Calaveras Big Trees SP – North Grove

 

Calaveras Big Trees State Park became a state park back in 1931 in order to preserve the North Grove. On Saturdays at 1pm the park offers a free guided hike of the grove from the Visitor Center! Take the guided hike or explore on your own, like we did!

Why we love it: Our family has seen lots of giant sequoia trees along the coast, from Muir Woods up through Avenue of the Giants, so it was nice to head a different direction with way less traffic! At less than two hours from home, it’s a lovely getaway and lots of families enjoy camping at the state park.

For the Young Ones (0-10): It’s an easy and relatively short loop. At less than two miles, the park totes the North Grove Big Tree trail as stroller-friendly (though not after rain) and there are a couple of places children can easily walk through fallen trees (one even has a handrail!).

For the Big Kids (10+): At the beginning of the loop or in the Visitor Center, you can purchase a pamphlet for 50 cents that explains each of the 26 numbered markers along your way, providing detail on what you’ll see in the area. They may also like the five mile South Grove hiking trail.

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Keep In Mind:

  • Sunscreen and insect repellant are a good idea for this trail. We saw mosquitos in the parking lot, so put on Bug Protector (I’m a brand ambassador) and we were fine.
  • The parking lot fills up fast on a Saturday! When we got back to our car mid-day there were zero parking spaces!
  • While it’s a popular trail, it’s always a good idea to have proper footwear. I cringed seeing flip flops and Crocs. Sneakers work great!
  • There’s a $12 entrance fee to the park for day use.
  • There are lots of little things for little hands to want you to buy in the Visitor Center. From the parking lot, you must go through the bookstore area to get to the museum.
  • The famous Pioneer Cabin Tree/Tunnel Tree fell in January 2017, but you can see what remains after it fell.
  • Out of curiosity, we took the Grove Overlook Trail off of the North Grove loop (around marker 2 – it drops you back on the loop around marker 14) and were the only ones on the much quieter trail. About 1/2 way down the trail, however, we came across a rattlesnake and turned ourselves around, back to where we left the North Grove loop. Read this link for helpful information on rattlesnakes in California.

Around the Area: Just outside of the park in Arnold, Giant Burger is known for their shakes. With nearly 20 flavors to choose from, you can have your pick from pumpkin pie to boysenberry! At only $4.25, one is large enough to split!

Difficulty Level: Beginner.

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Cronan Ranch Trails

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We did this trail back on March 31st, but I’m just now getting around to posting! Cronan Ranch is located in Pilot Hill, California, four miles north of Coloma on Hwy 49. We chose to do the Long Valley Trail to the river and back. Due to the high exposure of this hike, I would not recommend this on a high temp or sunny date. Our family originally attempted a hike here a few years ago and turned back after a half mile due to the direct exposure and heat.

Why we love it: It’s relatively flat and easy for kids and a great way to test out whether they can take on more miles. Once your kids easily conquer three-four mile trails, you can try this location for five-six miles. We always love a hike with a goal, and on this hike we make it a goal to reach the river. If you take the Long Valley Trail, once you pass the movie set and get to a fork in the trail, stay right to get to the water right away.

For the Young Ones (0-10): Once you get to the river, there’s a bit of shade and kids can spend hours throwing rocks into the river or splashing their feet! There’s even a bathroom not too far from where Long Valley Trail meets the water!

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For the Big Kids (10+): There are many trails you can take at Cronan Ranch, and big kids might like to mix it up to see more. A family picnic at the water would be fantastic for the entire family.

Keep in Mind:

  • The key thing to keep in mind here is sun exposure. As previously stated, it’s not a good idea to do this hike on a high temp sunny day.
  • Bring plenty of water! We used the picnic tables by the movie set as a snack break before making it all the way to the river.
  • Horses are often on these trails, so please remember that they have the right of way and watch where you walk!
  • It’s helpful to print/screen shot this map ahead of time to use for reference.
  • You could probably do the trail we did with a BOB-type stroller, but I wouldn’t recommend a typical lightweight stroller.
  • Depending on tires, etc. of a wheelchair and the grade of some of the slopes, I would not call this trail handicap accessible. (Though I am no expert.)

Around the Area: Folsom Lake for more water fun!

Difficulty Level: Advanced Beginner-Moderate, depending on trails taken and experience.

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Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park

IMG_E4734Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park is located in the Sierra Nevada foothills 12 miles east of Jackson, CA. I have to admit, when I originally learned that this park has just about 1.5 miles of trails I dismissed it and assumed a trip here would be boring. If you’ve been, you know I was completely wrong.

Why we love it: Once you get past the beginning of the North Trail (which runs alongside the main road), it’s then a lovely trail fully immersed in nature. Part of the North Trail is even ADA accessible. The North Trail leads into part of the South Trail and then a paved trail, which you can then take back to the parking lot. The park is a great place for a short and sweet hike, but you can also learn SO much from the museum and outdoor exhibits.

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For the Young Ones (0-10): Hiking here is great for families with little ones. You can give them an introduction to Miwok history and there is plenty of space for them to run around outside near the Reconstructed Miwok Village and Indian Game Field. Please just make sure to watch them closely and keep them off of the grinding rock.

For the Big Kids (10+): There’s plenty to learn for big kids and adults alike in the museum, which is included in the $8/vehicle day use fee. Doing the North and South Trail, spending time in the museum, and exploring the outdoor exhibits off of the paved trail makes for a great overall family experience.

Keep in Mind:

  • There’s an $8/vehicle day use fee.
  • The park is open sunrise to sunset, but the museum is open just 10am-4pm.

Around the Area: Make a day trip to the area, and include Black Chasm Cavern, which is just 1.4 miles down the road.

Difficulty Level: Beginner.

Canyon View Preserve Trail

IMG_E4818Canyon View Preserve Trail is just starting to get the attention it deserves. It’s a short and sweet trail that’s easily accessed from the Park & Ride at the Bowman exit off of Interstate 80, behind Calstar in Auburn.

Why we love it: Personally, I love it because it is so easy to get to and yet you’re still getting out into nature! There are a few benches and a picnic area along the way and the total trail is just about 1.25 miles.

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For the Young Ones (0-10): We encountered tons of butterflies, some roly-polies, grasshoppers, and a banana slug! It’s a good way to get the family out for an easy hike. While there is a bit of a steep switchback at the start/end of the trail, most of the rest of the terrain is pretty even. There were some bees hovering around the wildflowers, so just be careful with little ones getting too close.

For the Big Kids (10+): If the big kids are fast and/or experienced hikers, this may be too short of a hike for them. If they’re game to just spend some quality time with the family, it’s still a nice hike and I wouldn’t classify it as boring.

Keep in Mind: Early on you’ll come to a warning sign about rattlesnakes, bears, ticks, etc. Whenever hiking you should always keep these dangers in mind.

Around the Area: It’s Auburn, so there are tons of things to do and eat nearby.

Difficulty Level: Beginner.

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.

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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.

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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.

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