Hiking and Climbing in Auburn Quarry
By Nick Smith
From a parking lot, just off of Hwy 49 after you cross the American River, you can access a 1.7 mile trail that leads to an old limestone quarry. Auburn quarry is one of the most beautiful places in the Sacramento area. I’ve been hiking and climbing there regularly for nearly two years now and I’m still amazed by it every time I go!
For the first mile and a half the trail is mostly flat and very wide. Many people opt to ride mountain bikes up to the quarry to save time. Once in the quarry itself, there are a few trails that can take you up into multiple different areas. Hiking straight through the center past the blue porta potty will take you up a steep path to the upper quarry. This section is surrounded by striking 200 foot cliffs where you can see large caves drilled through the upper walls. Continue on this path and you will eventually loop back down to the main trail near the river. I would consider this section of the trail to be the most beautiful hike in Auburn.
From the entrance of the quarry, if you head left you will find a trail that leads to the top of one of the lower cliffs. If you aren’t scared of heights, this provides some really nice views. If you have extra time, this trail continues up to the top of the upper quarry’s cliffs. This hike is very steep and in certain areas quite slippery; however, if you can make it to the top you will be greeted by some spectacular sights of the quarry and the American river.
While it is very common to see multiple groups of climbers now, climbing in auburn quarry has not always been allowed. Due to a slacklining incident in the 80s, all recreational climbing was closed to the public. It wasn’t until 2013 that the organizations C.R.A.G.S and Access Fund worked together to reopen the quarry to the activity. This is a very good place to learn how to rock climb. In my time climbing there, everyone I’ve met has been more than friendly. In fact the first time I went to climb at the quarry, someone we met helped my friend and I set up our rope and gave us a refresher on how to be safe. Ideal climbing seasons here are spring and fall when there’s still plenty of light, but the sun isn’t overwhelmingly hot.
There’s a $10 fee for parking in the main lot if you don’t have a state park pass; however, if you park on the side of the road just before the parking lot it’s free. Park hours are from sunrise to sunset. Expect the hike into the quarry to take about 35 minutes if you don’t stop. Make sure you take at least 2 liters of water if you plan on staying a while and some sturdy hiking boots if you plan on hiking past the lower quarry. You may want to bring a swim suit in the summer because there is very easy access to the river where you’ll find some really nice places to relax and swim. Dogs are allowed so long as they’re friendly and are picked up after. All in all this is a fantastic easy to moderate hike for people of all ages with a couple more difficult variations for those who are looking for a bit more adventure.
Paste these coordinates to the parking lot into GPS: 38°54’43.1″N 121°02’06.4″W