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  • Writer's pictureJason Sheck

Iowa Hill and Shirttail Canyon

Updated: Jan 17, 2021

To date, our winter hasn't been much of one so getting excited to ski and snowshoe hasn't been as easy as the past few winters. This means day trips around the region make their way to the top of the list a little more quickly than during other winters. After our Jeep ride through Kings Canyon (see the blog), and barely/luckily getting out of that icy creek crossing, I set out to find something a little less exciting for the next outing. Using a book my Mom gave me for Christmas (Guide to California Backroads & 4-Wheel-Drive Trails published by Funtreks), I sought out the easier routes. I came across the Iowa HIll and Shirttail route and thought it was perfect. It has bridges for Bri to photograph, some small waterfalls, and an "easy" rating in my guidebook. It was fun to get on the road and get out of Tahoe for a little while. The trail starts as a paved road out of Colfax, CA and heads east toward the gold mining era town of Iowa Hill. You pass by an old one lane suspension bridge from the 1930s and work your way up a shelf road that overlooks the North Fork American River Canyon, looking toward Auburn, CA. There were a couple buildings left in Iowa Hill, but very notably, an old Wells Fargo vault. The vault probably held millions in gold over the course of history. From there we wound our way through the curvy Sierra foothill roads and eventually took Shirttail Canyon road. The road made its way toward Indian Creek and ultimately back to the North Fork American River. At the river, Bri and I took some time to get out and walk around. We checked out a waterfull (Devil's Falls), we walked across Indian Creek on the rocks, and photographed the rickety one lane bridge that was our last point of interest for the day. The ride home was uneventful, though there was plenty of Tahoe traffic headed back into CA on Interstate 80 and Highway 89.

What did I learn?

The traffic leaving Tahoe on an ordinary weekend in the winter is far worse than I realized. Anyone trying to travel from Tahoe into CA should avoid travelling any time between Noon and and at least 7pm. This applies to Interstate 80, Highway 89 from Tahoe City to Truckee, and Highway 267 from Kings Beach to Truckee.

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