Springtime in the foothills of the Tahoe National Forest rewards hikers with a mother lode of color: red Indian paintbrush and gilia, white globe lily, and lavender iris, to name a few. See the palette for yourself—and the site of the gold-mining town of Deadwood to boot—on this strenuous out-and-back.
From the trailhead in Michigan Bluff (itself a former mining town), hike east on the Michigan Bluff Trail under a canopy of manzanita, oak, pine, and white fir down to El Dorado Canyon—a 1,600-foot drop in 2.5 miles. Cast a line or wade in the cottonwood-shaded pools of El Dorado Creek, then continue on across the bridge and turn north on the Last Chance Trail to climb above the east fork of the creek to Deadwood. The trail (marked with Western States Trail blazes) rises 2,000 feet in the next 3.5 miles, plunging through Ponderosa pine, cedar, and Douglas fir; watch for tasty wild grapes lining the trail (and watch out for poison oak). Conquer the last set of switchbacks at mile 4.5, then continue to the Deadwood townsite. Scout for the plaque honoring the county’s pioneers—it’s all that remains of this once-booming 1850s mining center.
Info: (530) 367-2224; www.fs.fed.us/r5/tahoe
Hike provided by Jordan Summers, author of 60 Hikes within 60 Miles–Sacramento (Menasha Ridge Press)