14 Amazing Hiking Trails In Sacramento

Whether you have lived in Sacramento your entire life or you are a frequent visitor or a local, the city offers some beautiful and scenic hiking trails in Sacramento and its surrounding area. 

Located where the Sacramento and American Rivers meet in the Sacramento Valley, the city’s surrounding area is home to some stunning outdoor scenery that beginner and experienced hikers will love. 

With great weather, most of the year, and proximity to places like Lake Tahoe and the Bay area, hiking around Sacramento is one of the favorite activities for visitors and locals alike. With so many different trails, there is an adventure for everyone. So let’s dive right in!

View of the Merced River, el Capitan and Half Dome at Yosemite

Yosemite National Park

We could not write this article without kicking it off with one of the most famous hiking areas in the whole of California. It might be 141 miles from the city, but we promise the 3-hour drive will provide you with hikes and views like you’ve never seen before.

It is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of trip, especially if you are not from California and if you love all-day hikes and backpacking adventures, look no further. However, if you are in the area for a while, we would suggest staying in Yosemite for at least a whole weekend to enjoy as many of the park’s beautiful hikes, breathtaking trails, and stunning scenery.

Some of our favorite hikes include the Half Dome hike, which is 14.2 miles long, the upper and lower Yosemite falls, and the famous Glacier Point hike.

Shaded Trail In Cosumnes River Preserve
Jesse Pluim, BLM on flickr

 

River Walk Trail In Cosumnes River Preserve

This hike is around 25 miles from Sacramento, and the trail is an easy 3.2 miles, meaning it’s perfect for beginners. Nature lovers adore the Cosumnes River Preserve as you will find plenty of interesting plants and wildlife such as raccoons and marine birds. You will also find hikes along the forest, prairie, and wetlands.

A serene and peaceful environment, this is a great little trail for escaping the busy hustle and bustle of the city without having to hike miles and miles up rocky terrain. However, since this trail is in a swampy area, make sure you take some extra bug spray in your backpack.

Blue Heron Trail at Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge
Joe P on flickr

Blue Heron Trail

The Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge’s trail is a new trail near Sacramento, which is around 1.5 miles long and loops through the wetlands of Elk Grove.

The lake surrounding the wetlands and the marshes is perfect for hikers who enjoy spotting wildlife as you are sure to spot some hawks, waterfowl, shorebirds, or cranes as it is a natural migration place of these bird species and many more. Since this trail is so short, it’s great for beginner hikers and ideal for wheelchairs and strollers.

Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail

This trail, also known as the American River Parkway, trails through the city itself, and it has a total of 28 miles with 541 feet of total elevation. This trail is great for either walking, biking, or running and runs right along the American River.

Although it’s not what some expert hikers might call a classic hike, it’s perfect for those afternoon strolls, a morning jog, or just a breath of fresh air. It’s also extremely popular for biking and is a favorite recreation trail for tourists and locals alike, meaning if you like people watching, you’ll love the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail.

Rapid Waters at Lake Clementine
Dileep E on flickr

Lake Clementine

The hike at Lake Clementine and the dam is 40 miles outside of Sacramento and is a popular hike in the Auburn State Recreation Area. It’s around 4.5 miles long with 700 feet of elevation and is popular with hikers and their dogs since it is dog-friendly.

It has a moderate incline and this includes beautiful views of the surrounding waterways and lakes. It is also surrounded by beautiful evergreen forests and has plenty of shade with scenic views you’re not going to want to miss.

It is popular with locals at the weekends and you can also take the short detour to the overlook, which offers beautiful views of the dam and Lake Clementine.

Sea Shore veiw from Palomarin Trail
Buddha Dog on flickr

 

Palomarin Trail

Around 5 miles long, the Palomarin trail is an iconic trailhead hike near Bolinas, California, on the Point Reyes National Seashore. It can take a couple of hours to reach the trek from Sacramento if you are driving, but we promise it’s worth it to get that beautiful view of the coast.

You’ll see plenty of coastal forests with breathtaking clifftop views. There is also a campground at the end near Wildcat Beach, and after the hike, check out either the town of Point Reyes Station or Bolinas and enjoy the landscapes of Marin County.

Monument trail at Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park
Ray B on flickr

Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park

The Gold Discovery Loop has incredible hilly scenery and cultural value with a fascinating history. It was first inhabited by the Nisenan Indian tribe and was known as the ‘beautiful valley’, before becoming a hotspot for the California Gold Rush. Here, migrants would enter the hills and streams to pan for gold.

The hike is about 3 miles long and is 45 miles away from Sacramento. You’ll achieve an elevation gain of 600 feet, but it is still one of the more accessible hikes you will find near Sacramento and takes you through the State Historic Park.

You’ll see plenty of viewpoints of the surrounding hills, and the main loop trail will also present an opportunity to take gold panning lessons. You can even join a guided tour which will tell you more about the history of the area.

Granite Lake And Maggie’s Peaks

This hike is 108 miles outside of the city and only 4.1 miles long, yet it will provide you with an elevation gain of 1778 feet. Of all the different hikes you will find in the Lake Tahoe Area, the trail to Maggie’s Peaks is a local favorite.

Despite being such a short hike, the high elevation means it is suited for more experienced hikers, but the views at the top are simply breathtaking. You’ll also see panoramas of Tahoe’s Emerald Bay, Granite Lake, and smaller inlets or lakes in the area. The trail’s ascent can also get steep and strenuous for inexperienced hikers.

Twin Lakes overlook in Mammoth Lakes
m01229 on flickr

Island And Twin Lakes

This hike is 88 miles from Sacramento, which should take around 1 hour, 45 minutes in the car, and is 6.2 miles long with 1,204 feet of elevation. This trail is one of the cooler parts of Sacramento and is home to more alpine scenery.

The Island and Twin Lakes Trail is in the Desolation Wilderness and is one of the prettiest hikes you can venture near the city. It’s perfect for hikers with a bit of experience behind them, and you can access 3 alpine lakes along the way that reflect the rocky mountains and surrounding lush evergreen forests.

Since it is for slightly more experienced hikers, you might find some problematic spots to navigate on the ascent, but we promise this will provide you with a good workout on top of the breathtaking views. As a result of the popularity of this trail, we suggest packing up and getting there as early as possible to grab a parking spot and get going. The trial can get especially popular on the weekends.

Quarry Trail

The Quarry Trail is 10.8 miles long with 1,240 feet of elevation and is 37 miles away from Sacramento. It is a favorite with locals, and you will find it in the Auburn State Recreation Area.

The trail is a nature-lovers dream and brings hikers along beautiful riversides and up hilly slopes to breathtaking views. You’ll also be able to spot wildlife such as bears, bobcats, and deers. 

View of the water falls
Buddha Dog on flickr

Alamere Falls Trail

This trail is slightly further out from Sacramento, 111 miles out, and 13.8 miles long with nearly 2000 feet of elevation! The Alamere Falls Trail is one of the most popular hikes in the whole of Northern California, and though it is pretty lengthy, it is a great hike near the seaside that ends at a beloved viewpoint of Alamere Falls falling into the ocean.

The trail is mapped out well, and you will pass the Pacific coastline on your journey. It winds through several different viewpoints, with hilly stops and stunning lakes. You can also make your way down to the beach at the end of the trail, but this can be relatively slippery and quite steep, so proceed with care!

South Fork American River Trail

The South Fork American River Trails is 17.5 miles long and 37 miles outside Sacramento. It has an elevation gain of 2798 feet and is perfect if you want a challenging hike that is that bit longer than your average trail. If you wish for a backpacking trip or a full day hike, drive the 45 minutes to this trail, one of the most challenging hikes near the city.

It is a scenic route to capture some evergreen forest areas with river canyons and desert-like plains. The views from higher altitudes of the trail are mostly of the surrounding mountains, and they offer a beautiful stretch for photography and a picnic. It is also an in-and-out trail, which means you can go as far as you want on the hike.

Scenic overlook from Rubicon Trail
Ray B on flickr

Rubicon Trail

A 2-hour drive away and 102 miles outside of Sacramento, this hike is a whopping 16.4 miles long with 2306 feet of elevation. So if you are seeking a full-day adventure with picturesque views and places to stop for a picnic, this could be the hike for you.

It is one of the most popular trails of South Lake Tahoe, and the alpine path takes you through scenic forests and mountains. You’ll also get great photo opportunities of the deep blue Lake Tahoe. It also passes Eagle Fall, a cascade beautiful in the springtime and when the snow is melting in winter.

It is an out-and-back trail, meaning you can do as much or as little of it as you want, but we recommend at least hiking to the front of the lake to catch the most amazing views.

View from Mount Diablo
Richard Conlan on Flickr

Mount Diablo Summit Trail

92 miles outside of Sacramento and 7 miles long, one of the most popular yet challenging hikes near the area is the Mount Diablo Summit. It has an elevation gain of over 2000 feet, and it is located in Mount Diablo State Park. The trail rises and shows countless views of the mountains and hells below.

You can see for miles and miles on clearer days, so it is definitely worth the climb. However, it can be tiring and strenuous to get to the very top, and if you go at the peak of summer, we suggest you go prepared. Take a hat, sunglasses, and plenty of sunscreen as the trail can become exposed, leaving no shade to hide and cover-up. As with any hike, remember to stay hydrated and take plenty of water along with you.

Tips For Hiking In Sacramento

What Should I Bring?

You need to remember to take some breathable hiking clothes when hiking, especially in the summer. However, if you are walking in the warmer months, you will want to stay as cool as possible. To do this, wear a sweat-wicking shirt or a tank top with some breathable pants.

For colder hikes, you need to remember to layer up. This means wool baselayers or even thermals, an oversized padded jacket, and waterproof if it starts to pour down with rain. You will also need to remember proper hiking socks, no matter what kind of weather you are hiking in.

Thicker socks are recommended not only to make your hiking boots feel more comfortable but to also keep those toes warm up in the mountains.

Equipment

When it comes to equipment, you will want to double-check you have packed everything for a safe and enjoyable trip. You don’t want those mosquitos coming out and you realize you haven’t got any bug spray! Here is what is recommended to take:

Water Bottle

No matter the length of your hike, you will always need to have a water bottle on you. We recommend buying a reusable bottle and filling it up before you go to minimize plastic waste. You might also find drinking fountains to refill your bottle along the trail and trailheads.

This Stainless Steel Water Bottle flask on Amazon is easy to carry, lightweight, and can keep hot water hot and cold water cold.

Trekking Poles

Though you will not need these for each hike, we always think every hiker should have a pair in the trunk of your car just in case. You want to find lightweight, durable, and easy to carry around. Check out these Collapsible Hiking Poles on Amazon!

A Brimmed Hat

Either a brimmed hat or cap is essential for sunny hikes. The sun can be harsh on hikes without tree shade in the summer, and you will want to protect yourself from headaches. If you are looking for a super-wide brimmed hat that is also waterproof and will prepare you for any eventuality, check out this pSuper Wide Brim Sun Hat on Amazon.

Sunscreen

It is no secret that California can be sunny. Especially when you are exposed on those open trails, you don’t want to get home to find out you have burned yourself. Try finding some sweatproof sunscreen so you do not sweat it off while hiking without knowing. You can even keep an eye out for ones that do not include harsh chemicals and are safe for marine life.

Bug Spray

Another self-explanatory one. You don’t want to end up being bitten as this can be annoying on the trail and painful. Try to find a strong one containing DEET to be extra protected.

Emergency Blanket And First Aid Kit

You should always carry a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike you go on. You never know what might happen when you are out on the trail and it is always best to play it safe and prepare yourself for any situation that arises.

Day Pack

Whichever day pack you decide to bring, make sure it is durable and can withstand different weather conditions.

You also need it to be lightweight but big enough to carry all of the hiking essentials listed above. Finally, it needs to be comfortable and breathable and for this reason, we recommend the Osprey Talon 22 Hiking Backpack

Staying Safe

Making sure you have all of the right equipment and clothes can ensure you have a safe and enjoyable hike. However, before you go, we recommend telling a few people you are heading into the wilderness and telling them where you will be. Also, make sure you stock up on snacks to keep those energy levels up.

You could even pack a picnic and stop along with one of the scenic routes on your way. Make sure you do your research before heading off to double-check the hike you are traveling to is open and safe to hike. This is important during the wildfire season in June to September in California. 

Final Thoughts

We hope this article you gave you a good an idea of the beautiful hiking trails in Sacramento area. Whether you’ve never stepped foot on a trail before, or you are an experienced hiker, we recommend you pick one and go for it! We promise the breathtaking views, and scenic routes with plenty of wildlife will be the adventure of a lifetime. Also, Check out some of the other hikes we’ve listed in California and surrounding states.

Emily Winters