If you’re looking to take a day trip this Thanksgiving week, try some of The Bee’s favorite recent outdoor treks.
California redwood state parks
Visit one of 49 California redwood state parks for free on the Friday after Thanksgiving, as part of a special program sponsored by the Save the Redwoods League. The participating parks range from the Calaveras Big Trees State Park in the Sierra Nevada mountains to spots near the North Coast, Monterey and other locations.
Visitors must download a free day-use pass at SaveTheRedwoods.org/freefriday and bring with them the printed copy to enter. If there’s no state parks employee on duty, visitors must display the pass on their vehicle’s dashboard.
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Lagoon Valley Regional Park
You’ve probably passed by Lagoon Valley Regional Park in Vacaville while whizzing by on Interstate 80 heading for the Bay Area. It’s that series of looming hills with antennae on the top, cows grazing down below and a small body of water (the lagoon) shimmering in the sun.
But you haven’t stopped, now, have you?
It’s a fine place to hike or run, with some challenging uphills and many encounters with the resident cows, who are quite chill when it comes to sharing the trails. The view is nice from the peaks, especially looking east toward Fairfield. Be warned: It tends to be windy in the area, and there’s not much shade, so sunscreen is called for.
Hike: Lagoon Valley Regional Park, Vacaville
Distance: Trail length is about 20 miles in all; choose your adventure
Elevation: 200 to 879 feet
Directions to the trailhead: From Sacramento, take Interstate 80 west heading toward the Bay Area. Take the Pena Adobe/ Lagoon Valley exit. Go back under the freeway and follow the signs to Lagoon Valley. Make a left at the park entrance.
American River Parkway
Right now, on the American River Parkway, there are cyclists with the wind in their faces as they roll along the paved bike trail.
There are runners going for miles on end, whether on the levee, the bike trail or along dirt paths that meander through the woods. And there are walkers and hikers and birdwatchers and dog owners, any of who can enter the parkway at one of several areas and walk as far as they please without ever seeing a car or even a commercial building.
There is even a long history of horseback riding in the parkway, which stretches 23 miles from downtown Sacramento to the Nimbus Hatchery.
On a stretch of land that is a blend of riparian forest and open park land, these folks are apt to encounter nature’s wonders at any moment – hawks flying over a grassy field scanning for prey; coyotes looking for meals; flocks of wild turkeys pecking at seeds and bugs on the ground; vultures soaring with the wind currents; rabbits, plenty of deer, beavers, all kinds of birds, including egrets and herons, ducks and geese.
At odd times, there is even the occasional sea lion that will find its way to the American River, some 90 miles from the sea, to feed on a smorgasbord of salmon.
Yes, this parkway that cuts through the center of a metropolitan region of a million people may seem like a fantasy to those who never take the time to see it.
Blair Anthony Robertson
Whether hiking or trail running, starting at or near the American River Confluence in Auburn provides many options.
One place to start is at the Quarry Trail, where you can do a 12-mile loop that traverses parts of the famed Western States 100-mile Run and Way Too Cool 50K courses. Those wanting a shorter jaunt can simply do an out-and-back on the Quarry Trail, which meanders 5.6 miles along the American River.
The loop starts at the Quarry Trail trailhead, off Highway 49 not 100 yards past the confluence and its deceivingly hilly, albeit easy hills. The real climb starts when you make the right turn onto the Brown’s Bar Trail (at about 3.5 miles) and literally reaches its peak on the unsigned Goat Hill Trail. Pay attention for Goat Hill on the right. It’s a right turn that immediately becomes switchbacks.
If you go straight, you’ll eventually hit a housing development and have to retrace steps.
Hike: Quarry-Brown’s Bar-Cool Loop, Auburn/Cool
Distance: 12 miles (shorter options in out-and-back)
Directions from Sacramento: From Sacramento take Interstate 80 to the Elm Avenue exit in Auburn. Make two lefts onto Highway 49. Drive 2.5 miles down to the American River Confluence. Turn right at the confluence to stay on Highway 49. Make a quick left into the Quarry Trailhead parking lot. Cost is $10 per vehicle. Or you can use a yearly state parks Poppy Pass to park.