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Five Breathtaking Day-Hikes You Can Get To From Sacramento

Sarah Cornett / Capital Public Radio

A view of the coast from the last mile of the Palomarin Trail and a popular spot to stop for lunch.

Sarah Cornett / Capital Public Radio

Sarah Cornett | Capital Public Radio

CapRadio recommends this list of five hikes this summer.

Whether it’s coastal cliffs, forested dirt paths, arid wilderness or geological marvels, these hikes explore the best of the Sacramento region. Concerned about distances? These trails are worth it, even for just a couple miles. Go in for an hour or two and then turn around if you’d like a shorter trip.

The Palomarin Trail: Cool Off Along The Coast


Distance: 5 miles one-way.

Directions from Sacramento: Take I-80 W to CA-37 W. Exit left on Atherton Avenue. Turn right on Novato Boulevard, and continue until Point-Reyes Petaluma Road. Take a left, then turn right onto Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. Turn left on CA-1 S, then take rights onto Olema Boulevard then Mesa Road. You’ll see the trailhead parking lot on your right.

Parking: Free (though come early to guarantee a spot).

If it’s looking hot in the Sacramento Valley, jump in the car and head to this iconic trailhead near the small and eclectic town of Bolinas, CA, on the Point Reyes National Seashore. Though the drive from Sacramento is a couple hours, it’s worth it to get a coastal fix. The trail moves seamlessly from cool, wooded coastal forest to breathtaking oceanside cliffs.

Begin at the Palomarin Trailhead and continue on to the Coast Trail. It’s about five miles to Wildcat Beach, which also hosts a campground. You’ll see five lakes along the way. Stop for lunch at an overlook bench about one mile from Wildcat and soak in the breeze. After the hike, check out Bolinas or the town of Point Reyes Station to grab a meal and enjoy the Marin County landscapes.


Rockbound Pass: Get Lost In Desolation Wilderness


Distance: 5.5 miles one-way.

Directions from Sacramento: Take US-50 E and exit Wright’s Lake Road just after Kyburz. Continue on Wright’s Lake Road for 8 miles until the Rockbound Pass Trailhead.

Parking: Free. There’s a small parking area at Wright’s Lake near the trailhead.

With fascinating geology and plenty of wide open spaces, Desolation Wilderness offers some of the most popular trails and hiking in the Tahoe region. Of the dozens of options for hikers, Rockbound Pass from Wright’s Lake on the west side of Desolation Wilderness promises small-scale rock scaling alongside colorful wildflowers. Along the way, you’ll encounter granite slabs and rock formations created by trail veterans and backpackers. Be sure to peer over and peek at Doris Lake once you make it through the pass. A good choice for enthusiastic daytrippers who are ready for some scrambling.

Start at the Rockbound Trailhead at Wright’s Lake and journey 5.5 miles to Rockbound Pass. You’ll gain about 1,500 feet in elevation, so be prepared to sweat.


If the day is clear, you’ll see expanses of granite slabs and forested patches at the western side of the Pass. John Boehlke / Flickr


Auburn’s Quarry Trail: Explore Limestone Mining Of The Past


Distance: 3.5 miles one-way, can be extended.

Directions from Sacramento: Take I-80 to Auburn, exit on Elm Avenue. Take two lefts and continue onto Highway 49. Continue onto the American River Confluence, turning right to stay on Highway 49, and you’ll eventually see the Quarry Trailhead parking lot. 

Parking: $10. Quarry Trailhead has a small parking lot. Free with California State Parks annual pass.

Journey along the American River Canyon and catch glimpses of caves and remnants of mining in this level hike, which derives its name from its mining past. The trail is easily walkable, and goes along a former railroad route that was once used to transport limestone.

From the Quarry Trailhead off Highway 49, go 3.5 miles (or however long you’re feeling) to Brown’s Bar Junction. Bring your kids-- the trail is worn enough that a stroller’s wheels would be safe.

Stop for lunch or a snack at a picnic area one mile in. If you’re feeling adventurous, turn right at the Junction and make your way uphill to connect to the Western States Trail -- home of the famed 100-mile endurance race -- where you can continue on for another mile.


A calm river view along the Quarry Trail. Donald Childs / Flickr


Cascade Canal Trail: A Forest Walk East Of Nevada City


Distance: 4.5 miles one-way, continue to Orene Wetherall trail to add up to 6.7 miles

Directions from Sacramento: Take I-80 to Auburn. Take exit 119-B from I-80 East, and continue onto Highway 49 N to Gracie Road in Nevada City.

Parking: Free. Look for a parking area on Gracie Road, near the intersection of Banner-Lava Cap Road. Look for the “Cascade Canal Access Trail” sign at the east end of the parking area.

The Nevada City and Yuba areas are home to a number of trails perfect for a day trip. A level dirt path, The Cascade Canal Trail is a good choice to cool off in the shade of the forest. Its route runs along the waters of the Cascade Canal.

If you go on a Saturday, start your day at the Nevada City Farmer’s Market downtown. For particularly enthusiastic hikers, check out the popular Independence Trail, also in the city.


 The shaded, level Cascade Canal Trail is a light day trek. Erin Johnson / Flickr


East Ridge Trail Loop at Redwood Park Regional Park In Oakland: An Urban Forest


Distance: 5 mile loop

Directions from Sacramento: Take I-80 W and I-680 S to CA-24 W. Take exit 13 from CA-24 W, then continue onto Moraga Road and Canyon Road until you reach Pinehurst Road in Alameda County.

Parking: Free. Park at Pinehurst Staging Area on Pinehurst Road.

Take a day trip to the East Bay and explore Redwood Regional Park in Oakland, just a few miles from the city’s downtown. The East Ridge Loop Trail is moderately difficult, with some steep climbs at points. There are many ways to enter the Park (you can Oakland Magazines trail guide). Start at Pinehurst Staging Area and park along the road. Follow signs for the East Ridge Trail. Continue straight, then take a left at Canyon trail. To complete the loop, turn right Stream Trail first, then another right onto Prince Trail before getting back onto East Ridge.

The loop will give you a taste of the peaceful and forested groves of the park. You can easily extend your day by continuing on any of the trails above, or charting your own path.


The urban forest of Redwood Regional Park is an expansive oasis just a few miles from downtown Oakland. Miguel Vieira / Flickr

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