Weather will affect your outdoor options for the Memorial Day weekend, and not just because of what forecasters expect for Saturday through Monday. Snow from the past several months has eliminated many outdoor activities that would otherwise be top choices.
The Tahoe area received its highest snow totals in four years, and a fair amount still lingers at the 6,000-foot elevation, rendering many popular trails in the Sierra unusable this weekend.
The snow will provide some recreational benefits, though, in its melted form. The American River is flowing well, so river rafting is a great option this weekend. Another option close to Sacramento is hiking near Lake Berryessa. If it’s too hot in the Sacramento area – and temperatures are expected to be in the 90s Sunday and Monday – consider a drive to the coast for a hike or a beach retreat.
Here are five outdoor options for the weekend:
Rafting the American River
I took my one-man raft out on the south fork of the American River last weekend for a short float near Coloma. The water was swift and cool, but not cold. The rapids were bouncy and fun.
“We haven’t seen flows like this since 2011,” said Arnie Chandola, owner of American Whitewater, a rafting company that provides tours on the American and other rivers. “It’s beautiful out there.”
American Whitewater offers trips on all three forks of the American River, for a day or a half day. The company’s Chili Bar half-day trip looks like a blast, going through some of the best rapids in the area. A professional guide will lead the trip, but participants can paddle too. Trip cost varies by day, with a peak fee of $105 for adults on Saturday and $89 on Monday. Reservations should be made in advance, online at americanwhitewater.com or by phone at 800-825-3205.
Biking in Granite Bay
A great day trip for road bikers would involve taking the American River Parkway up to Beals Point, stopping at the beach for a spell, then continuing up to the Granite Bay day-use section of the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area.
If you’re a mountain biker, bring your bike to the Granite Bay section of the park to enjoy some of its great trails. The entrance is at the end of Douglas Boulevard in Granite Bay. The Granite Bay Multi-use Trail is about 7 miles long and is mostly single track with banked curves, shaded by trees in many areas. Watch out for horses and hikers, particularly on the holiday weekend. The park has a $12 entry fee.
Hiking Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve
The reserve offers some of the best hiking in the immediate Sacramento area, including one of my favorites, the Blue Ridge Loop. It’s 5 or 7 miles, depending on which of two trails is combined with Blue Ridge. The hike includes some minor rock scrambling near and on the ridge, and rewards with a spectacular view of Lake Berryessa.
The reserve is a a UC Davis research facility, and as such does not allow dogs on the trails. They were just reopened this month following the Wragg Fire of July 2015. Donors and volunteers helped the university repair the trail. The reserve is on Highway 128, west of Winters and just east of Lake Berryessa.
Hiking Point Reyes National Seashore
Speaking of trail damage, the Arch Rock at Point Reyes has been closed since last year after a section collapsed. Walking out on the rock overlooking the ocean was the highlight of taking the Bear Valley Trail at Point Reyes National Seashore.
Bear Valley, however, still makes for a great hike. It provides the most direct route to the ocean from the seashore’s visitor center. The 8-mile, in-and-out trail is tree-covered most of the way and runs along a creek. It ends near the oceanfront, and you can continue to Kelham Beach, less than a mile on the Coast Trail, if you want a closer view of the ocean.
Resting at Waddell Beach
One way to honor the fallen men and women of the military is to celebrate freedom. And I can think of few ways to better revel in freedom than driving along the California coast on Highway 1. The section between San Francisco and Santa Cruz is a gem, featuring expansive and uncluttered views of the Pacific coast. You can drive it on a day trip to Waddell Beach.
The beach is part of Big Basin Redwoods State Park, and about 20 miles north of Santa Cruz. According to the park’s website, “it is known worldwide as one of THE spots for windsurfing and kite surfing.” The wind can be very stiff, so it’s not a place for newbies to try those sports. But it is a great place to spend an afternoon with a book and to watch the sunset.