The second phase of our three-part trip was the circular loop on the Mill Creek trail. Coming out of the woods of the Red Elephant Hill trail, we took the first right turn onto the Mill Creek trail. The trail immediately began to go downhill with various tight turns through the forest. The sound of water was evident throughout, and the anticipation of how high the creek crossings would be due to the late snow melt in 2019.
This trail is fun and challenging for several reasons, including twisty, tight curves, mud holes, and creek crossings. It's necessary at times to first get the driver's side of the vehicle past one tree then immediately get the passenger's side past another tree. There are several challenging obstacles for a stock Rubicon as well as a lifted, offroad vehicle. At one point in the trail, you not only have a steep descent over rocky obstacles but also a sudden right turn which is less steep and begins the descent into the first creek crossing. We've missed the right turn in the past and ended up in a campground, but we didn't miss it this time.
Soon, the trail becomes flat and has few, if any, obstacles. The first creek crossing is hidden by willows and a tight left turn. The creek was running higher than other years, but it wasn’t too deep to prevent anyone from crossing. Once we were all were across the water, we continued onward.
The next section of the trail had several fun dips containing water, so it is a fun place to speed up to get mud onto your Jeep. The trail is fairly flat at this point with no obstacles.
Eventually, we came to the Empire Hilton. The group stopped for a while to look at the structure and talk Jeep parts, including a discussion with Mark and Amy about their business and the fact they are developing parts for Jeeps. The inside of the Hilton was pretty dark and overflowing with bedding and other items making it not the nicest place to stay long. We ran into another Jeep looking for another trail in the area north of Downieville. There is no other trail near the Empire Hilton, and it would be interesting to start in Downieville and go directly North out of town to see where we end up.
After leaving the Empire Hilton, we came upon an old mine site with a beautiful view north of the snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance. After getting to the point where the trail starts to turn west then south back to the other end of the Red Elephant Hill trail, the road once again becomes challenging and you need careful placement of tires on the rocks. Towards the end of the trail, it becomes steeper and tougher to get down without scraping on any rocks.
We approached the final creek crossing which was still running high, and snow was visible up the creek valley. We spent time taking pictures as we crossed the creek.
Reports from Other Days: 5
Use the arrows or dots to flip through the previews of the other reports for Mill Creek. Click one of them to read more and see all of the photos from that day.