Sacramento Hike & Bike Trails
Be sure to pack your hiking boots and binoculars when you visit Sacramento. The area has numerous trails you’ll want to explore. These are just a few of the many scenic hiking trails in and around the Sacramento area. For even more great hikes during your stay here remember that National forests, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and Lake Tahoe are all within a relatively short driving distance.
Consider bringing bikes along on your vacation to Sacramento. The area has renowned bike trails and a bike-friendly transit system.
American River Parkway
Sacramento is home to one of the premier bike trails in the U.S., the American River Bike Trail. This trail stretches along the American River for 32 miles from Folsom Lake to Old Sacramento. The trail is paved and extremely scenic. You’ll find plenty of vehicle access points with ample parking. Many people park a spare car in Old Sacramento and begin their trek at Folsom Lake so that they don’t have to back track. You can also choose your favorite stretch of the trail and ride the trail a portion at a time. Emergency call boxes line the trail should you need assistance. Restrooms and picnic areas are plentiful.
The American River Parkway is a 32-mile trail that goes up the river and through the city. You may not be up for hiking the entire route but you’ll enjoy whichever section you choose. You’ll hike over footbridges and along the scenic American River where you’ll see everything from rapids to smooth ponds and sandbars. This trail is shared by mountain bikers and equestrians and dogs are welcome. You’ll see wildlife and both shore birds and song birds in some of the more remote locations. Many people arrange to leave a car parked at their chosen destination so they don’t have to backtrack. This river-hugging trail is extremely popular with bicycle enthusiasts.
One of the best parts of the American River Bike Trail is that most of the trail is separated from traffic on the roads. Just a mile or two of this trail shares the road with cars. While you’re riding this trail, you’ll feel as if you’re in the wilderness yet civilization is just over your shoulder. You’ll see ancient oaks and graceful sycamores along with numerous water birds. You can rent bikes in Old Sacramento and enjoy the stretch that begins in Discovery Park. This trail is also known as the Jedediah Smith National Recreation Trail.
Consumnes River Preserve
Take a walk through the wetlands when you hike the Consumnes River Preserve. The Consumnes River is on one side of the trail and the marshes and sloughs flank the other side. Wooden bridges cross over the mushiest portions of the trail and conditions can be muddy after heavy rains so it is advisable to call ahead for trail conditions. You’ll see stunning oak groves, wild wetlands, a lovely river, and have the chance to see over 200 species of birds that stop here or make the preserve their home.
El Dorado National Forest
Just outside of Placerville in the El Dorado National Forest is an easy, one hour hike that takes you up to a breathtaking waterfall, Bassi Falls. This 120 foot waterfall is spectacular in the wet winter months and spring time but reduces to a trickle during the drier months.
Old Salmon Falls Loop
The Sacramento suburb of Folsom has an extensive bike trail system and is an extremely bike-friendly community. You’ll find bike trails that traverse foothills, wind along riverways, cross charming bridges and more. These trails are well maintained and separated from the roads and cars. When you ride the bike trails of Folsom, you get away from the cars and out into the countryside. Many workers at companies such as Intel ride their bikes from their Folsom neighborhoods along these lovely trails to work. What better way to start your day?
The Old Salmon Falls Loop in Folsom is an interesting hike. The waterfall is actually extinct due to the construction of the Folsom Dam and the old Mormon gold mining town of Salmon Falls is now under the waters of Folsom Lake. You’ll start at the Old Salmon Assembly area where you’ll find the Monte Vista Trailhead and hook up with Brown’s Ravine Trail. As you wind your way along the American River you’ll see beautiful scenery, a “new” pine forest that was planted in the 1970’s and the site of the extinct waterfall.
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge
One of the most important stops on the Pacific Flyway is the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge which is an hour and a half north of Sacramento. This huge area is a resting and feeding area for about half of all migratory birds on the Flyway and is a must stop for avid bird-watchers. In fact, 44% of these birds spend the winter here with three million ducks and 750,000 geese calling the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge their winter home. The refuge has a visitor center and numerous trails of varying lengths that take you through wetland and riparian habitats. The 2/3 mile Llano Seco Unit trail includes a multi-level viewing platform at its halfway point. In addition, several auto tours let you drive along the marshlands and streams.
Not far from Sacramento lies the sparkling Folsom Lake nestled in the foothills of the mighty Sierras. The Folsom Lake State Recreation Area also includes Lake Natoma which is downstream and has a following of water sports enthusiasts such as crew racers, kayakers and sailors.
When you visit Folsom Lake, you’ll feel miles away from civilization and surrounded by history. You can see what was once considered the “greatest operative electrical plant on the American continent”, the Folsom Powerhouse. This brick building once generated 11,000 volts of power for the residents of Sacramento and operated from 1885 to 1952.
Popular activities at the lake include hiking, bicycling, camping, horseback riding, picnicking, boating and water-skiing. The 75 miles of shoreline here are quite lovely.
On the water, you can expect to catch fish such as trout, catfish, perch and both big mouth and small mouth bass.
Off the water, you can hike amongst the rolling hills and enjoy the oak trees and lakeshore views. You might see reptiles, wild turkeys, fox and deer during your hike. In addition, an easy trail, the Oaks Nature Trail, features interpretive panels and is wheelchair accessible.
The lake features three campgrounds Beal’s Point, Peninsula and Negro Bar. Beal’s Point and Negro Bar are fully developed. Beal’s Point is a year round campground. Negro Bar is located at Lake Natoma while the other two are at Folsom Lake.
For group camping, Negro Bar is the campsite of choice with its large group campgrounds. Three group sites can accommodate from 25 to 50 people.
The Peninsula campground is a remote campground that is subject to closure due to weather or road conditions. This campground can be reached by boat or by taking a ten mile road from Pilot Hill off of Highway 49. While remote, this campsite has amenities like flush toilets, running water, and two boat launches. You can beach the bow of your boat and set anchor off the stern for camping ashore with your boat. Be aware of the night winds and secure your boat.
In addition, two environmental campsites are located at Avery’s Pond. You must hike in to these sites and can not bring dogs or have a campfire. Bring your own water and haul your trash back out. The hike into these sites which each accommodate up to eight people is about a mile in.
The Folsom Dam’s primary function is flood control however the lake is also used as a water source for domestic use and irrigation. In addition, the Folsom Dam and the Folsom Power Plant below it generate over 198,000 kilowatts of power. Preserving fish on the American River, controlling saltwater intrusion into the Sacramento Delta and recreation are all important functions of the dam.
Folsom Lake is home to numerous special events each year such as bass fishing tournaments, regattas, races, horseback endurance rides and rowing competitions.
A unique, 32-mile long paved bike path connects Folsom Lake to many Sacramento parks and ends up in Old Sacramento. The path begins in Beal’s Point and cruises down to the southwest corner of the lake, past the west shore of Lake Natoma and along the American River. It goes through several county parks before ending at Discovery Park in Old Sacramento. This is a must-ride for any bicycle enthusiast as this trail is considered one of the best of its kind in the U. S.
A visit to the California State University Aquatic Center on Lake Natoma is a great place to stop to take a class in various water sports for both adults and children. You can learn to water-ski, windsurf, canoe, kayak row and more from the instructors of the Aquatic Center.
Spring and summer bring temperatures from the 80’s to the 100’s while winters here can be quite cold and foggy. Autumn brings warm days and cool nights.
Folsom Lake is easily accessible from either Highway 50 or Interstate 80 and has multiple entrances.
Biking in Sacramento
The Regional Transit system in Sacramento embraces bicyclists as well by equipping their buses with bike racks. This bicycle-friendly approach to transit makes riding the trails a viable alternative. Buses and trains have bike racks and the light rail stations even have bike lockers. You can start your day by riding your bike from Old Sacramento and ride as far you wish. When you’re tired, simply hop on a train or bus back to Old Sacramento where your car is parked or to your hotel.
Rails and Trails are multi-purpose bike paths that follow railroad tracks both along abandoned as well as active rail rights-of-ways. The Sacramento Northern Rail Trail takes you through older neighborhoods, the suburbs, and scenic rural farmland north of town. Picnic areas at Rio Vista and Discovery Park make nice rest stops.
Try island hopping in the Delta by riding trails along the levees. These flat, level roads take you through orchards, rivers, farmland and sloughs. You’ll usually have water on at least one side making a scenic ride. You can start at Franklin school and ride as far as you wish going from island to island. If you ride for 37 miles you’ll visit Randall, Sutter and Grand Islands. If you’re up for a 100 mile one-way excursion, you can ride these levee trails all the way to Twitchell Island.
Beautiful trails combined with bicycle-friendly communities make Sacramento a great place to visit on two wheels.
Adventure Tours in Sacramento CA
Delta Seaplane Tours
Each fly-over will also include a water “splashdown” and even an opportunity for individual passengers to try their hands at the controls. Delta Seaplane Tours is based at Sacramento’s Executive Airport.
Delta River Cruise
Enjoy a river cruise between the historic ports of the Sacramento Delta and the San Francisco Bay where you will be treated to breathtaking views of the Golden Gate, Alcatraz, Angel Island, San Pablo and Suisun Bays, Mount Diablo, as well as bridge openings and the quaint towns along the Sacramento River.
Escape Sac Tours
Sacramento’s premiere outdoor and adventure tour and corporate teambuilding company specializing in 1-3-4 day cycling, hiking, wine country and gold country tours.
Gibson Ranch Park Equestrian
Gibson Ranch offers guided trail rides for adults and children 8 and over. The trail is approximately 4 miles long and takes around one hour to complete. The trail passes through some great scenery along Dry Creek and is a wonderful way to see the park.
Yolo Land & Cattle Co.
Used as winter and spring grazing for 500 cows, the ranch features over 100 ponds and creeks, steep terrain and fields blanketed with wild flowers in the spring. Numerous species of wildlife call the Yolo Land & Cattle ranch home: bears, mountain lions, deer, coyotes, bobcats, foxes, squirrels, raccoons, turkeys, quail, doves, hawks and eagles.