Coloma’s Marshall Gold Discovery site is home to the 3.5 mile Monroe Ridge Trail. On my last visit I hiked the trail and enjoyed the annual Gold Rush Days. If you park in the North Beach parking lot, the start of the trail is across Highway 49 and up the hill. The well-marked trail leads you to the top of the ridge and a nice view of the river and surrounding hills including Mount Murphy. A half mile out, you reach the Marshall monument. You can drive directly here on Highway 153 the shortest highway in California.
Packing a lot of history, this trail makes its way through land once home to Nisenan and foothill Miwok people. The grinding rocks (Mother Rock) they used to process acorns are a must-see for tourists and locals alike who want to know the history. James Marshall’s discovery of gold started the Gold Rush and changed the area forever. Marshall’s cabin, and grave site are popular attractions.
In autumn, color returns and temperatures fall to make the walk enjoyable. A couple of picnic tables along the way were a welcome site in summer and oak trees provided needed shade. Ticks, snakes and poison oak are all possible threats. In October, warnings of mountain lion sightings were posted at the trail's ends.
After you have made the rounds on Monroe Ridge, take the footpath along the river on the other side of Highway 49. The path along the river runs behind the mill site with information boards offering little known details about our Gold Rush history.
Mary West is author of the book “Day Hiker: The Gold Country Trail Guide.” West won a 2017 Craft Award for her hiking column Day Hiker from the Outdoor Writers of California. She is currently working of the second “Gold Country Trail Guide: Day Hiker II.” Learn more about local trails by following Mary on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Instagram.