Stir crazy over the holidays? We’ve got just the hike for you

Visitors stroll among the coastal redwoods pushing upward past 300 feet in the Bohemian grove in Muir Woods National Monument, the start of the Main Trail Loop.
Visitors stroll among the coastal redwoods pushing upward past 300 feet in the Bohemian grove in Muir Woods National Monument, the start of the Main Trail Loop. Sacramento Bee file

The leftovers are in the fridge, and the football on TV is getting old. So what do relatives who see each other sporadically through the year do together for the rest of Christmas Day or the week after?

If the weather permits, try hiking around Northern California. While you’re at it, burn off some of those mashed potatoes while spending quality time with that favorite aunt or sibling. Indeed, options for head-clearing outdoor excursions abound within an hour or two’s drive from the Sacramento area.

If you’re looking for a nearby day hike, one of our favorites is on the American Canyon Trail in Cool. The 5.3-mile loop route travels along Hoboken Creek and includes the appropriately named Dead Truck Trail (look for the rusted-out namesake vehicle). This hike features moderately difficult hills and lots of Sierra foothill scenery. It’s also low enough in elevation to avoid any snow and ice during the winter months.

To get there, take Highway 193 from Cool. Go about 5 miles and turn left at Pilgrim Court. (The street sign is only on the right-hand side.) The trailhead, marked “American Canyon Third Gate,” awaits before the entrance to the Auburn Lakes Estates. Park on the side of the road.

To the west, Mount Tamalpais in Marin County offers a gateway to one of California’s great wonders, the towering coastal redwood. The Muir Woods part of the mountain, where the big trees are, will be packed with out-of-town visitors. But other pleasures, as well as smaller crowds, distinguish the terrain higher up. A trip up to the peak provides a fine lesson in Bay Area micro-climates as well as glimpses of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay.

Finally, another Northern California holiday tradition – the elephant seal breeding season – starts this month. Perhaps the sight of all those blubbery giants will provide just the right inspiration to start working on New Year’s fitness resolutions.

There’s Pier 39 in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, where the seals delight legions of visitors. You can also travel down the peninsula to Año Nuevo State Park (1 New Years Creek Road, Pescadero, 650-879-0227), about 55 miles south of San Francisco on Highway 1. The park is home to a colony of elephant seals ranging from 2,000 to 5,000 pounds at full size. Visitors will likely need to make reservations for a tour (offered through March) a few days or even weeks in advance to see the seals.

All that fresh air and activity should keep the family refreshed, or at least break up some of that eat-TV-eat rhythm.

Sammy Caiola and Sam McManis contributed to this report.

1920s Party

What: Squaw Valley’s New Year’s Eve “Roaring ’20s” party will offer a live swing band, a gourmet buffet and plenty of sparkling wine. Kids and teens are welcome to hang out at a separate area in the resort, filled with “mocktails,” dessert buffets, kid-friendly games and movies.

When: 7 p.m. Saturday to 1 a.m. Jan. 1

Where: Resort at Squaw Creek, 400 Squaw Creek Road

Cost: $120 adults 21 and older; $45 for teens and $95 for children


International Auto Show

What: Check out the latest vehicles from Chevrolet, Toyota, Maserati and Ferrari at the San Diego International Auto Show. Test drive your choice of more than 400 new models and view more than 20 model debuts.

When: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Jan. 2

Where: San Diego Convention Center, 111 West Harbor Drive

Cost: $8 for children, $9 for military and seniors, $12 for all other adults


New Year’s Eve with bald eagles

What: Each winter, the majestic birds flock to the shores of the Millerton Reservoir to build nests and raise their young. Join an eagle guide for an easy 2-mile hike through the area. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars.

When: 8 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, and various dates through February

Where: River Center, 11605 Old Friant Road

Cost: Free


Jessica Hice