Overview -Date/Time: May 13, 2017/10:00AM - Weather: Clear skies - Time Duration: ~ 2 Hours - Distance: 4.6 miles RT Difficulty: moderate
Tucked within the North Fork American River Canyon near the town of Auburn, the Lake Clementine trailhead has been a popular destination for families, college students and hike junkies alike for its easy difficulty and pleasant sights of the American River and waterfall. If you are residing in or around the Sacramento area, this place is ideal if you wish for a nice get away from everyday life and not wanting a difficult trail to get to a spectacular view. Despite its small stature compared to various other waterfalls mentioned in this website such as the McArthur-Burney Falls, Lake Clementine gives visitors an easy-to-access and up-close experience of a waterfall that you can rarely find anywhere else.
According to various posts on websites such as Yelp and All-Trail, there are various way to get to the Lake Clementine Trail: one starts near Auburn, CA while another starts right at Clark’s Pool (the lake which the waterfall comes from and the supposed final destination of this particular trail.) My suggestion is to start at the entrance of the trail near the Foresthill Bridge, which you can find by using this address:
137 Old Foresthill Rd, Auburn, CA 95603
You will notice that you are near the entrance when you see lines of cars parked alongside the side of the road. After you park your car in any open space you can find, be sure to visit the ranger station that is located near the bridge with the North Fork American River sign and the beginning of the Lake Clementine Trail. You can easily notice it by the small station with restrooms and a small map-post of the surrounding area. You must pay $10 for a One-Day parking pass, otherwise the park rangers will fine your car if you do not have a pass visible on your windshield; rangers patrol the side of the roads every so often checking if the cars have passes visible, so do not take any chances by not visiting the station.
Look for the gate labeled #139 to begin your hike through Lake Clementine. The gate should be on the side of the road over the bridge as the road begins to go uphill. The trail is well paved throughout and spacious, however there are not a lot of shade along the first half of the trail so be sure to bring any sun-protection here if you plan on coming during mid-day. The trail leads along the North Fork American River and you get to pass under the Foresthill Bridge. The scenery of the trail is constant throughout with a wide road, some trees, shrubbery and dirt for the first mile. The trail then goes uphill and enclosed by more trees, so go up the slope until you hit the next gate as well as a fork in the road. Additionally, you will know that you are close to that point when you are able to see the dam and the waterfall from afar.
At the fork of the road, one will go uphill and the other downhill; take the road leading downhill and be sure to stick to the side of the road to avoid cars. You will eventually find a space with a dirt path leading downwards while the concrete road begins to go uphill. You will have to take the dirt trail in order to reach the waterfall. Once you take the trail you will arrive at the top area of the Lake Clementine Dam and Clark Pool, which you can see along the railing past the dam.
The main spectacle of the Lake Clementine waterfall begins at a small opening leading downhill once again. Head down the path while being care of the steep trail and you will find yourself on platforms of rocks overlooking the waterfall at a much more closer location. You can head to the right to get closer to the waterfall itself, towards a cliff which is wet from the water. Alternatively, you can also head to the left path and go further down closer to the river. Be careful as you doit though; the path is steep, there are poison ivy near the trail and the rocks near the riverbed are wet and slippery. However, you get to see the bottom of the waterfall as well as a closer look at the river. You can also notice the rainbow reflecting off the water.
Remember that around mid-day, there will be a lot of visitors who will come especially on weekends and holidays, so be prepared for a crowd as well as fighting for the best photo op if you plan on bringing any cameras or using your phone. I prefer to go in the morning to avoid all of the traffic and clutter that may happen during the day.
One of the more easier day trips to make while staying in the Sacramento area and definitely one of the best ones there. As it is a popular hike for many people, there will be more people around, especially during the late spring all the way to summer. However, if you have or brought family to the area and want a pleasant place to walk, explore and be refreshed by a waterfall, then Lake Clementine should be your next stop.