Trails in Northern California

Trails in Northern California

Leave No Trace!

Visit for more information about Desolation Wilderness. Visit or call 1- 877-444-6777 to make park reservations. Visit Campfire Permits to get a permit online. More about Leave No Trace principles.

July 23, 2013

Sugar Pine Reservoir: Hikes, Fishing, Boating, Camping, Swimming...

Beautiful views, an easy drive, forested, and at higher elevation for a cooler temperature. Perfect for a family day on the water.  Equestrian trails too.

Located 15 miles northeast of Foresthill.

Perfect.  There are four main recreation areas around the lake, including the boat ramp, campgrounds, a picnic area, and a swimming beach.  There are numerous places to swim and hang out which you can get to by trail or boats, kayaks, and rafts.  I found two rope swings near each other. Most of the facilities are wheelchair accessible.  Boats are limited to ten miles per hour.
One entrance.  The trail beyond this is excellent ~ don't worry!  There are other places to park and get to the lake, too. 

One of the things I enjoyed was how quickly some places along the lakeside have a drop off so I could get submerged at once rather than wade in slowly and painfully! If you prefer the gradual, beach-like spots, they are all around the lake too.

The trail is shady, making your hike more pleasant, then you can choose some sunny spot to hang out if you prefer.  I had few bugs or mosquitos bother me.  At 3500 feet elevation, this makes a great escape from the valley heat!

 For your inner tarzan! 
 Rope swings were popular this weekend.

 Fishing for warm and cold water species is good.  The boat ramp (with a large parking and restroom)is located on the southeast side of the lake.  I parked on the southwest side where there is also ample parking, no restroom, that is located along Sugar Pine Road before it becomes Iowa Hill Road.

 Several campgrounds are walking distance from the lake, as well as day use parking with the advantages of picnic tables and bathrooms.  Manzanita Day Use Area fills up on hot days.  There are also biking and horseback riding trails available, and OHV areas are open in Tahoe National Forest.

 Family and group sized spots were available when I drove through Shirttail Campground on Saturday, but I would always recommend trying for reservations.

 As I left, I made the decision to follow the "primitive road", Iowa Hill Road to Colfax, rather than retrace my longer drive up through Foresthill.  The views were a pleasure, if you don't mind driving along a mountainside with steep canyon walls descending father down than the eye could see along one side!

Before long I entered the fee area (laughably) since behind this sign is a wide turnout without so much as a garbage can!  However, there are some excellent recreation sites and campgrounds in Tahoe National Forest.
   For campgrounds and fees, click here.

 Hairpin turns on this "primitive" route too.  As you can see, the term means narrower, and curvy, but not dirt or for four wheelers.  The pavement was well maintained.

 As you reach the North Fork of the American River, there are day use spaces (fees apply) and a campground available near the river.  Not far back up the hill from here is the parking for another favorite hike called Windy Point Trail.

On my way to town, I couldn't resist stopping in a non-fee area to pick blackberries.  They are delights, each and every one!  More flavorful than any you find in stores or fruit stands!

Almost everything here fits into "Easy" ratings, although the day use beach and near the boat ramp are best with small children.
To find your way, a map is provided here.

 Happy Trails!  See Trails By Locations for more ideas!

July 12, 2013

Historic Independence Trail, CA ~ Wheelchair Accessible

Take a hike! Independence Trail near Nevada City is a dirt wheelchair and stroller accessible trail. Then, a waterfall!

DIRECTIONS:  Take Highway 49 north of Nevada City, CA to the parking shown below.  (Estimates are 5-8 miles out of Nevada City.)  South Yuba River State Park manages this area and provides a map online.  From Sacramento allow about 1 1/2 hours each way.
Difficulty:  Easy to moderate based on whether you stay on the main trail or head down to the swimming holes.
The trail is well marked so no GPS tracks are necessary, although sites do have several peoples' tracks loaded.

There are handicapped parking spots marked.

At the trail head, there are wheelchair accessible vault toilets.  Turn to the right for this hike to the waterfalls and swimming holes described in this post.  It will lead you under the highway through a tunnel that is too short to stand upright in. 

I chose to go down this Jones Bar spur on the right to see the creek, river, and swimming holes I have read about.  It is not stroller or wheelchair friendly, but is a great short, although steep hike if you came to picnic and swim.

You might endure a brief hot, sunny, section but most of it is shady on your way down, less than one mile, to the water.

This was my first, disheartening, sight of the water.  Nearly dry this year.

The previous photo was taken from this bridge.  I suggest you cross it (although there is a wide looking trail before the bridge, it is harder to get to the swimming holes from it) then take the trail on your right that is scarcely wider than a deer path.  Trust me.

It forks so take the left option and you will find this entrance to two very large and deep, perfect, adjacent swimming holes.  Do be prepared to avoid poison oak!  All of the warnings expected such as: don't dive from rocks, kids need life vests, no glass containers, and so on apply.

There are some sandy areas and lots of giant rocks to sun on.

 If you either skip the spur mentioned or return to the main trail, you are treated to excellent resting places, all accessible.  In days gone by, restrooms were stationed along the trail with wheelchair accessibility, but they are no longer maintained and are boarded up.

Continue along the trail and flumes.  The trail is mostly divided for strollers and wheelchairs on a lower level along the old flume, and the upper more narrow strip is for hikers.  There are rustic benches along the way too, some with distant views and others are places to take time to breathe in the forest and soak in the peace.

Visitors are soon rewarded with this open view of the flume in a horseshoe shape curving around
the canyon wall. The creek is gurgling pleasantly far below. Some people get squeamish here,
so maybe avoid looking down.  It is all in good repair at this time and you can't fall unless you
climb the rails and topple over. To your left will be a wooden flume traversing the canyon wall down
 to the waterfall and creek.

Small benches to rest on and absorb the views and nature are stationed here and there.  At
the bottom you can refresh with a splash or two from the creek.  And by the way, I met hikers
with dogs, all leashed and picked up after.  It was a pleasant outing for all.

I met Georgie there, a well behaved rescue who you can read about here.

This is part of the Rush Creek Falls that normally drops in a series of cascades,
the longest being a double tier falling 50 feet under the flume bridge overhead.

After a snack, splashes, and rest, I resumed hiking the trail around the bend. 
Often the trees are too tall and thick for views but I took in this gratifying view...

and nearly stepped on....

this wildlife surprise!
I decided to turn back at this point because the trail was less maintained. 

But this lone bright lily stood out!

A small reward for having continued!

This is an out and back trail I highly recommend.

In addition, check out the
Independence Trail Herb Walks
PRE-REGISTRATION REQUIRED: $20 prepaid or $35/both walks, prepaid. $25 at walk if space, but walks limited to 16 people so usually fill. Must pre-register via email, mail or phone; mail payment to secure place. Confirmation and directions 4 days in advance (payment refundable till then). Kids free, but number limited; teens half price. Rain cancels. checks/MO to Kathi Keville at: Oak Valley Herb Farm, PO Box 2482, Nevada City, CA 95959 530-274-3140 HERB WALKS ...a botanical adventure with herbalist and author Kathi Keville.  Her 40+ years of herbal knowledge shines through energetic discussions about their science, lore and edible, medicinal, and other uses, and how to identify, prepare and use them. (You'll receive a plant list.) Trails are short and easy with 40 herbs, and we move slowly! Kathi has been giving walks on these trails for 25 years and they are her favorites! These walks are offered only once a year at peak bloom. Picnic areas if you want to bring lunch for afterwards. Taken from 2014

For more hikes, visit Trails by Locations


Edit: added aprox. driving time from Sacramento 7/6/2015

July 11, 2013

Cedar Park Trail, near Sly Park, CA

Wheelchair and stroller accessible trail through the woods with a nice observation deck overlooking the Cosumnes River Canyon. 

At only one half to one mile, it is a perfect woodsy getaway for youngsters.


The trail forms a paved figure 8 set of loops with rest benches situated randomly along the way.  It is located in El Dorado National Forest, on the south side of Sly Park Road, Pollock Pines, CA.  We found a nice observation deck that overlooks the Cosumnes River Canyon.  Carry water and maybe mosquito spray.  There aren't any water sources along the way.  It is accessible year around but gets snow.  Dogs are welcome on a leash.  (For a restroom, I stopped at Lake Jenkinson campground, and parked before the gate. Located near the entrance gate you'll find bathrooms.)
The paved route is easy, has an elevation range of 3640-3700 feet. Ample parking is provided.

At Cedar park, there are two more trails, unpaved, not well marked, that head out beyond the ranger's cabin.  It turned into bushwhacking for us, which was fun, but also had some steepness and makes a great "Let's go get lost" sort of hike.  There wasn't much of an understory which made off trail hiking easier, and we had a small runoff creek crossing.  Down below all of this is a creek/river where there may be good fishing. 
We drove from the Shingle Springs on Pleasant Valley Road to Sly Park Road, to the parking on our right, across the street from the Sly Park Education Center.  I call it the scenic route, but it is curvy and slower driving. The park is well marked with a standard forestry sign.
The other option is to take the Sly Park exit off of Highway 50 and follow signs toward Sly Park, Jenkinson Lake.  Pass the park entrance and at Mormon Emigrant road stay to the right to follow Sly Park Road less than two miles to the parking on your left for Cedar Park.

For more trails, visit Trails by Locations

or search By Titles

Happy Trails!


July 07, 2013

Muir Woods, CA

Trails that wind through the gorgeous old stand of protected redwoods are accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. 

(Use is not for bicycles)
 This is a fantastic day trip, or you can stay in bay area motels
and take in more coastal hikes and parks.
 Photos are allowed but photos or footage for business purposes require a permit.  There are interpretive signs and maps posted with mileage to help visitors choose their trails.

I enjoyed the visit through the Cathedral Woods, where you are asked to pass quietly and take in the sights, sounds and fragrances of this rare place, perhaps use it as a time to reflect and accept rejuvenation.  Wildlife does live there and with so much human activity, this is a chance to observe it with as little human noise and impact as possible.

This trail heads through the woods alongside this pleasant creek.  Due to this area's protected status, get something to keep from the gift shop.  It isn't legal to take anything from the woods here.  So many people come to experience old growth woods that leaving everything but footprints will keep the forest pristine for future visitors and you, too.

 There are miles of accessible trails from .5 to 2 miles in length for strollers and wheelchairs.  For hikers there are many more options of more difficult, longer trails.
 There is a gift shop with a small concessionaire for lunches, snacks and drinks.  Outdoor seating includes benches and decking.
 Gorgeous views of the bay.

 I will add some more photos this week.  I am just anxious to share a possible jaunt for you during the summer months.  The climate is coastal, moderate compared to the valleys, also moister, saltier air.
Driving: Many GPS devices will take you to places other than the parking or entry to Muir Woods National Monument, use coordinates:
Latitude: 37 degrees 53.519 minutes (North)
Longitude: 122 degrees 34.253 minutes (West).