8 Great Fall Hikes Near Sacramento
Fall is one of the best seasons for a day spent outdoors. There’s a slight chill in the air, the crowds have thinned out a bit, and best of all, the leaves are beginning to turn, providing for spectacular scenery. If you’re looking for a great fall hike, you don’t have to travel far. There are plenty of spots near the greater Sacramento area that offer stellar views and a bit of solitude in the autumn months. So, lace up those hiking shoes and check out one of the following hiking trails perfect for an easy fall outing.
Cosumnes River Walk Trail | Galt
Part of the Cosumnes River Preserve, this easy, flat trail is popular for birdwatching, especially in the winter. But it’s also a great place to spend a fall day. At just over 3 miles, the elevated loop trail is relatively short, but it affords views of the surrounding foliage and wetlands. An added bonus is that Sandhill cranes begin arriving at the preserve in September or October! Dogs are not permitted.
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 and select holidays.
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.
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. But its lakeside trail is a good bet any time of year! 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 leashed 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. 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.