Easy Fall Hikes From Sacramento
September 13, 2019

Easy Fall Hikes From Sacramento

Autumn is one of the best times of the year to hit the trails. The heat is waning, the leaves are turning, and the summertime crowds are dwindling down. Sacramento’s location near the Sierra foothills means amazing day hikes are right in our own backyard. But you don’t have to be a seasoned trekker to enjoy an autumn romp. There are plenty of easy hikes within just a few hours of Sacramento where beginners can enjoy the splendor of fall. Following are some of our favorites.

Hidden Falls Regional Park

Auburn | Directions

This easy, family-friendly hike near Auburn is perfect just about any time of year, but in autumn, the crowds wind down and it’s cool enough to enjoy even at midday. The mostly-flat main trail that leads to the falls is just over three miles long, with views of the surrounding hillside and nearby creeks. Though the falls aren’t at full capacity by summer’s end, they’re still flowing, and you can relax on the rocks to refuel before heading back. Note: Parking reservations are required on weekends.

Independence Trail

Nevada City | Directions

Located just outside Nevada City, this popular 2.5-mile (one way) trail is mellow, shaded and partially wheelchair accessible (i.e.: stroller friendly). There are several wooden bridges that follow old mining flumes across the Rush Creek Canyon, as well as picnic benches along the way. At about a mile in, there’s a small waterfall, and you can scramble down to the rocks below.

Cronan Ranch Regional Trails Park

Pilot Hill | Directions

Photo courtesy Bureau of Land Management

This scenic area along the South Fork of the American River has more than 12 miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. While some trails are rocky and steep, the 2.4-mile Gerle Loop Trail is relatively flat and smooth, making it ideal for those with dogs or kids. Trails on the western side of the park lead to the river, and while access is limited, the shaded oak glens offer views of the water.

Jenkinson Lake Loop Trail/Sly Park

Pollock Pines | Directions

Photo courtesy El Dorado Irrigation District

Less than two hours from Sacramento, Sly Park Lake is a popular spot for summertime camping, fishing and boating. But the crowds thin out come fall, making it ideal for day hikers. Jenkinson Lake Loop Trail hugs the water’s edge for nearly 9 miles, with the easiest sections along the west and north sides. The section between the main day use area and Miwok Trail is just 1.5 miles one way, with an interpretive area describing the native peoples who once lived here.

Cascade Canal Trail

Nevada City | Directions

This peaceful hiking and biking trail meanders 4.5 miles along Banner Mountain in Nevada City. Along the way are Douglas fir, dogwoods, big-leaf maple and black oak. Peek through the leaves for views of the valley (and city) below. Branching off the main trail is the Orlene Wetherall Trail, which is located in a 28-acre woodpecker preserve — if you’re lucky you may be able to spot downy woodpeckers and red-breasted sapsuckers.

Quarry Trail

Auburn | Directions

Photo courtesy Lucas Gilbert via Flickr

Just off Highway 49 in the Auburn State Recreation Area, this trail follows the path of an old railway that was used to carry limestone from the quarry. It’s wide and smooth, making it easily doable for families and beginners. The trail boasts  sweeping views of the Middle Fork of the American River in the canyon below, and there are even a few spur trails that will take you down to the water’s edge. At just over ten miles, the trail is long, but you can do as much or as little as you like.

Dave Moore Nature Trail

Coloma | Directions

Photo courtesy Bureau of Land Management

This flat, mile-long loop trail near Coloma heads to the South Fork of the American River and back again. The trail is lined with remnants from the Gold Rush era, including interesting rock formations. It’s a great hike for little ones, with a riverside beach and hidden dinosaur toys along the way. Plus, it’s dog friendly!

Putah Creek Reserve Trail

Davis | Directions

Photo courtesy Yolo County

This flat, shaded trail along Putah Creek is great for animal lovers, as birds, rabbits, raccoons, lizards and turtles can often be spotted along the water. Part of the UC Davis Putah Creek Riparian Reserve, the trail follows the creek for more than nine miles, though the section between Pedrick Road and Old Davis Road is less than three miles (one way). There are a few benches along the way to take a load off, as well as a popular swimming hole.

Category Neighborhood Guides

Elizabeth Penney

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