Cronan Ranch Regional Park in El Dorado County’s Pilot Hill just north of Coloma has a history as rich as its varied natural habitats. A draw for Native populations escaping the hot Central Valley to fish and hunt, the area was later owned by a gold miner turned private rancher and was purchased by the American River Conservancy; it’s now owned and managed by Bureau of Land Management. With 12 miles of trails through grasses and wildflowers, willow trees and pine, a mountain biker can enjoy up to 30 miles of riding through the Sierra Nevada foothills landscape. The East Ridge and Long Valley Trail Loop takes you on a climb up the east ridge along the foothills with views of the South Fork of the American River, woodlands and then Salmon Falls to the south. The return zigzags on a wider trail back to the parking lot.
Distance: 4.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate, with about 515 feet of climbing
Parking: Cronan Ranch parking lot at Pedro Hill staging area, off Highway 49
Restrooms: Cronan Ranch parking lot
Beware: This is rattlesnake and poison oak territory; take precautions and stay on the trails. It can get hot in the summer, so bring plenty of water and sunscreen.
Things to see and do: This trail is a visual feast, with fields blanketed with flowers in the spring, along with numerous bird species, deer, bobcats, coyotes and even mountain lions. Near the halfway point, check out the abandoned movie set for the 2003 Hallmark film “Love Comes Softly.” Begin or top off your ride with a stop at Sierra Rizing Bakery and Coffee House along Highway 49 in Lotus. Other great spots include the burger joint Local Heroes of Auburn, Timmy’s Brown Bag for takeout sandwiches, and Solid Ground Brewing for brews.