This hike offers expansive views of the Granite Chief Wilderness, the Pacific Crest Trail between Sugar Bowl and Squaw Valley, and the breathtaking Royal Gorge of the North Fork of the American River (one of the deepest canyons in the western US).
Park at the Hoelter Hall Trailhead. For directions to the trailhead, see the HOW TO GET THERE on the Royal Gorge Overview page.
From the trailhead, hike straight past the kiosk and between the rocks at the end of the parking area. In 50 feet take the trail that branches to the left and goes uphill. This trail is the unsigned Tiny Tim Ski Trail. Proceed SE on Tiny Tim uphill for about 0.3 miles until you arrive at a signed junction to Bill and Flora's Point. Turn right on the trail, a single-track trail, and proceed for roughly 150 feet to a junction with another trail, the Walter and Esther Hewlett Royal Gorge Rim Trail (RGRT). Turn right on the RGRT and descend for about a mile to a large dirt road, Soda Springs Road. Turn right on this road and in about 200 feet you will see a step-through gate on your left and a bridge below. Turn left and cross the bridge.)
After the bridge, Sterling's Canyon is a rolling trail that continues south above the creek. A little over a mile from the parking area is a flat area that provides a beautiful overlook of Serena Canyon and the upper basin of the North Fork of the American River. At 1.4 mi from the parking area is a trail intersection with another Royal Gorge cross-country ski sign.
The Sterling’s Canyon trail turns right up a short, relatively steep hill. Go straight at this intersection, leaving Sterling’s Canyon trail, and follow the sign for Whitney’s Bowl and Pt Mariah. In about 1.8 mi from the parking area, one of the Royal Gorge cross-country warming huts will be slightly uphill on your right - It is difficult to see because it is only visible on your right after you pass it. As you go past the warming hut, the trail continues uphill and in about 100 yards, you are at the top of the ridge. A trail comes in from the right but continue straight ahead on the unsigned but obvious trail; this is the Pt. Mariah Trail. Follow this trail for about three-quarters of a mile to Pt. Mariah. Along the way, be sure to look to your right for beautiful views of Devil’s Peak and to its left, Snow Mountain, another property conserved by TDLT. When you get to Pt. Mariah, take time to enjoy the fabulous views down into the Royal Gorge of the North Fork of the American River and the surrounding wilderness.
After a short rest, and perhaps a snack or lunch, you are ready for the return trip. Retrace your steps to the trailhead and you have completed one of Royal Gorge's iconic hikes.