Cosumnes River Preserve: Wetlands Walk Hike (Revisited)


We last posted about this hike back in 2015, and not much seems to have changed at Cosumnes River Preserve – it’s still a great place for light hikes that are great for families! This time around we organized a hike (see Facebook event page), shared it on the Hike It Baby calendar, and invited anyone interested in coming along.

Why we love it: It is so simple! The Wetlands Walk itself (technically the “Lost Slough Wetlands Walk”) is described as a one-mile universally-accessible trail offering an up-close view of lush marshes, wetland plants, water-birds, insects, and amphibians. We also took advantage of the wooden boardwalk that meanders into the Lost Slough.

For the Young Ones (0-10): Over 250 species of bird, 40 species of fish, 230 varieties of plant, and untold numbers of reptiles and amphibians have been observed in the preserve! Right away, our six year-old spotted a rabbit and enjoyed watching hummingbirds feed on the deck of the Visitor Center. If you take your time, you can spot crawdads in the marshes!

For the Big Kids (10+): There are over 11 miles of trail within the 50,000+ acres of the preserve! Plenty of miles for big kids to explore.

Keep in Mind:

  • At least half of this trail is completely exposed. Sun protection is a must.
  • There are two points at which the trail crosses over the road that leads you to the preserve. Hold on tight to those little ones!

Around the Area: There are events open to the public at the preserve – check out their activities page for more information.

Difficulty Level: Beginner.



Effie Yeaw Nature Center


Effie Yeaw Nature Center is a little oasis right in the city! It’s easy to get to, the trails are short and sweet, and there’s so much to observe and learn. I took an few hours to lead a Hike It Baby hike there this week and it was so much fun!

Why we love it: The nature center itself has live animals (who doesn’t love seeing owls, snakes, and more?) and an Exhibit Hall that allows visitors to explore the natural and cultural history of the Lower American River. Make sure to grab a free map (and pay your $5 parking fee) before heading outside. We loved all of the animals the kids were able to see, and how much fun they had throwing rocks into the American River!

For the Young Ones (0-10): If you’ve taken your little ones on paved walks around town, this is a perfect next step to graduate up to dirt and more narrow trails (not designed for strollers or wheelchairs). Our group had kids age 2 – age 7, and each and every one were in awe of the deer, birds, and tadpoles we spotted.


For the Big Kids (10+): If big kids are interested in bird watching, this is a great spot! We saw many different kinds of birds, and even us adults were introduced to the red-breasted sapsucker.

Keep in Mind:

  • The nature center is inside Ancil Hoffman County Park. Driving along Tarshes Drive, just keep going and look for signs for the nature center and San Lorenzo Way.
  • Daily parking pass is $5, payable inside the nature center.
  • The American River is flowing fast right now. Take every caution near the water’s edge.
  • You may want to call ahead to make sure the nature center is accepting guests when you plan to go. They get extremely busy with field trips and summer camps, and may turn away groups during peak hours.

Around the Area: Home! It was so nice to be out in nature on a weekday, and still get home in time for dinner.

Difficulty Level: Beginner.


Inside the nature center.


Lodi Lake Nature Trail


A few weeks ago my little guys and I made the drive down to  Lodi Lake Park to check out the Lodi Lake Nature Trail…and I must say I was in heaven! It’s easy to get to the park from Hwy. 99, yet completely serene.


Why we love it: You feel as if you’ve traveled out of the city limits as you search for deer, ducks, turtles, birds, and squirrels along your way. It’s under two miles to do the entire thing, but feels as if you really got away.

For the Young Ones (0-10): Our soon-to-be kindergartener loved reading all of the signs along the route. I loved all the learning the signs provided both of us! Our durable stroller (think Uppababy Vista or BOB) easily conquered the trail.

For the Big Kids (10+): If you come at the right time and you’re quiet enough, there’s a strong possibility of seeing deer! An older gentleman showed us photos of large bucks he’s seen while taking his daily stroll on the trail.

Keep in Mind:

  • Dogs are not allowed on the trail.
  • Unless you find street parking outside of the park, you must pay a $5 parking fee.
  • There’s a very small parking lot right by the trail entrance, but if you’re like us you can park by the payment box (right past the entrance to the park), and enjoy a walk around part of the lake before reaching the trail area. (You’ll walk with the lake on your left.)

Difficulty Level:Beginner.


Stone Lakes NWR – Blue Heron Trails


The Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is located south of Sacramento, in far west Elk Grove. The Blue Heron Trails is a paved trail that consists of just a mile of loops around managed wetlands.

Why we love it: It’s enough of getting out in nature to feel refreshed, while still short and simple!

For the Young Ones (0-10): Our little reader really enjoyed the eight environmental education panels at the four kiosks along the way.

For the Big Kids (10+): There are so many different kinds of birds that come through this area, they’ll enjoy spotting and identifying all of them.


Keep in Mind:

  • Make sure to use the directions on the website and not depend on GPS.
  • The trail is completely wheelchair and stroller accessible, but don’t let that give you a false sense of security – you’re still in a wildlife refuge and should proceed with caution.


Around the Area:The adorable town of Courtland is just a bit further west. If you want to get the most out your trip to the area, go down the last weekend in July for their annual Pear Fair! It’s our family’s favorite fair of the year!

Difficulty Level: Beginner.


Black Hole of Calcutta Falls Hike


Near Cool, California is a hike our family really enjoyed, the Black Hole of Calcutta Falls hike. At just over 2 miles, our 4 year-old easily completed the hike entirely on his own, and even took a side trail to get down to the river to – what else – throw rocks.

The entrance gate to start the hike.

Why we love it: There was no need to be on the lookout for trail markers or signs once we started on the trail – it’s as simple as just following the trail to the falls! Our preschooler loves all water – lakes, rivers, falls – and we all really enjoyed putting our feet in the river and throwing rocks at the end of our hike and before heading back to the car.

For the Young Ones (ages 0-10): Little ones can feel like they “really’ did a hike, since you’re “going in” and “coming out.” There are a few narrow areas of the trail where you’ll need to keep an eye on small children (and on the quarry bridge), but for the most part it’s easy going.

For the Big Kids (age 10+): Who doesn’t love a waterfall? In addition, big kids will enjoy taking some of the side trails off of the main trail. During warmer months, big kids love taking a nice cool dip in the river.DSC_1783

Keep In Mind:

  • Parking is limited. Your best bet is to start your day plenty early!
  • Horses with riders sometimes take this path. Make sure family members understand that horse can get spooked and that it’s important to avoid this, as well as allow them plenty of room.
  • The trail isn’t particularly challenging, but there are many spots where it’s too narrow for a stroller.
  • This blog post is only about hiking to the waterfall and back. While the path continues past the waterfall, we’ve never ventured past the waterfall.
  • Take extra precaution if your party chooses to cross to the other side of the waterfall, especially with little ones.

Difficulty Level: Beginner to Moderate. I wouldn’t recommend it as a family’s very first hike, but if you’ve hiked a handful of times, the family is probably ready for this hike.


Cosumnes River Preserve: Wetlands Walk & River Walk Hikes


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.

DSC_2808Why 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 DSC_2796adventurers 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.

DSC_2800Keep In Mind:

  • 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.


Hiking Resources and Hikes: REI

Every once in a while I love to jump on REI’s website and see what kinds of classes and events they have going on.

For those of you in the Sacramento area – check out this cool Full Moon Hike coming up on 6/4!

To see what else is going on in your area, click here!

And no, I don’t work for REI and I’m not getting any sort of “perk” here – I just really enjoy what they have to offer!