Trail Hunting: A GOTG Guide to NorCal Hikes
By Leia Ostermann
Sacramento is close to so many of nature’s great secrets – lakes, waterfalls, forests and vistas. Every weekend my camera fills up with colorful pictures of big rock walls, big mountains and big adventures.
Now it’s time to encourage you to explore some of the beautiful places so close to our home. Below I’ve listed five of my favorite hikes for your next weekend adventure, complete with Instagram opportunities and a local brewery.
- Winters, Calif.
- Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous.
Be prepared for a well maintained trail, a short and strenuous climb and a beautiful view of Lake Berryessa.
Take the Homestead trail up the canyon and then cut right on the Blue Ridge Loop trail to the top of the ridge for a four mile loop with a total elevation gain of 1,500 feet. This elevation gain is the difficult part of the hike. Once you pop out on the top of the ridge, you are rewarded with vistas on both sides of the trail, looking down into the lake and the canyon.
This is the ideal hike for people who like a short amount of high intensity hiking. It’s recommended that you hike here in the morning when there is less traffic on the trail.
Best of all, you can reward yourself with excellent beer at the end at Lake Berryessa Brewing Company.
- Auburn, Calif.
- Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Located in Hidden Falls Regional Park, trails range in length from 0.1 to 3.7 miles, all of which take you past the beautiful (although overcrowded) namesake waterfall. The trail is primarily used for birding, hiking, nature trips & walking and is accessible year-round.
Please keep in mind there is a bunch of Poison Oak along the trail, so remember to Google what it looks like before you go.
Also, make sure you spread the local love up to Knee Deep Brewing Company in Auburn. Their Simtra is well regarded among IPA connoisseurs as one of the best.
- San Francisco, Calif.
- Difficulty: Easy
This wild and windy trail rewards visitors with stunning views at every turn. This is the perfect hike to start off a day in the city.
Right from the start you can see out to the ocean and across the bay to the Golden Gate Bridge. Best of all, it’s a choose-your-own adventure hike. Sometimes I’ve only made it one mile in before I cracked a bottle of champagne and enjoyed the sunshine. It will take approximately an hour and 15 minutes round trip if you want to finish the trail.
If you are lucky enough to time this adventure on a sunny day in the city, check out Zeitgeist San Francisco for one of the best beer garden experiences.
- Strawberry, Calif.
- Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
There are two ways to hike this trail: all the way to the view or all the way to the lake.
The viewpoint is a three mile round trip with just 790 feet in elevation gain. It ends at the base of the waterfall and rewards you with a view of the surrounding mountains and crashing falls.
The hike to the very top of Horsetail Falls, part of Pyramid Creek coming out of Desolation Wilderness, is not much further in miles, but takes a bit of bouldering and another 1,000 feet in elevation gain.
Either way you climb it, Horsetail Falls is the perfect destination for mountain-loving day-trippers. The falls are the most beautiful in the Spring and Fall when there is plenty of water coming down from the lake and a little bit of snow still at the top.
There aren’t a lot of breweries in the area, but I recommend stopping at Lockdown Brewing Company in Folsom on your way down Highway 50. One of Lockdown’s two locations is in a warehouse. It’s the better one.
- Marin County, Calif.
- Difficulty: Easy to Strenuous
When you plan your trip to Muir Woods, pray that it rains. The Redwoods are the most magical site I’ve ever seen in the rain. As John Muir said, “This is the best tree-lovers monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world.”
Hikes vary from 0.6 to 8.5 miles and vary in difficulty. All the trails are well maintained. The further North you go in the park, the better. This is mainly due to the theme-park like crowds that gather within two miles of the parking lot. I recommend arriving before 9 a.m. or on a weekday.
On your way back to Sacramento, I recommend driving up to Petaluma and stopping for a beer at the Lagunitas Brewery. If you’re there at the right time, definitely take the tour.
In exchange for giving you a few resources to work from please remember to Leave No Trace, respect wildlife and talk to strangers. Now, go on a hike! 🙂