By Renee Jacobs
The recent USFS closures in California had us all wondering where to go – it seems like most of our favorite places to run are on forest service land! So for this month, we wanted to highlight some of the great options that we have elsewhere. As always, please follow all applicable California, Placer County, and Nevada County coronavirus precautions while you’re out there!
Figure 8 Loop on Northstar+Martis Valley+Waddle Ranch Trails
These 6.5-mile and 12-mile loops can be done in isolation, or together to create a nice 18.5-mile loop. The great thing about figure 8 loops is that you can use your car as an aid station!
Most of us have probably done at least part of the 6.5-mile loop on the Tomkins Trail, but not many seem to explore the southern trails close to the Northstar neighborhoods. This trail network has some great options for extending mileage and accessing a great hill climb on the Perimeter Trail (not included in this run) that eventually connects with the Sawtooth area trails.
If doing the 12-mile loop, I highly suggest starting earlier in the day and doing it counterclockwise, so that you are less likely to have a lot of mountain bike traffic on the Martis Peak downhill trails. I also recommend taking a gps device of some sort with a map. There are sections on both loops that can get very confusing due to a dense network of trails/roads, some of which are not on maps.
All of these routes can be found in this Caltopo Map. Gpx tracks can be downloaded from the “Download File:GPX” tool on the Export menu.
Park in the dirt lot on the south side of 267 near the “Northstar 1 mile” sign for both loops. Note that you can also park just east of the “Martis Creek Wildlife Area” but this lot is small and fills up often.
For the 12-mile loop, head south on the dirt road and turn left on another dirt road that parallels highway 267. Mule’s Ear covers the slope in early summer.
At the Northstar Drive light, cross 267 then cross the Middle Martis Creek on a bridge and head south, following a trail that takes you up at a pleasant grade on the hillside adjacent to 267. This trail does not see as much traffic from aggressive MTB downhillers. The trails ends at a dirt road. Take this road north for about 1/4 mile to more singletrack. This next portion of trail takes you up and over a small, scenic, rocky high point covered in flowers in early summer.
Next, the trail follows a ridge north, which leads to a fun downhill towards Monte Carlo Creek. Turn left to join the East Martis Creek trail, heading west. Note there is still plenty of water running in East Martis Creek (as of mid September).
Note that instead of following Martis Creek back, if you keep going north towards Dry Lake and/or to the Glenshire neighborhood network south of Royal Way, this can get you a marathon or more, and none of the trails are on USFS land. There’s a lot of mileage out there!
Take the little-used Elizabethtown Meadows trail back to your car, enjoying the views of the Martis Valley, Northstar, and the Pacific Crest on the way.
For the 6.5 mile loop, head south again on the dirt road until it ends at maintenance buildings. A short stint on on a paved bike paths gets you to Basque, turn left on Wolf Tree, and find the trailhead to get back onto dirt around 513 Wolf Tree. Head west on well-maintained double track trails back down to the Martis Creek area. Join the doggies and hikers, taking the popular loop clockwise back to your car. There is always water in these golf course runoff-fed creeks.