9 miles from Foresthill. Mostly steep 20 miles.
Here lies one of the oldest “mining era” mule trails left to be found and restored; the Tillotson trail left Michigan City (now Michigan Bluff) and went directly down to the North Fork of the Middle Fork American River where it crossed a wire bridge that still stands today. Even though it is missing its walkway, hardy souls enjoy crawling across on its rusting framework.
From the wire bridge the trail climbs up switch-backing the steep canyon side to reach the Mosquito Ridge road. The road cut carved an impossible slice through the old Tillotson trail here so this next section is all brush until it reaches the maintained Mosquito Ridge trail to the Middle Fork of the American.
The wire bridge across the Middle Fork is long gone and the trail up to Ralston is very overgrown. An extension trail once went from Ralston to Nevada Point, and that section is also very faint. Evan Jones of the “Historical Trails Foundation,” is currently spearheading efforts to save the old wire bridge from further decay, and is also working with volunteers to find and refurbish the Tillotson Trail. If you’d be interested in helping out his contact information is, Revwin@yahoo.com.
Frank Tillotson built the pack trail as a toll route to Ralston in 1885. He was also the mining superintendent of the Home Ticket mine in the gold rush town of Last Chance. The bridges weren’t added until 1896.
Directions to bridge: From Foresthill take Mosquito Ridge road 8.4 miles to a small turnout where a reflector stake is marked with an X. A steep ¼ mile trail leads down to the bridge. I can’t endorse climbing across the bridge but if you do you can follow the trail up to the road on the other side on a more primitive trail. Feel free to carry loppers to enhance the other side!