The Best River Trails in Sacramento

Sacramento, California, is known for its sunny skies and beautiful scenery; with great weather comes endless opportunities for outdoor activities. Hiking enthusiasts looking for a new adventure will find an abundance of trails along the American River. This blog post will highlight some of the best river trails in Sacramento for a scenic hike.

river trail sacramento

Discovery of the American River Trail

The American River Trail is a jewel in the crown of Sacramento’s outdoor offerings. This trail, stretching 32 miles from Discovery Park in Old Sacramento to Folsom Lake’s southwestern banks, offers an unparalleled experience for hikers, bikers, and nature enthusiasts.

The American River Trail was developed to preserve the region’s natural beauty while providing a recreational space for residents and visitors. Originally a path used by Native Americans and later by gold prospectors during the California Gold Rush, it has been transformed into a well-maintained trail system that offers breathtaking views of the American River and the diverse wildlife that calls it home.

As you embark on the trail, you’ll encounter a variety of terrains – from flat, paved paths perfect for a leisurely stroll or bike ride to more challenging sections that will test your hiking skills. The trail is dotted with picnic spots, fishing points, and bird-watching areas, ensuring every trip is unique.

Scenic Highlights of the American River Trail

The American River Trail boasts many picturesque views and notable landmarks that will impress any adventurer. As you journey along the trail, you’re greeted with spectacular sights of the stunning American River, a sparkling body of water that meanders its way through lush landscapes. You’ll enjoy the tranquil beauty of the river, its shimmering surface reflecting the sky above, and the vibrant hues of the surrounding flora.

Along the way, you’ll stumble upon Lake Natoma, a natural attraction perfect for water sports enthusiasts. The serene lake, set against the backdrop of verdant rolling hills, is a sight. Don’t be surprised to see kayakers gently paddling across its glassy surface or families picnicking along its shores.

sacramento river trail map

Recreational Opportunities in American River Trail

The American River Trail appeals to hiking enthusiasts and those interested in a wide array of outdoor activities. One of the most popular activities is biking, with the trail’s extensive, well-maintained paths offering a unique way to appreciate the area’s scenic beauty. Many sections of the trail are paved and flat, ideal for leisurely cycling and high-speed biking. Rentals are readily available for those who did not bring their own bikes.

Horseback riding is another engaging option on the American River Trail. Certain sections of the trail are dedicated to equestrian use, allowing riders to immerse themselves in nature’s splendour. Guided tours are also offered, allowing first-timers to experience the thrill of horseback riding within a safe and controlled environment.

The Beauty of the Sacramento River Parkway

One of Sacramento’s hidden gems is the Sacramento River Parkway, a continuous public parkway along the Sacramento River. This remarkable trail embodies the city’s commitment to preserving its natural beauty while fostering a sense of community and outdoor recreation.

The Sacramento River Parkway, stretching from Discovery Park to Freeport, offers breathtaking views of the Sacramento River, making it a must-visit for locals and tourists alike. The parkway provides opportunities for various outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, and picnicking, and it even features specific routes dedicated to equestrian use. The parkway is also dotted with scenic viewpoints and rest areas, ensuring every journey along the trail is as leisurely and enjoyable as possible.

Situated on the banks of the Sacramento River, the Sacramento River Parkway is an exquisite blend of natural landscapes and urban amenities. The parkway was designed to offer a respite from city life, creating a tranquil environment where visitors can immerse themselves in nature without leaving the city. The trail winds through various landscapes, offering a diverse experience with lush green spaces, serene river views, and vibrant wildlife habitats.

sacramento river rail trail

Flora and Fauna in Sacramento River Parkway

Sacramento River Parkway is a treasure trove of biodiversity, hosting a myriad of plant and animal species that are native to the Sacramento area. Various trees, including cottonwoods, willows, and oaks, grace the trail. The trail is blanketed in the spring in vibrant wildflowers, making for an enchanting hiking experience.

Animal life is equally diverse along the parkway. Visitors can spot numerous bird species, including herons, egrets, and hawks. The parkway also hosts mammals like river otters, beavers, and deer. Even the river teems with life, housing various fish species like salmon and trout.

Opportunities for Wildlife Observation

Wildlife observation is one of the main attractions of the Sacramento River Parkway. Several observation decks have been strategically placed along the trail, providing visitors with the opportunity to observe wildlife in their natural habitat. 

Special birdwatching events are organized regularly, allowing enthusiasts to spot rare bird species. The parkway also provides informational signage about the local wildlife, educating visitors about the importance of conservation. 

Experience the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail

The Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail, also known as the American River Bike Trail, stretches over 32 miles, meandering along the American River from Discovery Park to Nimbus Fish Hatchery. 

The trail is a testament to Sacramento’s commitment to preserving its historical and natural heritage, offering a continuous, largely uninterrupted path for cyclists, walkers, joggers, and equestrians. With its diverse landscapes – including riverfront gardens, riparian habitats, and oak woodlands – the trail provides a refreshing escape from the urban hustle and bustle while still remaining easily accessible from the city.

In addition, Jedediah Smith, the trail’s namesake, was a 19th-century explorer, hunter, and trapper who played a crucial role in charting the American West. The trail is a tribute to Smith’s adventurous spirit and significant contributions to the region’s exploration. 

sacramento river trail bridge

Outdoor Activities in Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail

The Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, boasting various activities for individuals of all fitness levels and interests.

Running is a popular activity on the trail. It’s routine to see joggers of all ages taking advantage of the trail’s unobstructed pathways and beautiful surroundings. The trail’s versatility makes it perfect for casual joggers and serious runners training for marathons.

Cycling enthusiasts find the trail equally appealing. Its extensive length and well-maintained paths provide an excellent biking experience, whether you’re a casual rider or an avid cyclist. The trail’s diverse landscapes make every ride visually rewarding.

Equestrian activities are also a unique feature of the trail. Certain trail stretches are dedicated to horseback riding, allowing equestrians to trot, canter, or gallop amidst the picturesque setting.

Moreover, the trail hosts various special events and races throughout the year. These include charity runs, cycling races, and equestrian competitions, attracting participants from all over the region. Such events add to the trail’s vibrancy, fostering a sense of community among regular users and offering newcomers a fun and exciting introduction.

Conclusion: River Trail Sacramento

Sacramento River Parkway and the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail are undoubtedly among the cream of the crop regarding river trails in Sacramento. These trails stand out as venues for outdoor recreation and as living, breathing educational resources steeped in natural beauty and historical significance. 

They showcase the best of Sacramento’s biodiversity while offering various activities for all ages and fitness levels. The combination of scenic landscapes, diverse wildlife, historical markers, and community events makes them unparalleled in their appeal. They embody Sacramento’s commitment to environmental preservation, community engagement, and the integration of nature within urban spaces.

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