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West Ridge &
Long Valley Trails
Directions: Take Hwy 50 to Placerville. Turn left onto Hwy 49.
After passing through Coloma, turn left on Pedro Hill Rd., and take a slight left into the gravel parking lot.
When he wasn’t musing on humankind’s futile search for meaning in an irrational universe, French philosopher Albert Camus was always down for a good fall hike, remarking that “autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” It’s an axiom that certainly holds true at Cronan Ranch—12 miles of interconnected trails that dash up and down blue-oak-embroidered terrain near the American River’s rushing south fork. After a brief jog on the main road, head up the immediate incline of the West Ridge Trail, where you’ll hear the pleasant clank of cowbells coming from the green-canopied ravine on your right. The path slims into a star-thistle-lined single track as you first witness the brilliant blue slash of the American River ribboning through the hills on your left. When you descend (stay alert for overzealous mountain bikers, horseback riders and trail runners), hang a right at the “American River Trail” sign. You’ll see a similar sign about 10 minutes later, and when you do, take the switchback down the hill and you’ll find yourself at a secluded sandy beach on a luxuriantly slow section of the river, complete with a single wooden table that’s ideal for a private picnic. When you’re done snacking and soaking your feet, head back up and take the trail in the opposite direction. You will eventually see a series of weathered structures, including a dilapidated two-room ranch house—the remains of a movie set, used in 2005’s Memoirs of a Geisha. The entrance for the Long Valley Trail is right there; it will take you past verdant patches of flowering reeds—signposts for an underground stream—before depositing you back on the main road to your car. arconservancy.org —T.S.
Barbecue fans won’t want to miss the tender ribs, nicely barked brisket and succulent pulled pork sandwiches at Hog Wild in Placerville, where the southern-inspired sauce (by way of Hawaii, where owner Kat Markwell hails from) has just the right amount of savory-sweet tang. A recent addition to the Hangtown food scene (it opened in May), this family-run joint prides itself on quality grub with friendly service. The fall menu promises to add stews, chowders and a gigantic pork steak to its list of mouthwatering smoked meats. 38 Main St., Placerville. 530-622-3883