Explore Auburn and the American River Foothills

Posted May 23, 2024 by Reily Schultz

The American River is California’s most popular rafting destination. Composed of three distinct forks; the North, Middle, and South Fork, the American River offers a wide variety of scenery, rafting difficulty, and experiences. All three of these rivers converge at the Northern end of Folsom Lake, from which they continue as the Lower American River and flow out to the delta.

One of our favorite mountain towns, Auburn, is conveniently located in the hills next to both the Middle and North Fork American, and just a short drive from the fan-favorite South Fork. Auburn is the perfect place to visit before or after your rafting trip, as well as an easy lodging option. Whether you stop in town for a place to rest your head, or to find some prize winning mandarins, Auburn is the place to be!

Auburn Area Map
Auburn makes for an easy stop along the Hwy 80 corridor on your way to and from the American River

Downtown Auburn

A lot of California mountain towns have a rich history, often centered around the Gold Rush of 1849, and Auburn is no exception. Downtown Auburn is exactly what you envision when you picture a historic Main Street. The old State Theater screens old classic films as well as special screenings of more modern movies. Continue down the road past coffee shops, taverns, and restaurants to find the Gold Rush Museum and a trailhead right at the end of the strip!

Placer County has maps available for self-guided walking tours of Old Town Auburn; a great resource to make sure you don’t miss anything! While downtown Auburn is only a few blocks long, it is chalk full of good beer, good vibes, and plenty of ways to fill an entire day (and night!) before or after you raft.

The Historic Auburn Courthouse - California
The Auburn courthouse stands out in the downtown area

Families can enjoy a number of restaurants along Auburn’s Main Street; from pizza, to Mexican food, to pho, Auburn has options for even the pickiest of eaters. An ironically named breakfast restaurant called Awful Annie’s is another local favorite and a great spot to start your day. This restaurant is a favorite first and foremost for its food, but also because of its convenient location just off the freeway.

In addition to these sit-down options, Auburn is home to a highly regarded road-side bakery, restaurant, and unique food market called Ikeda’s. Stop by after your rafting trip and explore the market! Need some spicy pepper jelly? Chocolate rocks? 100 different choices of locally made salad dressing? A visit is always worthwhile for one of their famous pies, freshly baked bread, or a hearty burger to keep your energy up for the drive home.

Ikeda's Market- Historic, Downtown Auburn
Ikeda’s Market is a must-stop location for locals and tourists

Keep Your Blood Pumping

Many folks who raft with All-Outdoors leave their trip feeling a deeper sense of connection to nature, and strive to find more ways to get outside after their whitewater adventure. The Auburn area is home to many hiking trails that we love to recommend guests check out before they continue home. There are a wide variety of hiking options throughout these foothills, ranging from a stroll on a bike trail to a steep grade lovingly known as “Cardiac Hill.” The opportunities are nearly endless in the nearby Auburn State Recreation Area.

There are more options to keep the excitement going in Auburn other than physical movement. The Auburn Rodeo and Speedway are awesome attractions to check out during your time in the mountains. Enjoy the high energy motorcycle races at Fast Fridays Motorcycle Speedway every (you guessed it) Friday evening – a perfect event to get you and your group hyped before embarking on your whitewater adventure the next day. The Rodeo comes through town once or twice a year, with big shows every spring. While you may not catch this show in the heat of summer, it does make for a perfect pairing with an early spring run on the North Fork American River

Fast Fridays Motorcycle Speedway
Picture provided by Fast Fridays Motorcycle Speedway

Local Brews

For rafters who would prefer a relaxing evening after a full day on the water, Auburn has that too! Moonraker Brewing Co. has become an AO guide and staff favorite. Here, our 21+ guests can enjoy a local brew, coffee, or food from rotating local food trucks. Moonraker Brewing practices sustainability and strives to keep its carbon footprint minimal: Their production and taproom are powered by over 1100 solar panels! As stated on their website, they have even been formally “recognized as a sustainable business in the Sacramento region because of [their] energy and water conservation.”

Crooked Lane Brewing also calls this little mountain town home. You may recognize their name and vibrant beer labels from your local California grocery stores. The wide variety of house-made beer available pairs well with the pizza and paninis served in their pub. 

Whether you stay in Auburn before or after your trip, or just pop by on your way to the freeway, we hope you stop by and get a taste of our North and Middle Fork American River stomping grounds. Ask any seasoned rafter – nothing is better after an exciting day of whitewater rafting than a good view of the mountains and a nice cold locally-brewed beer or a slice of pie. 

Author Bio

Reily Schultz

Reily is a Gold Country native. She graduated from Willamette University with a degree in Studio Art and a minor in Gender Studies and Psychology. She joined the All-Outdoors family in the spring of 2022, working as a California Rafting Consultant and a member of the marketing team. Her favorite All-Outdoors itinerary is the multi-day Tuolumne rafting trip. Reily is an avid artist, outdoors-woman, and purr-fessional cat snuggler.


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