The Adventurer’s Playground: Three of the Best Options for Hiking Near Sacramento

Let's Explore Places to go Hiking Near Sacramento

By J.smith - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

While the Sacramento Valley itself may not have much going for it in the way of hikes, its advantage lies in its perfect position within the state. Sacramento is ideally situated for hiking, being no more than a couple of hours from two amazing and very different regions: the Pacific Coast and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Whether you’re feeling like a day of the sun on your face and the smell of salt in your nose or a challenging schlep up a granite crag, Sactown has you covered. So lace up, and have a wonderful day outdoors with these three hikes near Sacramento.

Jenkinson Lake at Pollock Pines

At eight miles, this first trail is suitable for hikers of any age or fitness level. It starts at the parking lot next to Sly Park Campground and then makes it way around Jenkinson Lake. While it’s mostly flat, there is a section on the lake’s southern shore that’s a little more challenging, but even novice hikers should be able to handle it. It’s a fairly wide, packed dirt path without too many rocks or tree roots to trip over, which also makes it a popular trail for mountain bikers. Be aware of them, and maybe don’t wear your earbuds on this hike.

The northeastern corner of the lake has a short finger jutting out from the main basin, which leads to the Park Creek Waterfall. It’s a little over 33 feet tall, and the pool below it is a nice place to take a dip after the sun’s been beating down on you all day. There not too many other sights along the trail, but it’s a great option if you’re looking for a restive but still fairly long hike. The lake is a fun place to paddle around too, with kayaks and SUPs available for rent on summer weekends.​

Alamere Falls at Point Reyes

Located inside the Point Reyes National Seashore, this one is a bit of a drive from Sacramento. But if you’re willing to spend the three hours necessary to get there, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning 30-foot coastal waterfall emptying into the Pacific Ocean. It’s a 13-mile out-and-back hike, and you’ll want to time it so you’ll reach the falls at low tide, when the beach provides easier access.

The hike begins at the Palomarin Trailhead, which can get quite crowded on the weekends. To get a parking space, you’ll need to show up very early; or if you can, just hike it on a weekday and avoid the crowds all together. The trail starts amid a stand of Eucalyptus trees and then continues for almost half a mile to Abalone Point, overlooking the beach. After another mile, it turns inland and continues to rise until it reaches Bass Lake. The vegetation is very thick, so there’s only one point you can access the lake from on the northeastern end. The trail then continues further upward and weaves its way between Pelican Lake and Crystal Lake, both of which have spur trails leading to them. A mile past the Bass Lake spur is a fork in the trail, with one path leading towards Alamere Falls. The trail descends and takes a somewhat challenging scramble down Alamere Creek to the Wildcat Beach. If you’ve timed it correctly to the tides, you can then take a leisurely stroll along the beach to reach the falls.

Rockbound Pass in the Desolation Wilderness

This last one is only for those hikers who are up for a challenge, but it offers a special sort of beauty that can only be found in the Desolation Wilderness– a rugged, an imposing terrain only punctuated by evergreens every so often. Before you begin, be sure to pick up a day-use permit at the Pacific Ranger Station, just outside Pollock Pines. The trail to Rockbound Pass starts at Wright’s Lake and then works its way up a series of granite slabs, a few of which require some scrambling. It’s just over six and a half miles to the pass, but you’ll need to ascend 1,500 feet to get there. After four miles of trekking, you’ll reach Maud Lake, a great place to have a snack (or lunch, depending on when you started). Following the lake, you’ll then complete the ascent to the pass by climbing a series of switchbacks. The views from Rockbound Pass are absolutely amazing and will make you feel like you’re on top of the world. Dick’s and Jack’s Peaks are visible, as well as a few lakes. You’ll need to make a decision here – continue on through this impressive landscape, or call it a day and get back to town.

If you haven’t had enough of a workout, you can continue downhill after the pass, where you’ll have the benefit of hiking by two lovely lakes (Doris and Lois) during the three-mile descent. The final lake, Lois, is nine miles from the trailhead. If you ever want to see your vehicle (and family) again, you’ll then have to climb back up the pass. Choose wisely, and always carry enough water for the conditions.

Conclusion

With outdoor adventure in mind, one couldn’t ask for a better place to live than Sacramento. The Pacific Coast is only a couple hours to the west and the crests of the Sierra’s are just over an hour to the east. Even if you don’t have much time to spend getting yourself to a trailhead, there’s some great hiking that can be accessed just outside of town. That means there’s no excuse for not doing a few miles of trail in the evening whenever you have the chance. Your legs may not thank you now, but your heart and lungs will later.

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About the author

Justin Archer

Hi, I'm Justin Archer a family man with 2 boys and a wife. I'm an outdoorsman who loves hunting, fishing, hiking and lots of other outdoor activities. I love testing new outdoor gear, learning new things and passing on the knowledge I have gained.

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