Cosumnes River Preserve: Wetlands Walk Hike (Revisited)

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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.

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NorCal Families Hike – July 16

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Starting this year, I set a goal to organize a ladies-only hike twice a year (Spring 2017 – Cataract Falls), and a families hike twice a year. I’ve actually already organized two for  families (Effie Yeaw Nature Center & Stone Lakes NWR), but technically the second was a kick-off hike focused on the #hikeforgrayson campaign vs. just a straight hike.

I’d like to welcome anyone in the NorCal area to come and join us for a morning beginner hike at Cosumnes River Preserve! I’ve done a past post on the preserve and it’s a great place for families.

Details:

I am NOT a trained hiking guide. Know the limits of those coming with you and do your own research (trail conditions, weather) and prep (snacks/water, first aid, sunscreen).

We will hike/stroll at the pace of the slowest hiker.

Please remember sun safety and water!

No pets allowed.

Photography is encouraged!

Timing:

Meet at the Visitor’s Center deck at 8 AM.

We will start walking at 8:15 AM. (You can explore the center after the hike.)

We are taking the Lost Slough Wetlands Walk, a one-mile universally-accessible trail offering an up-close view of lush marshes, wetland plants, water-birds, insects, and amphibians.

To join in on the fun, RSVP to Family Trail Time via Facebook!

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If interested, stay afterwards and take River Walk Trail, a 3+ mile round trip on raised levees through a variety of habitats, including buttonbush thickets, native grasslands, valley oak riparian forest, cottonwood-willow riparian forest, tule marsh, and valley oak.

Effie Yeaw Nature Center

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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.

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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.

 

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Inside the nature center.

 

Laguna Creek Trail

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Let’s face it – finding a hike, or really any trail, in a city isn’t exactly easy! This week I’ll post about two places that are actually close enough to do on any day of the week. For this blog post, I used this TrailLink map and mapped out what I call a “kiddie hike” along the Laguna Creek Trail.

IMG_7538Why we love it: Picking up the trail just west of the Wendy’s/Snobites parking lot, in Camden Park, you can take a leisurely stroll along the greenbelt and get to a playground at Mix Park in about 1.1 miles. Looping back makes for a nice 2.2 mile walk, with a break in the middle at the playground. Use the map above, or use GPS to find your way.

For the Young Ones (0-10): Littles that are just getting acquainted with longer walks will have a flat surface with interesting kid-friendly sights along the way, including a lake, birds, turtles, mushrooms, and bugs! Most fun of all, the incentive of a playground ahead! Since it’s paved it is stroller and wheelchair accessible, and the path is clear enough that kids can run ahead and you can still see them.

For the Big Kids (10+): The trail is open to walkers and bikers alike, so big kids may like exploring the entire trail on bike. There’s also a basketball hoop and tennis courts near the playground if they’re game for a family walk followed by basketball or tennis.

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Keep in Mind:

  • Bond Road is a very busy street, so be careful when parking and heading towards the park.
  • The trail winds through a neighborhood, and many people walk the trail with their dogs. All of the ones we saw were on leashes and the owners moved the dogs away from the kids.
  • There are no bathrooms at the playground or along this part of the trail.

Around the Area: Have a local treat after your walk at Snobites, or have a meal at one of the many places to eat along Bond.

Difficulty Level: Beginner.

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Burney Falls

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I’ve wanted to see Burney Falls for a very, very long time! At over 3 hours from Sacramento, we decided the best way to spend time at Burney Falls is to camp at McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park! If you decide not to camp, it’s still easy to get the falls once in the park, provided the crowds don’t max out the park’s capacity.

DSC_3964Why we love it: Burney Falls is unlike any waterfall I’ve ever seen! As per the park’s website: The park’s centerpiece is the 129-foot Burney Falls, which is not the highest or largest waterfall in the state, but possibly the most beautiful. Additional water comes from springs, joining to create a mist-filled basin. Burney Creek originates from the park’s underground springs and flows to Lake Britton, getting larger along the way to the majestic falls. We did the hike early in the morning, before there were many other people on the trail, and it was glorious!

For the Young Ones (0-10): The falls overlook is just a few minutes from the parking lot,IMG_7514 making it easy for the entire family to enjoy the falls without even taking a hike! The Jr. Ranger program (technically for those age 7 and up, but there were younger kids there) is a sweet half hour program you can learn more about at the Visitor’s Center. There’s also a General Store where people line up for soft serve ice cream!

For the Big Kids (10+): For young ones that are hikers + the big kids, hike down to the bottom of the falls where you’ll feel the mist, and then take the Falls Loop trail (see map on pg. 6) at under 1.5 miles roundtrip! The trail will take you around and up near the top of the falls and back to the falls overlook. While we were on the trail, my hubby and six year-old spotted a badger!

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Keep in Mind:

  • There are approx. five miles of hiking trails in the park, but many are closed due to winter damage.
  • If you’re looking to cool off, head to Lake Britton at the back of the park.
  • The park advises that if the park reaches capacity, you should not park along Hwy. 89 because your vehicle may be subject to citation and tow.
  • The bathrooms are outside near the General Store, and there seemed to always be a line. Get in line before anyone says they need to go!
  • There is no cell phone service in the park.

Around the Area: As mentioned above, Lake Britton is fun to check out! Our six year-old could sit by the water for hours, just throwing rocks. People go to the lake to fish, swim, and paddleboard, so there are plenty of activities to do within the state park.

Difficulty Level: Beginner.

 

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Along the trail there are a nice number of benches similar to this one.

 

McCloud Falls

 

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Middle McCloud Falls from the observation deck.

 

For Memorial Day weekend our family booked a campsite at McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, but with a check-in time of 2pm, we wanted to take advantage of the day on the way to our campsite. I looked for a couple of things that would be fun but on the quick side, and decided on Hedge Creek Falls & McCloud Falls.

 

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Look closely to see the people by the water at Lower McCloud Falls.

 

Why we love it: There are three falls to see here – upper, middle, and lower. What was great for us was that we could see all three falls without much hiking effort or time spent; just a quick five to ten minute walk from the parking lot at each waterfall!

For the Young Ones (0-10): It’s an easy-peasy walk from the parking lot to waterfall observation deck at any of the three falls, getting you the view with very little effort! The lower falls were by far the most popular and if you trust the kiddos by water, you can go down to the rocks right by the water. There are also lots of picnic tables and bathrooms at the lower falls.

 

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Upper McCloud Falls

 

For the Big Kids (10+): If you have some time, take the approx. three mile hike between the falls. We didn’t see all of the trail since we were keeping it quick, but it looks like they did a really nice job of making a solid trail between the falls.

Keep in Mind:

  • The water is frigid and quick. Be extremely careful whenever near the water. We stuck our feet in by the parking lot at upper falls, and my toes tingled from the cold pretty quickly.
  • The parking lot at the lower falls is rumored to always be the most slammed. (Based on our experience, I’d say this is true.) Consider hiking from the upper falls down to middle and then to lower.
  • While the viewing areas seem pretty safe overall, little kids should always be watched closely.

Around the Area: There are tons of hikes and things to see around this general area, but we were just sightseeing on our way to camping!

Difficulty Level: Parking lot to observation decks – beginner.

 

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A view of Mt. Shasta on the walk to the observation deck at Upper McCloud Falls.

 

Upper Yosemite Falls (Yosemite Nat’l Park)

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For Mother’s Day, we did our research and had a plan…with managed expectations, of course! With a six year-old and a medically fragile 3 year-old, we try to keep ourselves from setting the bar too high. That’s why when everything goes well, it makes for one AMAZING day! We had an amazing Mother’s Day at Yosemite National Park!

DSC_3773We started our day early, leaving home around the time we’d usually get up on a Saturday. There was a line to enter the park by 10AM, but it didn’t take long to get through. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that since our 3 year-old is permanently disabled, he gets a lifelong Access pass, getting us in for free!

I’ve written before on how to make a day trip to Yosemite, but this day trip was focused on one goal – getting to just past Columbia Rock on the (Upper) Yosemite Falls trail.

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Why we love it: This was certainly a trail requiring many breaks on the way up the 1000 ft. gain in elevation! The beginning is nothing but switchbacks but one you start getting higher, the views are unbelievable! In just 3 miles roundtrip we felt extremely accomplished and rewarded.

For the Young Ones (0-10): You must have children who will listen to your direction, as this can be a very dangerous trail for young ones if not in carriers. Our six year-old did a great job, but we were constantly reminding him to “hug the mountain” and watch his steps. (He actually pointed out more than one adult making dangerous decisions; one going off trail and one doing a handstand on a rocky ledge.) He was incredibly proud to look down at the valley floor and see just how far up he hiked all on his own.

For the Big Kids (10+): The NPS rates the section of the trail we did moderate-strenuous, with a completion of the hike all the way to the top as strenuous. With big kids, you might consider hiking all the way to the top! Just keep in mind that it’s a looonnng hike back down!

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We used this pole (on right) to gauge the approximate point at which we should turn around and head back

Keep in Mind:

  • Elevation makes any hike more difficult.
  • To get the best views without doing the entire trail, go past Columbia Rock (you’ll know you’re at the rock by the railing everyone is taking photos from) until you can see both Yosemite Falls and Half Dome in your view.
  • The trail’s sand-like terrain can make it very easy to slip and fall. Be very careful, especially with young ones.
  • Park at Camp 4 to be closest to the trailhead. There are trash cans and bathrooms close by.

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Around the Area: We cannot resist a stop at Bridalveil Falls! The parking spaces turn over relatively quickly, and it’s a short walk to get to the falls. This season you’ll get drenched if you go all the way! (Last year we enjoyed a nice mist.) Keep those kiddos close. The water is freezing and standing on the rocks (for anyone) could lead to a life-threatening situation in a blink of an eye.

Difficulty Level: Moderate to Strenuous.

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