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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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.

 

Hedge Creek Falls

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At 3+ hours from Sacramento (depending on where you live) this short hike may be best saved for part of a road trip going north on I-5, like our family did this weekend.

Why we love it: It’s short and sweet – right off of the highway, the hike is just about one mile roundtrip, and you get to go BEHIND the falls!

For the Young Ones (0-10): It’s a great break after being in the car for a long time (and there’s a port-a-potty in the parking lot)! Plus, the sweet reward of the waterfall is only about a 1/2 mile mini-hike. Just be careful where the trail is slick, and keep little kids away from the edge of the trail.

For the Big Kids (10+): If big kids want to hike a little more, I read that past the waterfall you can keep going a short distance along the creek to get to an observation deck with a view of Mt. Shasta and see where Hedge Creek meets the Sacramento River.

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Keep in Mind:

  • The parking area is across the street from the trailhead. Look for the gazebo to see where to go to start the trail.
  • There is lots of poison oak along the way, so stick to the trail.
  • We each ended up with a few mosquito bites, so you may want to have your insect repellant on or ready.

Around the Area: About 45 minutes/an hour prior to getting to the falls, we loved the breakfast tacos at El Zarape in Redding, CA!

Difficulty Level: Beginner.

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Muir Woods National Monument

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Our six year-old & his Tio at the entrance.

Why we love it: When we first moved to California (early 2010), we discovered Muir Woods & fell in love with the place. We used to take every visitor who came out to visit us, from NY, TX, PA – you name it!

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Our now six year-old on a hike in Muir Woods when he was just nine months old. Photo credit: Noelle MacGregor Photography

You can keep it easy and stick to the Muir Woods Main Loop trail, or you can take on more challenging hikes beyond the main trail. This may sounds silly, but I also discovered THE best grilled cheese at the café!! (I know, the best…grilled cheese?? Later, the café was featured on a Food Network show for grilled cheese and provided me with some validation.)

It’s been a long time since we’ve been to Muir Woods, and I was feeling some mommy guilt that we never introduced Muir Woods to our younger son. He’s currently three years old & because of his medical condition, he gets enjoyment from just a few things – the #1 being time in the outdoors with family! My brother was visiting from TX for our 6 year-old’s Spring Break and I wanted to take him somewhere cool so…it was the perfect opportunity! I only wish the hubs hadn’t been out of town for work, or all five us of could have enjoyed the day!

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For the Young Ones (0-10): You can take the Muir Woods Main Loop trail as short as a 1/2 mile, or extend it however long you’d like! In addition, if you have a sturdy stroller such as a BOB (we’re fearless with our UppaBaby Vista), it can easily handle the main trail (just make sure to loop back at Bridge 1,2, or 3, or come back the way you came). There is so much to see and learn along the trail, and young ones can easily earn a Jr. Ranger badge!

For the Big Kids (10+): The big kids may be perfectly happy with sticking to the Muir Woods Main Loop trail, and may have an interest in attending a “Tree Talk“. The monument itself contains six miles of trails, so you can always do your research and make it a longer day of hiking in the vicinity if you’re seeking something more.

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Keep in Mind:

  • Parking is limited and spaces fill fast. There are two overflow parking areas past the parking area at the entrance. The NPS suggests entering “1 Muir Woods Rd., Mill Valley CA” into your GPS instead of searching for “Muir Woods,” or avoid the parking lot stress and take the Muir Woods Shuttle.
  • Keep in mind that this is a coast redwood forest, which means even if it’s sunny elsewhere, it’s going to be cool and shady at Muir Woods.
  • 15 years of age and under are FREE!

 

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Around the Area: While some more extensive hikes will lead you to beaches, we packed up and drove from Muir Woods down to Stinson Beach. It gets super busy during the summer, but it was just perfect for us on a spring weekday. The water was cold, but my six year-old didn’t mind one bit, getting completely soaked in his clothes. (I’ve learned never to leave home without a complete backup outfit for EACH of us!)

Difficulty Level: Muir Woods Main Loop trail – beginner.

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Alamere Falls

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So…this is one of those learn-from-my-mistakes kind of experiences. As such, this post will not completely follow the typical format of my posts.

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The maintained Coast Trail.

A friend and I attempted this hike and ended up hiking approximately 17 miles without ever actually getting to the falls! There are different ways to get to the falls, and we started at the Palomarin Trailhead, heading to the falls via the Coast Trail. The National Parks Service actually details that the hike to Alamere Falls is a 13-mile hike because the NPS is strongly against anyone taking the shortcut that’s written about in many online articles.

 

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Part of the unmaintained “shortcut”.

 

My friend and I read many sources that provided different degrees of information about the shortcut, which if all went perfectly would be an 8-mile roundtrip. We decided to go for it. We had checked the tide tables, had plenty of water and snacks, and are experienced hikers. We thought we were prepared. The “shortcut” started exactly where one of the articles gave great detail about, but after a while it disappears. Apparently all the storms this winter blocked it off with walls of brush. After going as far as we could down the shortcut, we turned around and headed back to the main trail. Unfortunately, along our way on the shortcut, we each experienced our first exposure to stinging nettle. (The leaves and stems of the plant are covered with brittle, hollow, hair-like structures that act like hypodermic needles when your skin brushes against them. Chemicals flow through the hollow tubes and cause a nasty stinging sensation and a rash. My husband compassionately treated mine once I got home.)

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On the beach, down from Wildcat Campground.

We continued down the Coast Trail to Wildcat Campground, and it provided some gorgeous views. Once at the campground, you can hike approximately 2 miles on the beach to get to the falls. I was SO determined to get there, but after about a quarter of a mile on the beach, we decided to turn back. Clouds were gathering quickly, I had an old injury flair up, and it was much later in the day than we had planned to be hiking. We didn’t have cell phone service, and knew our families would start to worry. Tired and discouraged, we didn’t take the Coast Trail back, but based on a trail sign, we opted for what we thought was a more direct route but was not. (I’m still not sure what we did – looking at a map now, it doesn’t make any sense to me.)

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The drizzle that later turned to rain.

On our way back, we discovered there’s a new shortcut, which is marked with rocks making an arrow. (On our way to the original shortcut, we didn’t want to blindly trust something none of the sources we read mentioned). We talked to a few people coming out of the new shortcut who said it led straight to the falls. Please note that we did not personally see if that unofficial trail led to the falls.

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Also on our way back, it started raining and the last couple of miles took forever. I am so incredibly thankful my dear friend is such a positive soul that we were able to just get through it!

I would only recommend taking your family on this trail if an adult has previously hiked this trail, any minors are very experienced hikers, and I would not recommend small children be on this trail at all, unless you stay on the main trails and they’re in a carrier.

Keep in Mind:

  • Getting to the Palomarin Trailhead you’ll encounter a stretch of road that is literally all potholes, so take it slow!
  • Mobile phone reception is pretty much nonexistent.
  • There is a ton of poison oak and stinging nettle, so it’s a good idea to stick to the official trails.
  • You must understand the tide tables and how those correspond to the time you plan to be at the falls.

Difficulty Level: Moderate to Difficult.

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