The warmer months are here and surely you want the kids to get outside. We all know how valuable exercise is, especially with the way that kids use tablets and smartphones these days. Did you know that the average age that a child gets their first smartphone now is 10.3 years old? Anyway, I digress.
If you want to enjoy some hiking fun in the Sacramento and Placer County areas, here are some of my favorite family-friendly trails. I ranked them based on a one- to four-star scale.
Address: 7587 Mears Place, Auburn, CA 95602
Difficulty: Medium to Hard
This is a 1,200-acre regional park in between Auburn and Lincoln. It features 30 miles of trails used for hiking, running, biking and equestrian riding. It has two observation decks for viewing 30-foot waterfalls and also has creeks, picnic areas, swimming areas and fishing access. Now you can see why I gave it four stars. These trails are beautiful and there is plenty of shade and areas to explore. The inclines can be steep on some of the trails so be prepared to get a workout, but there is enough flatness to make it family friendly as well.
What to be aware of: Parking is free, but limited and if the lot is full you will need to park relatively far away, which adds a hike just to get to the hike. So plan to arrive early. Park hours are from a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset. Some of the trails are narrow and with bikes and even horses coming through, parents will need to be cautious.
Address: On Foresthill Road, 3.5 miles east of the Foresthill Bridge. Parking area (Grizzly Bear House turnout) is on the right.
A beautiful Auburn unpaved trail with high shade areas and sweeping views of the mountainous landscape. This is widely used by mountain bikers so the inclines on this trail may be a little much for some families with small children, thus the 3.5-star rating. But if you make just one or two strong efforts up the immediate hill that is present at the parking area (bring cash for parking) you will find an incredible spot for a picnic (shown in the photo below).
The trail is 8.2 miles long and with the inclines I doubt you will hike the whole thing if you are with young children. Out of all of the trails I mention in this post, this one is the least populated so you will definitely experience some peace and quiet and a nice escape from the noise of the valley.
What to be aware of: Mountain bikers. They will typically warn you when they are getting close. So watch for the “On your left!” calls. Because this is Auburn and a very high-grass area, you should also be aware of snakes in the summer months.
Address: 1901 Hazel Ave, Gold River, CA 95670
Shade: Average to bad
This relatively flat trail extends from Folsom to Old Sacramento, running along the American River the whole way. It’s a monster at 32 miles. I gave you the access point in Gold River near the Sacramento State Aquatic Center where you will find a parking lot, but fair warning that the price for parking here is relatively high. However, if you do enter the trail here, you will get a beautiful view of the Nimbus Dam, which also means you get to cruise by the Nimbus Fish Hatchery (a good place to take the kids). The trail was recognized as a national trail in 1974 and was voted the No. 1 bike path for 2006 by trails.com. There is hiking, horseback riding, cycling, inline skating, jogging and strolling all happening on this trail. I gave this trail a higher star rating than Miner’s Ravine because you can find some really beautiful views of the American River while hiking on this one (see below).
What to be aware of: As you can tell by the above description, this a high-use trail that some even use to commute. Those on foot should stay on the left “soft” shoulder and bike riders and in-line skaters should stay on the paved path, right of the yellow line. There is a 15 mph speed limit. This is a suburban trail that sprawls across several different communities so be cautious of your surroundings and who is hanging out under bridges, etc.
Address: 7500 Sierra College Blvd., Roseville, CA 95661
Shade: Average to bad
This trail begins on Sierra College Blvd. and ends at Folsom Road in old town Roseville. This three-mile trail gives you a real rural feel right in the heart of the suburbs. Make your way through beautiful greenery and trails that go under the concrete bridges of the Roseville landscape. A creek runs along most of the trail. You can stop at Piches Park and enjoy a picnic or shoot some hoops. Make sure you enjoy the Secrete Ravine at the trail entrance located behind the parking lot for the United Artists Olympus Pointe 12 theater – it makes for a great picnic spot.
What to be aware of: This is in the suburbs so you never know the sort of people you may find. It is a safe trail, but just be cautious of who is hanging out around the bridges. The shade isn’t the best so on a hot day make sure you are lathered in sunscreen. A lot of cyclists ride up and down this trail as well so make sure you are following the rules of the trail.
This trail begins at Dry Creek Community Park, which is a new park located where Antelope meets Roseville on Walerga Road. The playground at this park is a good spot to rest and let the kids play. But if you want to hike, this is another easy and accessible suburban trail that provides a relatively flat terrain with both a paved path and several off-trail paths that lead to the very pleasant and serene Dry Creek. You will find several spots along the trail to stop for a picnic. The trail isn’t that long at 1.7 miles. There are a lot of families on this trail and on the weekends it can get pretty congested, but overall, it is a pleasant trip.
What to be aware of: The dirt trails that lead off of the paved trail are relatively narrow and do not always leave a lot of room for bikes to pass. If you have a jogging stroller, you may want to ditch it if you plan to escape the paved trail.
So put some sunscreen on the whole family and get out there! Oh, and leave the kids’ smartphones and tablets at home if you can – show them the wonder that nature can provide.