Beyond L.A.: 4 breathtaking hikes near Sacramento (guest post by Paul McCormin of Active Authorities)

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Sacramento might not be known as a hiking city, but you may be surprised at how many great hiking trails are nearby. Here are four of my favorites.

The Quarry Trail

Quarry Trail, California
View from the Quarry Trail (photo credit:

The Quarry Trail in Auburn, CA is a half-hour ride from Sacramento. From my experiences, this is a fairly tame hiking area making it a fine location for those who aren’t looking for much of a challenge. Its old, worn out trails are smooth enough for a stroller’s wheels, so you could take any little ones with you on the journey. Besides, by not having to worry about catching your breath, you will have many more opportunities for admiring the surroundings.

The best time to go is the early spring or in the fall when temperatures average around 70-80° F. If summer is the only time period you have time to hike, I still would visit the Quarry Trail. However, be sure to go early in the morning, as temperatures can get to 100° F or more.

The name of this location comes from the old limestone mine located inside the area. In fact, the carrier adds a bit of historical value to the Quarry Trail. Hikers can peek into the caves that used to be worked on by miners. Apart from that, the Quarry Trail goes along a railroad that once was utilized for limestone transport.

Needless to say, the Quarry Trail boasts numerous picturesque areas to take some photos of. This trail even has a picnic area set up one mile in for its visitors to have a snack or take a break. Check out this post from for a more detailed post of the entire hike!

Turning right at the main junction and going uphill will lead you to the Western States Trail. You may even be lucky enough to be here during the famed 100-mile endurance races! Alternatively, the Western States Trail has about one mile in it for you to stroll and enjoy your surroundings in.

The parking fee is $10, so make sure to have cash with you when visiting. The California State Parks annual pass is also accepted.

Cascade Canal Trail

Cascade Canal Trail
Cascade Canal Trail (photo credit: Family Trail Time – click for more info)

If you have been spoiled by L.A.’s mild climate, you’ll be right at home on the Cascade Canal Trail, only an hour’s drive from Sacramento, inside Nevada City. Its abundance of shade trees makes it an ideal hike for warm weather and it also boasts something not found on many L.A. area hikes – running water, thanks to the canal. The trail doesn’t have any steep hills or sudden terrain changes, making it a good choice for families or beginning hikers. Scenic highlights include spring wildflowers, Douglas firs and dogwood trees.

People mostly begin their hike on the Cascade Canal Trail from either the Red Dog Road Trailhead or the Gracie Road Trailhead. The Gracie Road Trailhead has a free parking lot to offer, so you certainly should head there if you arrive at the trail by car. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter where you start since both trailheads are equally close to the Cascade Canal Trail.

Auburn State Recreational Area

Auburn State Recreation Area, California
Auburn State Recreation Area (photo credit:

The Auburn State Recreational Area is a home to another famous trail right on the outskirts of Sacramento. This one is only a 30 minute or so drive, so if you are looking for a much more reachable, yet spectacular trail, look no further.

Running from the recreation area up to the foot of the Auburn Dam could make you sweat quite a bit due to the widely varying steepness of this hiking trail. However, apart from the relatively long and fairly difficult trails, the recreational area also has routes more suitable for families with school-age children. The area also has some interesting history including railroad routes running through the canyon, bridges, and sites with eye-catching names like the “Murderer’s Bar.”

Other recreational opportunities here include swimming, fishing, camping, mountain biking and even a family-friendly park area where my family was able to set up a game of horseshoes (read more on pitching techniques here). The biking trails within cover over 100 miles are particularly remarkable by spanning through the precipitous American River canyons.

The weather here is excellent year-round. It does not get too cold in the winter, and visitors may always dip themselves in the water if it gets hot in the summer. Just remember to bring extra water for hydration on warm days especially if you don’t plan on swimming.

East Ridge Trail Loop

East Ridge Loop, Redwood Regional Park
East Ridge Loop (photo credit:

The East Ridge Loop is a gorgeous adventure in the Bay Area, only an hour and a half from Sacramento. This hike is more challenging than the Cascade Canal Trail and the Quarry Trail since it has some steep climbs along the route. However, the rougher terrain opens up new, spectacular views, including groves of coast redwoods and grassy meadows.

From the Pinehurst Staging Area, where you can park for free, there are several options for hikes. One destination is the Skyline Staging Area, which can be reached via a loop of the East Ridge and Stream trails for an 8-mile hike with about 1,000 feet of elevation gain. The trail is also mountain-bike friendly and dog friendly. Leashes are not required but recommended. The Bay Area’s moderate climate makes this a good year-round hiking destination.

For more information about Paul McCormin, visit Active Authorities.

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