Just about fifteen minutes south of Elk Grove on I-5, Cosumnes River Preserve is an ideal hiking and nature introduction for your family. It contains over 50,000 acres of wildlife habitat and agricultural lands! This blog post focuses on just the Wetlands Walk and River Walk.
Why we love it: This is hiking right in our own backyard! Many of the hikes we usually take require travel of at least an hour. Living close to I-5 in Sacramento or Elk Grove, it takes no time to get Cosumnes River Preserve. The walks are laid back and simple, without being too simple but also not being too much of a challenge. We’re not avid bird watchers, but we were super excited to see many different kinds of birds.
For the Young Ones (ages 0-10): The paved path of the Wetlands Walk is great for those on wheels (stroller, wheelchair, etc.). It’s also a relatively short hike, so we enjoyed letting our 4 year-old take his time watching bugs or listening for animals. It also allowed him a bit of freedom to run around, since it’s a flat path (other than the initial bridge). This path crosses the main road, so be sure not to let kiddos get too far ahead. The River Walk allowed us to get further immersed in nature and our little guy was able to observe interesting plants (“Those trees look like they have white cotton candy all over them!”), birds, and discover the train tracks bridge.
For the Big Kids (age 10+): The River Walk may qualify as more of a “real” hike to adventurers looking for more than a paved path, as it winds its way along raised levees through a variety of habitats, including buttonbush thickets, native grasslands, Valley Oak riparian forest, cottonwood-willow riparian forest, and tule marsh. There are also several different trail options to shorten or lengthen your hike. Big kids may be intrigued by the nearby train tracks on both the Wetlands Walk and the River Walk. This might be a good time to teach about how powerful trains are and how important it is to take precautions around train tracks. Also, Cosumnes River Preserve features a dock for you to launch your canoe or kayak from, which families with older kids may be interested in taking advantage of.
- There are some pretty exposed parts of these hikes, so always make sure to wear protective clothing, hats, and sunscreen.
- The Wetlands Walk crosses over the main road, so be sure not let little ones run too far ahead.
- The Welcome Center’s hours are posted online as open Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm., but on the Sunday we went it was not open. The walks are still available even if the center is closed.
Difficulty Level: Beginner. Wetlands Walk is wheelchair accessible.