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U.S. Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Region Viewing Area


View of Caples Creek. View of Caples Creek. Photo by Deb Carlisle.

Snow plants. Snow plants. Photo by Deb Carlisle.

Hiker on erratic boulder. Hiker on erratic boulder. Photo by Deb Carlisle.

Hikers on granite bedrock. Hikers on granite bedrock. Photo by Deb Carlisle.

Caples Creek Trail

Forest: Eldorado National Forest

District: Placerville Ranger District

Description: The Caples Creek Trail leads to Government Meadow. The Caples Creek Trail is a moderate 4-mile round trip hike through red fir forest and wet meadows with views of cascading Caples Creek and the Silver Fork of the American River.

Viewing Information: This special area has something to offer to everyone: wonderful wildflower viewing, old growth trees, interesting birds and spectacular scenery for photographers. The optimum time to view wildflowers is June; however, June through October can provide the observer with many botanical treasures from wildflowers to fall color. Early season wildflower enthusiasts will be rewarded with numerous snow plants (Sarcodes sanguinea) and spotted coralroot orchids (Corallorhiza maculata) dotting the understory of the red fir forest. As the Caples Creek Trail intersects the Old Silver Lake Trail, you will find a lush meadow with granite rock outcrops and large boulders on one side. One of the magenta pink flowers growing on the rock outcrops is mountain pride penstemon (Penstemon newberryi). Other interesting species you may find include: mountain jewelflower (Streptanthus tortuosus) on the rocks and western blue flag iris (Iris missouriensis) in the meadow. As you hike past the first meadow and reach Government Meadow, you’ll find a white violet with purple nectar guides known as Macloskey’s violet (Violet macloskeyi).

In addition to wildflower viewing, the forest attracts a wide variety of birds including western tanagers, Bullock’s orioles, black-headed grosbeaks, and numerous species of woodpeckers.

A nice lunch destination is the sand bar where the trail reaches Caples Creek, beyond Government Meadow.

Safety First: The elevation of this hike ranges between 5,700 feet and 6,400 feet. Always be prepared for changing weather conditions. Snow can present on the roads until early June. Summers are typically warm and sunny but thundershowers can bring rain and hail. Fall days are sunny and cool and thunderstorms can bring snow. Carry appropriate clothing and drink plenty of water. Hats and sunscreen are recommended. Black bears may be in the area. Use caution if a cub is present, the protective mother may be near.

Directions: From Interstate 50 east of Placerville and west of South Lake Tahoe, turn south on Silver Fork Road (USFS Road 11N40), just east of Kyburz for approximately 10.5 miles to the dirt road on the left, just before the Fitch Rantz Bridge. Turn left and proceed to the dirt road (USFS Road 11N40B) on the left, just before the Fitch Rantz Bridge. Turn left and park near the end of the road, which is very close. Walk upstream along the creek.

Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Eldorado National Forest, Placerville Ranger District.

Closest Town: Kyburz, California