Independence Trail – East

IMG_3790Taking the Independence Trail – East trail to where it “ends’ (at what looks like an old service road), the hike is about four to four and 1/2 miles total (out and back). You can continue past the obvious road on some unmaintained trails, but do so at your own risk – there’s lots of poison oak, but I’ve heard there are some paths that lead you to a watering hole or the river.

Why we love it: This trail is simple and beautiful + has the fun feature of lots of wooden footbridges – some quite long! Along the way you’ll be treated to glimpses of the Yuba River far below. About 1.75 miles along, there’s a really nice picnic table area just off to the right of the trail.

For the Young Ones (0-10): This trail is great for families who like to explore and have little hikers who will stay on the trail. Like the West side (see my previous post on that end of the trail here), there are “high” and “low” paths that travel together along the way. I’d recommend you keep the little ones on the low. Pay attention to the recent weather though – sometimes the “low” can get flooded or really muddy.

For the Big Kids (10+): While not a challenging hike, I do think this one is interesting enough to hold the attention of bigger kids. For those that can handle more miles, tack on the 5 miles of the Independence Trail – West trail, for a total of nearly 10 miles of hiking. IMG_E3778

Keep in Mind:

  • Last weekend there were no pesky mosquitos, but when our family did the west side in the summer there were lots. Bring repellant just in case!
  • The parking lot is easy to find by entering “Independence Trail ” into Google Maps (it’s on CA-49), and the official trailhead is for both the East and the West trails – with bathrooms!
  • There’s also an overflow parking lot just past the main lot, which has stairs that go up to the East trail.

Around the Area: Less than a mile northeast of the trailhead, you can take an exit to your right and pull into a big parking lot (on Google Maps, Yuba River swimming hole 49 bridge). Here, you have the opportunity to get out of the car, cross a pedestrian bridge, or go down stairs to the river! I bet in the summer it’s a great way to cool off!

Difficulty Level: Beginner.

Note: These photos are from a women-only hike I organized for February! Find more hikes you can join me on (both women-only and family-friendly) on my Facebook page, Family Trail Time.



Laguna Creek Trail – Whitehouse Creek Trail Loop

IMG_3564Our family is often on the Laguna Creek Trail (see my original post here), and there are lots of places to get on and off of this trail, located in Elk Grove, CA. For this post, I’m focusing on the part of the trail starting at Bond Road, immediately east of the California Family Fitness parking lot (8569 Bond Rd, Elk Grove, CA 95624, Google map here). This loop is just about three miles and is stroller friendly and wheelchair accessible.

Facing the front of the gym, walk to the far right of the building – look for the green dumpsters and playground inside a fence. The trail is immediately to the right. With you’re back to Bond Road, follow Laguna Creek Trail over the bridge to where the trail splits and then go left towards the Whitehouse Creek Trail. A part of this stretch goes through a neighborhood with sidewalks – just keep going straight until you see the a playground/MacDonald Park on your right, and you’ll see where the Whitehouse Creek Trail picks up next to it. Just past the playground, the trail crosses over the creek on your left. Once you’ve crossed over the creek, turn right to continue on the trail.

IMG_3552You will come upon Mix Park on your left, where we usually play on the playground for a bit. Continuing on, the Whitehouse Creek Trail dead ends at Springhurst Drive. Take a right onto the sidewalk to cross over the creek, and then cross W/N Camden Drive to get onto the Camden Greenbelt.This will put you onto a new part of the Laguna Creek Trail. Go straight on the trail until you come to Camden Lake, and then follow the trail to your right (with the lake on your left). Soon you’ll see the bridge on your left that will take you back to the parking lot.

Why we love it: It’s easy. You can see some wildlife (mostly geese, ducks, occasionally a hawk, turtle, or rabbit, etc.) and get in some miles without having to go very far. I love that it’s both stroller friendly and wheelchair accessible.

For the Young Ones (0-10): While the geese along this trail aren’t aggressive (they ignore you or walk away), by the lake you’ll want to watch out for their…ahem..excrement. This “kiddie” hike is great because you can break it up by stopping at one or two playgrounds, which little ones will always appreciate.


For the Big Kids (10+): Unless your big kids are game for a simple family walk, they’ll most likely be bored on this loop.

Keep in Mind:

  • There are no bathrooms along these trails or at the parks. At Mix Park there is at least one trash can, but this may be the only place along the route.
  • Joggers enjoy these trails so make sure to share the trails.
  • Dogs are allowed on these trails, but must be on-leash.

Around the Area: Near California Family Fitness there are lots of places to grab a bite or treat. We usually use the bathrooms wherever we grab something to eat.

Difficulty Level: Beginner.

Cascade Canal Trail

IMG_3477Why we love it: It’s a great way to get out in nature on a true hike, without much difficulty. Starting at the Gracie Road trailhead, there are a few switchbacks near the beginning, but it evens out and is mostly wide and level terrain.

For the Young Ones (0-10): It may be hard to keep little ones from moving on once the trail starts running alongside the canal. I’m sure littles could spend hours throwing rocks and sticks into the water. Just be careful no one gets too close! There are also a few places you’d want to make sure younger hikers stay near the center of the trail because of drop offs, so if you have kiddos that take off, this may not be aIMG_3473 trail for you. In addition, if you get to the catwalk (See For the Big Kids, below), you can pass it until you get to a road that makes a “T” with the trail and loop around to the left, but it isn’t very clear. (When you “loop” back, you’ll see the catwalk on your left but it isn’t completely obvious you made a loop. Read the full trail description here.)

For the Big Kids (10+): This in-and-out trail is great in that you can make the hike as short as you like or as long as approximately 9 miles. Adventurous big kids will love the catwalk crossing to continue the hike at around the 1.6 mile mark. Once on the other side, turn left to continue on.

Keep in Mind:

  • Dogs on leash are allowed on the trail.
  • Enter these coordinates in Google Maps to best locate the trailhead: N39.24106 W120.99855
  • This trail is known to be accessible year-round, but with a storm the week before we were on the trail, there were parts of the trail that were muddy or a bit snowy/icy. Make sure to pay attention to weather conditions leading up to and including the day of your hike.
  • There are trail markers on the trail, but several of us thought they didn’t match up with our trackers.
  • There are no bathrooms anywhere near the trailhead. Stop at a gas station on your way if you need to!

Around the Area: The town of Nevada City is nearby and super cute to walk around.

Difficulty Level: Beginner.


Darrington Trail


After Dayle’s attempt to find Salmon Falls Loop Trail, I attempted to find it for myself. I was told by one person that there’s a loop when the lake is pretty dried up, but in a good Sacramento winter it’s typically pretty wet in this part of the country. I did see a sign for Salmon Falls on the way to the Darrington Trail parking lot, but I also heard that “Salmon Falls Trail” and “Darrington Trail” are used interchangeably, so that may help explain some of the confusion. In addition, after our hike I saw a post on Hike It Baby that said to do the loop, you start at the Monte Vista Trailhead, so maybe I’ll check that out at some point. (Feel free to comment if you have information further clarifying!)IMG_E3191

Why we love it: This trail is approximately 16 miles long, with a campsite at the 8.5 mile mark. We did approximately 4 miles total, and it was a lovely hike to do in our small group of 2 parents and 2 kiddos. We liked the views of Salmon Falls Bridge, Folsom Lake, that the trail wasn’t all flat but not all at an incline, and most of all – playing in a creek that leads to the lake!

For the Young Ones (0-10): I would not recommend this trail for really little ones, or children who are not experienced hikers. While the trail itself isn’t difficult (aside from a short initial ascent), at times it is narrow with a steep drop-off, and there were many mountain bikers we had to share the trail with…without much trail to share. We did the trail with an experienced seven year-old IMG_3292hiker and a really well-behaved six-year old. They had opportunities to goof around at certain parts of the trail, but understood and responded appropriately when there was any slight safety risk. These two had a blast down at the creek and could have spent hours playing in the water.

For the Big Kids (10+): Big kids and adults looking for a longer hike can enjoy quite a few miles out on this trail. I’d suggest also looking into camping to spend more time in the area!

Keep in Mind:

  • $10 Day Use Fee + remember to keep valuables out of sight! Bring cash and a pen.
  • Packs of mountain bikers may pass you on the trail, but every single one of the bikers was courteous and friendly on our hike! IMG_3233
  • Use the following on your phone’s GPS to get to the trailhead: Darrington Trail Parking Lot, 7288-7296 Salmon Falls Rd, Pilot Hill, CA 95664
  • Cell service is intermittent along the trail, so don’t assume you’ll have a signal.
  • To do about 3 miles roundtrip, turnaround at the signs in the photo on the right.

Around the Area: El Dorado Hills has lots of shops and places to eat, but for this hike we just enjoyed snacks on the trail.

Difficulty Level: Moderate (only because of steep drop-offs and the need to share narrow trails with mountain bikers).


Sweetwater Trail


On New Year’s Day, my 6 year old (who hadn’t wanted to leave his Lego table since Christmas morning….) requested to go on a “hike in the woods”. So I loaded him and his 4 year old brother into the car and headed for Salmon Falls Trail on the South fork of the American River in El Dorado. From what I was able to figure out, it seems that “Salmon Falls” is general area with several different trails. We were specifically looking for “Salmon Falls Loop Trail” which is supposed to be a very easy and short loop trail….but we never found it. Instead, we ended up on the Sweetwater Trail which is an easy to moderate 5 mile out and back trail.

IMG_6497Why we love it: Shortly after the trail starts there is a cool bridge over a nice little creek that is perfect for dipping your toes in and practicing your rock-hopping…..can be slippery though… exercise caution. We didn’t complete the full trail because it was a bit more than the kids were up for, but what we saw of it was great. Some mild hills and slightly rocky terrain kept it interesting but still manageable for the kids. Beautiful mountain and river views.


For the Young Ones (0-10):  Completing the trail would be pretty ambitious for very young ones and the trail is narrow and bumpy in many parts so not stroller friendly. But as long as the kids are up for a little bit of a challenge (and you bring enough M&M’s….) it’s a nice challenge and the creek is definitely a crowd pleaser.

For the Big Kids (10+): Big kids would likely do great on this trail as it has plenty of interest but is not overly difficult.

Keep in Mind:

  • This area can get pretty crowded on holidays and weekends so it’s best to arrive early.
  • This is a popular mountain biking trail so you need to keep your eyes open for cyclists, but the ones we encountered were very considerate and cautious.
  • There are several different trails in this area. If you’re prone to being navigationally challenged, as I am, you may want to be flexible in terms of having your mind set on any specific trail. The entire are is beautiful though, so it seems it would be hard to go wrong.
  • There’s a small picnic area and restrooms at the end of the parking lot (near the start of the trail) which is certainly handy. IMG_6495

Difficulty Level: Beginner to moderate, the trail has some mild hills and the terrain somewhat rough in spots but still not difficult.

Guest contributor Dayle lives in Sacramento with her husband and two boys and has a private therapy practice in midtown. Originally from San Francisco, she now enjoys exploring her new Sacramento home and all that it and the surrounding areas have to offer with her family and friends. 

Note from Felicia: Dayle and her husband make some delicious wines – you can check them out online here:

Putah Creek Riparian Reserve


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.IMG_2551

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.


Free Family Hike – TOMORROW!

TOMORROW – Friday, December 29th, 9AM – Free Family Hike: Join us for a family hike in nearby Davis, CA! The trail will be easy and kid-friendly. While it may be cold, so long as it’s not freezing or raining, we’ll be there!

We’ll explore part of the Putah Creek Riparian Reserve on our flat, <4 mile hike. Along the way we should see box elder, valley oak, arroyo and sandbar willow, California grape, California wild rose, Cottonwood, and whatever animals cross our path.

Park at the Old Davis Road Parking (directions: by 9AM. We’ll take a leisure walk/hike along the trail by the water out to the fire ring picnic grounds and back.

We’ve never done this trail, but based on my research, it should take us about 1 1/2 hours, depending on the pace of the kiddos. You can a more detailed map here:

This trail does not appear to be handicap or stroller accessible, though it is flat. After this hike, I’ll share on the blog whether or not I think a stroller like a BOB could handle it.

PLEASE REMEMBER THAT WE ARE NOT TRAINED TRAIL GUIDES. TAKE EVERY PRECAUTION YOU WOULD NORMALLY TAKE WHEN EXPLORING A NEW HIKING TRAIL (including protection from the elements, first aid, water and snacks, watching your children, etc.). BY JOINING US, YOU CONSENT THAT WE ASSUME NO LIABILITY. We’re just a family that enjoys hiking, and hope you do, too!