To quote Ella Fitzgerald, it's summertime and the livin' is easy—or it will be if you head to the clear skies of the Sierra foothills. Most travelers know Colfax as a coffee-break stop on Interstate 80, but take a closer look at this Placer County destination. There's more than just Starbucks here, especially if you're fond of beguiling swimming holes, riverfront campsites, and early mornings skimming the lake on your slalom ski. Summer feels endless at these untamed and unhurried spots:
Once a Gold Rush–era livery route, the Stevens Trail travels downhill 3.5 miles to the turquoise pools and cascades of the North Fork of the American River. The path is known for its out-of-this-world wildflower display in March and April, but a summertime hike offers the chance to beat the heat in river swimming holes or sunbathe on granite slabs. You're hiking "upside-down"—downhill on the way in and uphill on the way back—so be sure to carry enough water for the moderately challenging return climb.
Codfish Creek Trail
Steer your car down the long, curvy route to the river canyon on Ponderosa Way's dirt track to earn a big reward: easy access to swimming holes and broad, rock-strewn beaches. Set out on the Codfish Creek Trail, which skirts the edge of the North Fork American River and ends at a 30-foot cascade on Codfish Creek. The waterfall's flow is greatly diminished in summer, but the blue-green river beckons. A short and level walk leads to alluring swimming and wading spots.
Mineral Bar Campground
Iowa Hill Road winds its way downhill from Colfax to Mineral Bar Campground, its 16 sites perched below a photogenic suspension bridge over the North Fork American River. Mineral Bar Camp is ideal for last-minute planners—sites are first come, first served, but arrive early in the day to score one. Set up your tent, then hike the Pennyweight Trail to find sandy beaches perfect for swimming or panning for gold.
Yearning for a campsite near a lake where you can water ski, wakeboard, chill out on a pontoon boat, or backstroke in warm water? Rollins Lake has all that. You can rent a boat for a day on the water, set up your tent at one of four privately run campgrounds, or find a perfect lounging and reading spot along the conifer-dotted shoreline. Anglers reel in big catches of spotted bass, crappie, and bluegill.