Easy, Dog-Friendly Fall Hikes Near Sacramento
Hiking is one of the best seasons for a day spent outdoors. The temperatures are lower, there’s a slight chill in the air, and the summer crowds have thinned out a bit. Best of all, the leaves are starting to turn, providing a golden kaleidoscope of color! But there’s no reason humans should have the fun. Hiking is even better with our four-legged friends by our sides. Most dogs love a day on the trail as much as their owners do. Luckily, there are plenty of easy-to-tackle trails within a few hours of Sacramento that welcome dogs. Following are some of the best dog-friendly hikes in the greater Sacramento area, where you and your trusty companion can take in the splendors of fall.
Hidden Falls Regional Park | Auburn
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. On-leash dogs are welcome! Note: Parking reservations are required on weekends.
Cronan Ranch Regional Trails Park | Pilot Hill
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. Like all of our public lands, dogs are allowed to be off leash, but only if under voice control.
Johnny Cash Trail | Folsom
This relatively new trail in Folsom begins near Folsom Lake, winding its way past Folsom Prison, where its namesake country singer performed in the 1960s. The paved trail, which also allows bikes, offers views of the American River Canyon, and there are spur trails to the water below. Plus, there are bridges designed to mimic the architecture of the notorious prison. Plan are under way to bring an outdoor art installation to the trail, showcasing Johnny Cash’s life and career. Dogs are allowed on leash.
Jenkinson Lake Loop Trail/Sly Park | Pollock Pines
Less than two hours from Sacramento, Sly Park Lake is a popular spot for summertime camping, fishing and boating — in non-drought years anyway. Though the water levels are low this year, the area is still ideal for a day hike. And although threatened by the Caldor Fire in late summer of 2021, the area did not see any damage, so it’s open as per usual. The 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. Although dogs are allowed on the trails, it’s important to note they are not allowed in or near the lake, as it serves as a drinking water reservoir.
Cascade Canal Trail | Nevada City
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. Dogs are allowed on leash.
Quarry Trail | Auburn
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. Dogs are allowed on leash.
Dave Moore Nature Trail | Coloma
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, dogs are allowed to be off leash.
Putah Creek Reserve Trail | Davis
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. Dogs are allowed, but they must be on leash.