Hit the Trails
● By Wendy Sipple
In our communities we’re very fortunate to have so much open space and wildlife habitat in and around our neighborhoods – virtually all of it connected by a carefully planned system of recreation trails.
Officially they’re called “Class 1 multi-use trails,” meaning they’re paved, relatively flat, isolated from automobile traffic, and no motorized vehicles allowed, but most people know them by their more common names: bike trails.
Together, Folsom, Roseville and the Placerville foothills areas have more than 70 miles of Class 1 trails to enjoy, each with their own unique features and scenery. With that in mind, it’s not a matter of which one to explore, but which one to explore first. Check out a few of our local area’s myriad of paths to explore.
Think of Folsom and one of the first things to come to mind is its proximity to the American River Parkway trail, which parallels the river all the way from Folsom to Old Sacramento. It’s an area institution, but it’s a mistake to think it’s the only quality trail Folsom has to offer.
For the past several years, Folsom has been building one of the most interconnected and easily accessible trail systems in the region. In 2003, the city was recognized as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists, which gave the city a Silver-level designation. At the time, only 10 other cities in the nation received such recognition. “We’re lucky city planners had the foresight to keep development from creeping into open space corridors,” says Jim Konopka, Senior Park Planner for Trails with the City of Folsom. “We’ve got some amazing wetlands and open space areas in close proximity to where people live, all easily accessible by the trail system.”
With 32 miles of existing trail (and a long-term vision for 50 miles), most of the major trail segments are already built. The bulk of the new construction involves infill projects that connect existing segments. Most recently, the city completed the final 3,000-foot stretch of the Humbug Willow Creek Trail, connecting Folsom Boulevard to Riley Street. Future plans call for additional extensions to connect Folsom to its neighboring communities. Plans have already been drawn up to link Folsom and El Dorado Hills, sparing cyclists and pedestrians from the madness that is Green Valley Road.
That’s consistent with the planners’ vision to create the trails as a means of encouraging alternative transportation, thereby reducing traffic and traffic impacts. Most residents however, see the trails as much more than a different way to get from A to B. “It’s a great way to get outside, unwind after work and get some exercise, all in a place much safer than competing with auto traffic,” Konopka says. “And the best thing is it’s free; there are no gym memberships or access fees required, you just jump right on and go.”
Every one of the system’s 32 miles has plenty to offer, but there are three trail segments Konopka recommends. The first is the “lower section” of the Humbug Willow Creek Trail. It’s a roughly six-mile stretch that starts near Folsom Boulevard and Glenn Drive, close to the Light Rail station. It’s a quiet and scenic trail that meanders through a mixture of oak groves, wetlands areas and along the creek.
Another good section is the upper end of the trail near Empire Ranch. The best place to pick up this segment is right at the entrance of Nisenan Park, off of Golf Links Road in Empire Ranch. This is more of a “hilly” ride, but it pays off with incredible views of the surrounding area. On clear days you can see as far as downtown Sacramento.
A third option is to pick up the trail as it crosses Oak Avenue Parkway, between North Lexington Drive and South Lexington Drive, and head east. Within the first few hundred yards you’ll see beaver dams and other signs of wildlife (including an actual beaver or river otters if you’re lucky). There are several community parks along the way if you’re looking for a place to bring the kids, and about three miles up the trail makes a huge loop around one of the city’s largest wetlands areas.
As the first city in Placer County to be recognized as a Bicycle-friendly community, Roseville offers 27 miles of paved Class 1 trails available for running, walking, cycling, and rollerblading.
Most of Roseville’s trail system has been built in the past decade, the result of community surveys which over and over again placed “recreation trails” at the top of the list of what residents want. “The trails offer a great break from the day-to-day urban lifestyle,” says Mike Dour, bikeway planner and Alternative Transportation Analyst for the City of Roseville. “With so much beautiful open space and quiet to enjoy, the trails are a great place to go after a full day of commuting, soccer practice and all the other aspects of everyday life.”
With so many miles of trail to pick from, the real question is where to start. Fortunately, along with an online trail map, the City’s bikeways Web site roseville.ca.us/bikeways, highlights the area’s top three trails: Maidu Regional Park, Miners Ravine and Pleasant Grove.
The “official” Maidu Regional Park Trail is a two-mile loop along the perimeter of the park, but there are also several paved trails through the middle of the park and some smaller dirt trails throughout. It’s a great place for families; the day can start with a visit to the Maidu Museum and Historic Site, the library or the community center and be followed by a trail walk. “It’s also an interactive trail,” Dour says. “There are several stops along the way where visitors can learn about Native American culture.”
The south branch of the Pleasant Grove Creek Trail is probably the city’s second most popular trail. It’s a fairly short jaunt, about a mile one way between Veteran’s Park and Blue Oaks Park, but it’ll take you through some beautiful oak woodlands along the north side of the city.
The most popular trail, so popular it regularly draws people from all areas, is the Miners Ravine Trail. Extended in 2009, it’s now about seven miles of continuous trail without crossing a street. Most visitors start it at Sculpture Park (behind The Home Depot on North Sunrise) and ride, walk or run through some of the city’s most scenic open space and wetland areas.
As it approaches Roseville Parkway it forks, forcing a tough choice. You can continue south on Miners Ravine Trail all the way to Sierra College Boulevard before turning back or many of the locals will take the eastern fork along the False Ravine Trail for about another mile and a half. The good news is there’s no chance of choosing poorly; despite its name, it offers just as much scenery and quality as its southern counterpart. With that in mind, the trails have also become popular for wildlife viewing. Miners Ravine in particular is an established open space and wildlife corridor within the city limits. It’s a great place to be for seeing a wide variety of bird life, especially hawks, white-tailed kites and other raptors.
El Dorado County
In the Placerville and foothills area, anyone up for some fresh air should walk a mile, or 10, along the El Dorado Trail. The trail has been built on the former right of way of the Placerville & Sacramento Valley Railroad (the oldest rail line west of the Mississippi) with a vision to one day connect to the city of Folsom and the American River Parkway.
The City of Placerville, in partnership with El Dorado County and Trails Now, have developed 10 miles of the 28-mile right of way, although a total of about 12 miles of trail are officially open. There are two main sections; the “older” section starts near the intersection of Clay Street and Main Street in Placerville and goes for about seven miles east, paralleling Highway 50 and the historic Pony Express trail.
Access points are at Clay/Main, the Placerville bus station near Mosquito Road, and at the County Trailhead on Jacquier Road, just slightly north of Smith Flat Road. From Jacquier Road, heading east, the paved section of trail ends at Las Trampas Drive and continues as a gravel/dirt path for another 1.6 miles up to Camino Heights.
“This portion of the trail is mostly oak woodlands, but it opens up some near the Mosquito Road access point,” says Eileen Crim, a volunteer with Trails Now. “Now that we’re getting into spring, you can expect to see areas with lots of wildflowers there. It’s very pretty.”
The newer section, known as the “Trestle Segment,” opened in October 2009 and has already earned quite a reputation. “We’re very proud of this segment; it’s won two awards for its design,” Crim says. “It’s not only very attractive, it was built with respect for the environment and it offers something to a diverse group of users. It’s also compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
At its most western end, the Trestle Segment starts at a paved parking area on Missouri Flat Road across from Wal-Mart just south of Highway 50. About a mile up the trail, it crosses over the Weber Creek Trestle Bridge, first built in 1903, and restored to be a stunning addition to the El Dorado Trail. At its center, the bridge is about 100 feet high over Webber Creek, offering fantastic “above the canopy” views of the area. Designers also rebuilt the trestle with expanded observation areas and benches, making it easy to enjoy the view.
From the bridge, the trail meanders along a generally northerly route, terminating at Forni Road near Ray Lawyer Drive. Unfortunately, the Trestle Segment is not yet connected to the other trail segments, but for the adventurous, there is a fourth, unimproved section of trail that runs west from the Wal-Mart area trailhead for about two miles, terminating at Oriental Road in El Dorado. This section offers great equestrian riding, and some technical sections for mountain biking.