Over the years, we’ve camped near the Silver Fork of the American River in the Eldorado National Forest numerous times. This stretch of the river flows above Kyburz (exit at the Silver Fork Road) and runs alternatively through flat stretches and steep canyons. I highly recommend the Silver Fork campground, the campground hosts are great, there’s a small swimming hole and plenty of trails along the river for accessing a variety of water. I also recommend the Harvey West Cabin which is located near the China Flat Campground and is available via Reserve America. These are great spots to base out of for the hike to Jake Schneider Meadows.
The Jake Schneider Meadow is a wonderfully beautiful high country spot that’s easily accessible from the Silver Fork camp ground. The trail head sits about half a mile from the campground and parallels the Silver Fork as it tumbles through a series of falls and cataracts. There’s a small parking lot at the trailhead along with a primitive camping area that can often be overflowing with people. Head up the trail just a few paces, and you’ll be all alone.
Tip: Watch your step. There are rattlesnakes in this area. In fact, my wife had a run in with one along the trail. Which one was more alarmed, we’ll never know for sure.
The first stretch of trail travels uphill (probably too difficult for the under-10 set) through forest and granite boulder fields, and you can often catch glimpses of the river on your right. After about three-quarters of a mile, you’ll reach the confluence with Caples Creek which travels down a steep falls as it enters the Silver Fork. It’s somewhat difficult to see through the trees, but can be spectacular early in the season.
Once you pass this section, the trail flattens. You’ll pass through several small clearings. The river will come in and out of view as the trail meanders upwards for another 1.5 miles until you reach the Meadow. You’ll encounter the largest section of Meadow before you reach the sign post that denotes the area. Frankly, we weren’t sure we’d made it until we passed through the small grove that separates to two sections of meadow.
Once you reach the second meadow section, the Silver Fork is a placid crystal-clear stream, no wider than 15 – 20 feet across. There are some deep pools and good holding water. Casting is difficult from the bank, so expect to sacrifice a few flies in your quest.
All in all, this is a great hike. The views are spectacular and the 5 – 6 mile round trip is a nice way to spend an afternoon. Highly recommended.