want to use bug spray on warmer days. You don't get as many spectacular views of the river as the northern trail, but you do get a few nice ones. And the moss covered boulders and rocks are very scenic.
It is very well maintained, and Truman Allen Stevens built a very sturdy trail over 150 years ago, however there are a few spots that have eroded and are a little tricky to get across. One rocky mound has a rope tied to a tree to help you get over it.
It was interesting to see and wave at the hikers on the other side at Secret Ravine where we had hiked a few weeks before. This time we got to see the southern side of the remains of Stevens' suspension bridge.
The trek back is all up hill, but at a moderate grade (we only had to stop a few times for a breather).
Be careful on the narrow, windy, at times scary, Iowa Hill Road.
Stevens Trail, Stevens Trail South, Iowa Hill, colfax, North Fork of the American River, American River