Passing through California’s historic Gold Rush country, the El Dorado Trail runs more than 35 miles from Camino west to the line between El Dorado and Sacramento counties, just south of Folsom. It follows two former rail lines, the Southern Pacific Railroad and Michigan-California Railroad, and is designed to accommodate hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians.
The rail-trail is a work in progress. Between Camino and Diamond Springs, where the trail winds through the Sierra Nevada foothills, it is largely paved. For the remainder—from El Dorado westward—the trail has a natural dirt surface, often with the original the tracks and ties still intact.
A small section of those tracks are still in use. The El Dorado County Historical Museum operates excursion trains on the El Dorado Western Railroad on Sundays between the Shingle Springs Depot (4241 Mother Lode Drive) and the El Dorado Station (6000 Oriental Street).
In Placerville, one can easily hop off the trail to enter downtown and enjoy the historical buildings and charms of an old gold-rush town. Between Placerville and Diamond Springs, a highlight of the trail is the breathtaking Weber Creek trestle that dates back to 1903 and towers about 100 feet above the creek.
Farther west, trail-goers can shore up in Shingle Springs, where amenities can be found along Mother Lode Drive with several restaurants within a few blocks. On the south side of the street is Bradford Park, which offers restrooms and covered picnic areas.
From Shingle Springs to the county line, the views are pure wild west, where goats and cattle roam alongside the trail.
Future possibilities include extending the trail farther east from Camino to the Lake Tahoe Basin along the old Pony Express Trail.
On the east end of trail, parking is available in the Placerville area:
- In Smithflat, a large parking lot is available near intersection of Jacquier Road and Camelia Lane.
- Parking is also available at the Placerville Station (2970 Mosquito Road) at the intersection of Mosquito Road and Clay Road. To reach it, take the Broadway exit from US 50. Restrooms are also available in the building, which serves as a trailhead and bus station.
- In Diamond Springs, parking is available off Missouri Flat Road. (Do not park in the adjacent Sierra Door & Supply lot as it is private property.)
On the west side of the trail, parking is available in Shingle Springs. There is a gravel parking lot in Bradford Park (4300 Motherlode Drive).