In the Putah Creek Riparian Reserve, we hiked from the Old Davis Road parking lot to the Fire Ring Picnic Grounds. Going this route, the hike is just under 4 miles. You can extend it further by going past the picnic grounds to the Pedrick Road parking. To go this route, the creek should be on your left to start.
Why we love it: This is an easy hike just a few minutes off of the freeway in Davis. While it’s mostly level, there are a few inclines along the way. It’s more of a hike than just a nature walk (in comparison to something like Davis Arboretum), but the terrain was fine for the 2 year-old and 65+ year-old who hiked with us. I liked the “reward” of reaching the fire ring picnic grounds, with picnic tables to sit and eat snacks, fallen trees for kids to climb on, and a path down to the creek.
For the Young Ones (0-10): If you have a beginner hiker (or are one yourself), and have already done a few nature walks, this is a great trail to hit up next. While the 2 year-old with us eventually needed to be carried, you can do less of the trail to make your hike as short as you’d like. For the kids around ages 5-10, we had to make sure they kept on the trail in order to avoid the poison oak, but otherwise, it was great! They really enjoyed reaching the fire ring picnic area to snack, throw rocks in the creek, crawl over the trees, and play.
For the Big Kids (10+): Older kids may appreciate the graffiti as you head under the overpasses close to the beginning of the path. Once past this area, the trail is clear enough for older kids to be trusted to forge ahead, but I’d still recommend staying in a group/with others.
Keep in Mind: Officially, there are no bathroom facilities on the trail. However, we found a clean port-a-potty at two of the parking lots (including where we started, at the Old Davis Road parking). There is poison oak along the way, so everyone should be mindful. DO NOT CROSS TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CREEK – it’s private property.
Around the Area: We love Davis! On Saturday mornings, we always enjoy the farmer’s market. We did this hike on a Friday, so opted to have lunch at the Davis Café Bernardo, which is always delicious (and has clean bathrooms)!
Difficulty Level: Beginner.