7.5 miles from Auburn Courthouse. Many easy-steep options. MAP
What a terrific place to explore. Knickerbocker is located in the Auburn State Recreation Area (ASRA) on the west side of highway 49, behind the town of Cool. The land was set aside by the Bureau of Reclamation as mitigation for habitat lost by the filling of the Auburn Dam. The dam was never finished but we got the Foresthill bridge anyway.
Widely used by equestrians and mountain bikes, this area features the popular Olmstead trail that loops for 9 miles around old abandoned homesteads and orchards. With half a dozen lakes, and many miles of criss-crossing trails, there are endless nooks and crannies to delight the curiosity of the curious.
Directions: Take Highway 49 towards Placerville 7.5 miles to the town of Cool. Turn L on Saint Florian Way, then park in the gravel parking-staging area behind the fire station ($$). Weekends you can park at Northside School, 1 mile south of Cool along highway 49 (free), or at Aaron Cool drive, ¼ mile N.
The Olmstead trail offers a good overview of this vast area as it loops south from the day use parking, goes behind Northside school, loops west towards the canyon rim, crosses steeply the Knickerbocker Creek, crosses the paved construction road, then loops around the north area and back to the parking lot.
The construction road (extension of St. Florian) bisects the area by going west to the Auburn Dam site (2+ miles paved), with another mile of unpaved road/trail going down to the river.
There must be at least 20 more miles of well established trails that link the lakes and creeks of the area and offer hikers many different trail loops and routes to choose from.
Bed rock mortars show that this area was once popular with Nisenan Indians for acorn gathering and hunting, and continues to support a generous variety of wildflowers and wildlife. Don’t be surprised if you see a coyote or a bobcat, they are a common sight for frequent visitors.