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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Tilden Regional Park: Nimitz Way

I’m of the opinion that any trip to Berkeley’s Tilden Regional Park is going to be a great time! In a past post I blogged about the Quarry Trailhead to the Seaview Trail and in that post you can find more details on the park itself.

Why we love it: Nimitz Way is a 4.1 mile (8.2 miles roundtrip) paved trail with views of Meadows Canyon and across the hills to the bay. There are benches along the way, and clear mile markers and trail markers along the way. It’s an easy hike for those new to hiking, and can be as short as you’d like, or much longer (it continues on as a part of the Skyline trail, and is unpaved after the 4.1 miles).

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For the Young Ones (0-10): This trail is stroller-friendly for any type of stroller, with tons of lady bugs, beetles, and rolly pollies to observe right on the trail! Just off the trail we observed a rabbit hopping along, and a gofer digging himself a hole! Note that this trail is popular with joggers and cyclists of all ages, so make sure you’re teaching all hikers how to share the trail. We found that pretty much all of the cyclist were extremely courteous at calling their approach and expressing appreciation for our keeping right.

 

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We turned around at this view, estimating it was approx. 2 miles or 1/2 way down Nimitz Way.

 

For the Big Kids (10+): Big kids can easily handle the full hike or take the bikes for a faster ride. There are great views all along the trail, and with clear cell reception, your teenagers could get a bit ahead with water and a phone to keep in touch.

Keep in Mind:

  • Park at Inspiration Point on Wildcat Canyon Road and you’ll easily find the trailhead. The parking lot is often full, but appeared (and I’ve read it) to have a relatively quick turnover.
  • There is intermittent shade, but this is a trail with sun exposure, so I recommend hats and sunscreen for all.
  • With the popularity of the trail for hikers, joggers, and cyclists, it’s best for those kids you know will be able to get out of the way if/when necessary.
  • There are no toilets in the parking lot, but just past the trailhead you’ll see some on your right.

Around the Area: There is SO much to do right in the park! Check out the botanical garden or rest your feet and take a ride on the steam train.

Difficulty Level: Beginner.

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Davis Covell Greenbelt

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The Davis Covell Greenbelt is a section of the Davis Greenbelt, a nearly continuous stretch of parks and bike paths that spread out in all directions in the city of Davis. A friend and I decided to do the little hike (read: walk in the park) as a playdate with our four kiddos. It was a great way to keep us all moving!

Why we love it:We loosely followed this map (above) from the book 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles Sacramento, but returned the way we came once the map wanted us to cross the DSC_9349street near Notre Ave. Doing it this way, we only crossed one street (Grande Ave.), and there was still plenty to keep the kids busy. I really enjoyed walking out over Northstar Pond, though it was mostly dry.

For the Young Ones (0-10): Playgrounds and the ability for run freely! Just past Northstar Pond, and again near the tennis courts are bathrooms!

For the Big Kids (10+): You can toss the little ones in a bike trailer and bike the path with the big kids. On bikes, I’d be tempted to do the full loop like on the map above.

Keep in Mind:

  • Share the trail – with bikers and runners also on the trail, make sure to teach the kids to stay right or hop onto the grass when one is coming along.
  • Part of the path is shaded, but not all of it – sunscreen is always a good idea, but I’d definitely recommend it on this trail.

Around the Area:We started and ended at the pedestrian footbridge over W. Covell Blvd., and then walked an additional mile to downtown. Once there, we scarfed down yummy burgers, chicken fingers, shakes, and root beer floats at Burgers & Brews.

Difficulty Level: Beginner

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The Rainbow Trail

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My family and I were in Lake Tahoe for my brother’s wedding during Memorial Day weekend and wanted to take a short but scenic hike in the Tahoe Area. The Rainbow Trail along Taylor Creek provides that opportunity. This trail is located along the south shore of Lake Tahoe near Camp Richardson and is one of four self-guided trails near the Forest Service’s Taylor Creek Visitor Center.

Why we love itThe Rainbow Trail loops through the largest meadow/marsh system in Lake Tahoe and provides scenic views of the lake as well as the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains. At about 1/4 mile down the trail, the Stream Profile Chamber offers opportunities for the public to view a cross-section profile of Taylor Creek and peak in on rainbow trout swimming in the creek.

For the Young Ones (0-10)This trail is paved and easy to walk. There are multiple educational signs throughout the hike that display pictures of local wildlife and plants that kids can find along the way. The Stream Profile Chamber gives young kids an opportunity to view fish up close in their natural habitat.

For the Big Kids (10+):Big kids will also enjoy reading the educational signs and viewing IMG_1731the fish in the Stream Profile Chamber. In the fall, visitors can view kokanee salmon spawning in Taylor Creek.

Keep in Mind:

  • This area can get pretty crowded on holidays and weekends so it’s best to arrive early.
  • The trail was flooded in the area near Taylor Creek when we visited so be prepared to walk through some cold water depending on the conditions.
  • The Stream Profile Chamber has limited hours so check with the U.S. Forest Service ahead of time to confirm operating hours at (775) 831-0914.
  • The Visitor Center is open daily beginning Memorial Day week through October.

Difficulty LevelBeginner, the trail is paved the whole way and flat so it’s also handicapped and stroller accessible.

Guest contributor Sarah Perrin is a wife, mother of one boy and two dogs, wildlife biologist, home baker, and outdoor enthusiast who enjoys exploring the California foothills and Sierras with her family and friends.

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Independence Trail

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The Independence Trail (West trail), in the Nevada City area, was a delightfully well-shaded trail for our family. However, unlike many of the hikes we take in NorCal, this one had lots of mosquitos! There are several turnouts to park at, so find the closest one and carefully make your way to the trail head.

IMG_1296Why we love it: Our medically fragile 2 year-old is too heavy to (and no longer cares to) be worn,
so when we read that (part of) this trail is touted as the first wheelchair accessible trail in the country, we had to see it for ourselves. We took the West trail to the dilapidated handicap picnic area just past the ramp that goes down to the water.

For the Young Ones (0-10): Our walking little guy loved alternating between the “high” and “low” paths on the trail. (See top photo.)

For the Big Kids (10+): While not a difficult hike, this one is interesting for all ages. I really enjoyed the many wooden footbridges. In years with more rain, it looks like there are probably several small waterfalls along the way.

Keep in Mind:

  • What I was most looking forward to on the West trail was the ramp down to the water. Unfortunately, it’s blocked right now, so proceed at your own risk. (See photos below.)
  • Bring insect repellent! We usually stop for a snack at a halfway point and if we stopped that long on this trail, we would have been the snack ourselves!
  • There is a good amount of poison oak along the trail, so make sure everyone stays on the path.

Around the Area: If you have the energy and the stamina, also check out the East trail. I’ve read there are great views and opportunities to enjoy getting into the water.

Difficulty Level: Beginner.

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Don’t be alarmed when you see this near the start of the west trail – just duck and continue!

Stone Lakes NWR – Blue Heron Trails

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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.

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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.

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Cosumnes River Preserve: Wetlands Walk & River Walk Hikes

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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.

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