Featured Trail Town – Auburn, California

Welcome to another installment of our “Trail Town” series of articles. These articles feature a trail running town that you should put on your bucket list of places to visit! This month we feature Auburn in foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains with a population of 14,000 full time residents. (Above photo by Carlos Marin).

Auburn, California

Composed of 7 square miles and a little under 14,000 residents, Auburn has retained its uniqueness over the years. It is nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and boasts the Auburn State Recreation Area – a wilderness area that covers 40-miles of the North and Middle Forks of the American River. The combination of melting Sierra snow and steep granite canyons offer incredible year round world-class outdoor recreation opportunities, supports family farms and timeless gold rush era architecture. Auburn also has a deep history of attracting outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, foodies, and creatives looking to escape the homogenous blend of cookie cutter homes, chain stores and the typical.

With a bevy of local farms, year-round farmers market and award winning craft breweries. Beer enthusiasts have been known to travel from afar to enjoy some of the tastiest craft beers found anywhere. Not a beer person? Check out Auburn’s wineries, distilleries, and top restaurants. Auburn is a veritable food and wine lover’s paradise!

For a town of its size, Auburn packs a whole lot of musical punch. From its own renowned symphony, to the street musicians performing at various outdoor venues throughout the summer, to attracting high quality performers to smaller venues, Auburn offers a vibrant arts and culture scene.

There is a coziness and elegance to Auburn that feels comforting and sophisticated at the same time. It has all the beauty and charm without the pressures and drama of the city. The community is intimate and tightly knit and residents march to a slightly different tune. Its atypical approach is reflected in many cool ways throughout the City and its part of what makes Auburn such a fascinating and fun place to live and visit.

Auburn is home to some of the most challenging and historic endurance events on the planet, notably the Tevis Cup 100-Mile Endurance Equestrian Ride (est. 1955) and the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run (est. 1976). The Western States Trail, the Auburn State Recreation Area with its vast network of trails and water venue access points, the lakes and rivers, the many regional parks, all make Auburn a destination for endurance athletes of all levels and interests. Due to the longevity, quality, variety and quantity of events held in this spectacular environment, in May, 2003 the Auburn City Council unanimously adopted a proclamation that declared the City of Auburn, CA “The Endurance Capital of the World™”.


The saying throughout the trail running community is “all trails lead to Auburn”. There are several trailheads in the area that lead to a vast system of single track that lead east towards Folsom and west towards Lake Tahoe. Along this system of trails you can connect to such trails as Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT). The trails are mostly single-track and vary in their technicality with a mix of rolling and hilly trails. The surrounding mountainous terrain and the flow of the American River are beautiful during all times of the year but if you’re lucky enough to hit the trails in the spring the wildflowers are especially breathtaking.

ATRA’s Western States Trekker team getting Google street-view images of No Hands Bridge.

Are you interested in exploring the famous Western States trail that ends in Auburn? You can see Google street-view images of all 100 miles of the trail from Squaw Valley to the Auburn High School track on our Western States Trekker page.

Parking and Transit:

Trailheads located inside the State Parks require a $10 day parking pass or you can use the Annual Poppy Pass. There are many other trailheads located inside the City and throughout the County where parking is free. Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor trains will get you to Auburn from Oakland in 3 hours – a relaxed journey where you can explore maps and plan your trail running adventures. When factoring in Friday rush-hour traffic getting out of San Francisco, the train can sometimes be faster than driving.


The People in Auburn and the surrounding areas are connected to the trails; it is just part of the lifestyle. We are just as likely to come across our neighbors on the trails as we are at the grocery store. Trails are accessible to trail runners, hikers, bikers, and equestrian. Each group is very supportive of each other and the members of the community make sure to take care of the trails and volunteer wherever possible to ensure the trails remain as beautiful in the future as they do today.


Auburn has gone from a quaint outpost for antiques to a vibrant city bubbling with outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers and creative types making Auburn happen. A new generation has moved in, and now the remaining antiques stores mix with modern boutiques and award-winning breweries, wineries and restaurants.

Not ready to race? Connect with trail runners by volunteering at one of the many events in town.


  • The Pour Choice: The Pour Choice is Auburn, California’s first and only craft coffee bar and tap room. It is the marriage of all things craft with the aim of bringing people together, those in the shop and those locally and around the world that are creating the delicate, robust and unique notes found in the 28 taps at the bar.
  • Depoe Bay Coffee Roasters: A local family owned and operated coffee shop offering fine coffees from around the world (fresh roasted at the café), full breakfast and lunch café menu, offering sandwiches, salads, & smoothies.
  • Baked and Brewed: A nice little locally owned and operated café located in Central Square in downtown Auburn. A select variety of coffees and teas, delicious baked goods and quite possibly the best bagel sandwiches inside the City.
  • Flower Garden Bakery: Starting with the best ingredients, Flower Garden Bakery create fine, handcrafted breads, pastries, cakes, soups, sandwiches, fresh organic juices and beverages. They also offer a nice selection of coffees and teas.


Auburn has a thriving craft beer culture, boasting four award winning craft breweries. Beer enthusiasts travel from afar to enjoy some of the tastiest craft beers found anywhere.

Auburn Aid Station by Permanent Glimpse Photography


With a bevy of local farms, year-round farmers market, award winning craft breweries, wineries, distillery, and top restaurants, Auburn is a veritable food and wine lover’s paradise.

  • Carpe Vino: Located in what was originally a Civil War-era saloon in the heart of Old Town Auburn, Carpe Vino offers a unique setting for relishing great wine and stellar cuisine. Enjoy wine and dinner at the wine bar with selections from all over California, or relax in the elegant dining room, surrounded by racks of wine. Carpe Vino’s innovative menu is California themed yet French-inspired. They offer fine dining tempered by our Old West heritage, with many core ingredients sourced from local farmers whom they know by name.
  • Nectar Café: Nectar Cafe is an all organic, vegetarian and vegan cafe serving lunch and dinner. They serve amazing dinner entrees, wraps or bowls, salads, sandwiches, soups, tacos, nachos along with fresh made juices, super food smoothies, gourmet coffee drinks and an assortment of house made sodas, house brewed Hibiscus & Black Tea and other organic bottled beverages like kombucha & Tazo Teas. They also have a Kid Friendly Menu available. They offer dinner specials every night with LIVE music on Friday nights. They also have a nice assortment of local beer and wines with patio seating.
  • Natural Trading Co.: Natural Trading Company has served this community as a local, organic farm for more than 20 years. They opened a farm store in downtown Auburn earlier this year. The Natural Trading Company Farm Store features: Vibrant fresh and local produce, delicious and healthy grab and go sandwiches, soups and snacks, a beautiful salad bar stocked with produce from the farm, and other high-quality natural foods. They also offer wonderful outdoor seating in the heart of Central Square.
  • Auburn Alehouse and Alehouse Annex: Brian & Lisa Ford opened Auburn Alehouse Brewery & Restaurant in 2007 in the old iconic Shanghai Restaurant building in Old Town Auburn. While enjoying their full bistro menu, patrons can often see Brian & his brewers making world-class beer in small batches, using only the finest malted barley and American-grown hops. With a collection of prestigious awards hanging on the wall it’s easy to see why the SacBee recently said Auburn Alehouse is one of the region’s premier craft breweries. Lunch and Dinner are served every day, while their Brunch menu is served on Saturday and Sunday from 9am-noon. Along with the incredible craft beer selection they have a full bar which offers great hand crafted cocktails. They also offer a pet friendly outdoor patio.
  • Alehouse Annex: The new space across the street called the Alehouse Annex features community style tables with shareable bites! They offer incredible wood-fire pizza and other small bite items such as braised short ribs, fried green olives and hand cut french fries. Although, this location is just steps away from the original – it’ll feature beers you love but also new and exclusive beers you haven’t tried yet! This location allows the brew masters to collaborate with other local breweries and feature the results! Along with new collaborations, they will offer some nitrogen beers as well. Sours and barrel-aged brews will also make their arrival into the new location.
  • Auburn Thai Garden: An incredible authentic home-style Thai restaurant. They use the freshest produce and the highest quality ingredients they can find from local markets and beyond. They also have a nice selection of craft beers and wine.
  • Katrina’s Café: A local favorite! Cash-only cafe offering a delicious breakfast & eclectic lunch menu in cozy quarters with outdoor seating.
  • Tap and Vine: Great cocktails, wines, craft beers and fine food. Warm and cozy environment that combines a local’s bar scene offering crafted cocktails, beers and a varied dinner menu to satisfy most taste buds and pocket books, from moderate to higher end.

Local Knowledge:

Visit the City of Auburn website and/or social media channels @exploreauburnca to experience firsthand what make Auburn so Unique.  When you’re in Auburn be sure to stop by the California Welcome Center, located in Central Square at 1103 High Street. The staff provides one-on-one service and will help to curate the perfect Auburn experience. They have maps and guides available.

Auburn Aid Station by Permanent Glimpse Photography

Also be sure to stop by one of Auburn’s incredible running stores and let them guide you to the perfect trail.

  • The Aid Station – Auburn: The Aid Station is not just a running store, it’s a runner’s clubhouse featuring local expertise and beers on tap.
  • Auburn Running Company: Experienced and knowledgeable staff members will be able to help you find the shoe that best fit your needs, whether is a road or trail shoe and help guide you to the best trails.

Trail Sharing and Maintenance:

There are many community groups and individual volunteers that are actively engaged in trail maintenance throughout the year. There are plenty of organizations involved in trail maintenance. At anytime of year you can sync with the Western States Endurance Run Foundation, the US Forest Service, or California State Parks and Recreation to get involved.


Auburn is best known and recognized for the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run (Google street-view of the finish line above) but there are many more opportunities in the area for trail competition. In February there’s the FOURmidable 50K, in April the American River 50 Mile, in June at the other end of the Western States trail find the Broken Arrow Skyrace, and those a just a few to get you started. For a comprehensive list of trail running races in the Auburn area check out the Event Calendar on our website.

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