In early summer, it’s hard to find a mellower, more rewarding walk than Caples Creek Trail. “This trail has something to offer to everyone, with wonderful wildflower viewing, many bird species, and spectacular scenery for photographers,” says botanist and Sierra wildflower expert Karen Wiese.
This out-and-back hike extends up to four miles one way, but you can just walk for as far as you like alongside Caples Creek’s rushing cascades. The elevation here averages a relatively low 6,000 feet or so, so in general June tends to offer the peak of summer's flowery bounty. Underneath a canopy of pines and firs, you’ll find snow plants (an unmistakable flower that looks like a chubby red asparagus) and spotted coralroot orchids. After the first mile, the trail meets up with Caples Creek, then leads past Jake Schneider and Government Meadows, each blanketed with purple shooting stars and western blue flag iris. Wiese says to watch for Macloskey’s violet, a white violet with purple “nectar guides” (insects follow them to reach the flower’s sweet nectar), near Government Meadow. Bounded by granite outcrops dotted with showy pink mountain pride penstemon, the slabs and boulders of this lovely meadow make the perfect place to relax and rest before heading back to your car.
DIRECTIONS TO TRAILHEAD: From Placerville, take U.S. 50 east for 30 miles. At Kyburz, turn south on Silver Fork Road and drive 10 winding miles to the Caples Creek trailhead on the left, just before the Fitch Rantz Bridge.