Tahoe National Forest
Mileage: 3.5 miles, one-way
Elevation: 6,200 to 4,400 feet
Use Level: Light
Season: June through September
Topographic Map: Downieville 7.5', Sierra City 7.5', Gold Lake NW 7.5'
Access: Pauley Creek Trail is accessed by following the Third Divide or Butcher Ranch Trail to the junction with the Pauley Creek Trail.
Trail Description: This description covers a hike starting at the Butcher Ranch Trailhead. (If the hike is started at the Third Divide Trail it is a hike of six and one-half miles one-way. For more detail, read the description for the Second and Third Divide Trails.) The Butcher Ranch Trail follows the contours of Butcher Ranch Creek for approximately one and one-half miles to the junction of Pauley Creek. Despite the rapid change in elevation, this portion of the trail is well worth the hike. The display of spring wildflowers is spectacular.
The Pauley Creek Trail then heads north toward Gold Valley. The bridge across Butcher Ranch Creek has been washed out and care should be used when fording the creek. The trail along Pauley Creek is a moderate but steady climb, offering views of a series of beautiful, deep pools. You pass through an area of magnificent old growth timber, with many ideal places on the creek for picnicking, fishing, and camping.
Two miles after crossing Butcher Ranch Creek the trail ends at a bridge across Pauley Creek. To access Gold Valley from this point, follow the four-wheel drive road north far another mile. Veer right when the road splits. Gold Valley is a wide open valley with lush meadows and ideal sites for camping. The area offers a large variety of wildflowers, wildlife, and birds. The quiet hiker is likely to see a bear, deer or coyote.
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Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication