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Explore More: Your (Local) Guide to the Great Outdoors

Mar 25, 2020 11:38AM
Simply put, our region offers world-class outdoor activities. Hiking, backpacking, camping, rock climbing, and mountain biking are just some of the true cornerstones of adventure, and we have it all right here in our backyard. The outdoors just called, and they want to see you.

HIKING

TAKE A WALK ON THE SCENIC SIDE
As humans, we need to feel the crisp air on our face, the soft dirt beneath our feet, the mystery of unexplored paths that ramble around rivers and mountaintops. Thankfully, we live in one of the most privileged places on the planet to get our dose of nature, with hundreds of hiking trails leading to rivers, lakes, and panoramic views of the amazing landscape we call home.

5 MUST-TRY TRAILS

1) Jenkinson Lake Loop Trail
Where: Pollock Pines, south of highway 50 off of the Sly Park exit
Parking: Free parking just outside the gates; $10 parking fee inside the park
Distance: 7.6-mile loop around Jenkinson Lake
 
Lush forests, lakeside beaches, and abundant wildlife characterize this moderate hike. There’s very little elevation gain and multiple access points, which makes it an ideal hike for the whole family. A large waterfall marks the approximate halfway point, just past a nature center where you’ll learn about the ladybug migrations, the role of bats in our ecosystem, and how to spot the nests of the numerous bald eagles that frequent the area. Note: This hike can be abbreviated as needed.
Monument Trail


2) Monument Trail to Monroe Ridge
Where: Coloma
Parking: $8/car
Distance: Monument Trail: .5 miles; Monroe Ridge: 2.5 miles; total: 3-mile loop
 
One event here led to the greatest mass movement in the Western Hemisphere: the discovery of gold. Monument Trail meanders through the natural and historical backdrop of our home and can be connected to the Monroe Ridge trail for a longer hike, looping back to the monument.  If you want a moderate, scenic hike and a bit of history up in the mix, don’t miss this!

Hidden Falls


3) Hidden Falls
Where: Hidden Falls Regional Park, Auburn
Parking: $8/full day; $4/half day; must visit the Hidden Falls Regional Park website for parking reservations on weekends and holidays
Distance: 3.2-mile loop
 
This heavily trafficked, moderate hike leads to a beautiful waterfall with options to loop in other trails for added mileage.

South Fork American River Trail


4) South Fork American River Trail
Where: El Dorado Hills
Parking: Skunk Hollow Trailhead, $10
Distance: 12.3 miles
 
This out-and-back trail weaves around the edge of the South Fork of the American River. Turn around at the start of the West Ridge Trail, or continue on to Cronan Ranch for an added 5.2 miles (17.5 total)

5) Echo Lakes Trail
Where: Turn off of Highway 50 on Johnson Pass Road
Parking: Stay left to arrive at parking area just beneath Lower Echo Lake
Distance: 5.3 miles
 
This moderate, 5.3-mile trail takes you out and back to the lower and upper Echo Lakes with beautiful mountain views, including views of Lake Tahoe (head straight past the “horse path” sign at the beginning of the trail). 

MUST-HAVE APP
All Trails, provides you with access info, mileage, and GPS tracking so you know where to go (and where you are). The app also offers social sharing, ratings, and allows you to record your trails. Hike on!


FIRST AID

Blisters: Prevention is key. Place moleskin on any “hot spot” before the blister forms, and feel that oh-so-sweet relief prior to feeling the pain! In a bind? Use athletic tape, Band-Aids, or even a piece of duct tape because, well…duct tape fixes everything.

Rattlesnake Bites: We know they’re out there, and there are a lot of myths as to what to do. Sorry Billy Crystal, the old “cut and suck” method is a no go. According to the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), this is what to do:
  1. Check the Scene. Don’t create more victims by getting all riled up.  Look around and make sure it’s safe to stop to administer first-aid.
  2.  Stay Calm. Sometimes a rattlesnake bite is “dry” and may not mean envenomation. At least remind yourself of that to help calm you down, because the calmer you are the lower your heart rate will be, meaning you will slow down the flow of the venom.
  3.  Immobilize the limb. Avoid compressing or restricting blood flow. The old Boy Scout tourniquet is a big no! Remove any jewelry or restrictive clothing to allow maximum blood flow and keep the limb immobile, if possible.
  4. Get to a hospital. If you need to hike out, do so calmly. Remember: Keep that heart rate low. Don’t get hasty and add a twisted ankle to the dilemma.
  5. Document the progression of symptoms. The clearer you are about the succession of events, the better your physician will be able to provide health care.

Mountain Biking


MOUNTAIN BIKING

JUST KEEP SPINNING
When it comes to adventure sports, especially mountain biking, “we have it all at our fingertips,” says Erin Gorrell, owner of Folsom Bike. Mountain biking offers the chance to explore vast areas of our natural landscape quickly while getting in shape and having fun. From pure scenic trails for a mellow ride with the fam, to a daunting downhill single track to satisfy the even the boldest adrenaline junkie, we’ve got you covered..

WHERE TO RIDE

1) El Dorado Hills/Cronan Ranch

Darrington Trail
Location: Salmon Falls Road to Folsom Lake
Parking: $8
Notes: Some very technical spots and steep climbs
Difficulty: Intermediate
Distance: 15.9 miles

Skunk Hollow to South Fork American River Trail
Location: Salmon Falls Road to Cronan Ranch
Notes: 70% Single Track, 30% Fire Road
Difficulty: Intermediate
Distance: 11.4 miles

2) Auburn

Culvert Trail
1.2 miles, intermediate/difficult, steep single track, jumps, culvert
Foresthill Divide Loop Trail
11 miles, intermediate, single track
Olmstead Loop Trail
10 miles, intermediate
Stagecoach Trail
2.1 miles, double track, good for kids
Clementine Loop Trail
11 miles, advanced, single track
Fuel Break Trail
1.5 miles, easy/intermediate, double track

3) El Dorado Hills

Explore the newly developing “Dirt Beatty” bike trails for some new routes and serious downhill potential; use Strava for info.

4) Granite Bay

“Granite Bay is probably the best bet for beginners,” says Gorrell. “There are trails there that have minimal hills, roots, and rocks. There are even some ‘whoopdy-whoop’ sections where you get some downhill speed and fun turns without being too intimidating.” Look up Granite Bay bike trails on Strava to get started.

5) Folsom

With more than 50 miles of paved trails, exploring Folsom’s bike trails is a must. Get the map at folsom.ca.us.

MUST-HAVE APP

Strava, for runners and cyclists allows you to view and record trails, join challenges, follow users, and monitor your progress.

How to Repair a Flat (After Removing Tire)

  1. Remove all the air from your tire’s tube
  2. Place tire lever between your tire and the rim
  3. Push lever down and attach to one of the spokes
  4. Use other lever to slide around the tire to remove only one bead from the rim
  5. Remove tube and keep in place, carefully slide hand through the inside of the tire to identify debris/cause of the leak
  6. Replace tube; patch if necessary
  7. Inflate tire tube enough for tube to take shape
  8. Place tube inside tire above rim, ensuring it’s properly seated
  9. Replace the removed bead on the rim and ensure it’s properly seated
  10. Inflate tube slowly to ensure proper seating of the bead
  11. Continue riding

Granite Arch


ROCK CLIMBING

ASCENDING IS TRENDING

While climbing isn’t without its moments of fear, it provides one of the deepest feelings of accomplishment you can possibly feel. Though an inherently dangerous sport, using proper safety measures and creating redundant safety checks and backups can largely eliminate some of them. Always seek proper instruction before heading out and either start at an indoor climbing gym to meet experienced climbers (more on that below), hire an AMGA-certified climbing guide, or take a course (our local REI stores offer them) where you’ll learn proper technique and safety tools.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

The Gear
Climbing shoes: these are specially adapted to adhere to the rock
Climbing harness: connects to the rope (gyms often have special harnesses for the little ones)
Rope: keeps you from falling to the ground 
Belay device: creates friction on the rope to prevent a climber from falling
Chalk: keeps those mits dry
Chalk bag: take your chalk with you

Climbing vs. Bouldering
While climbing requires the use of ropes and belay devices for safety, bouldering is done without the use of ropes at much lower heights with thick pads beneath you, allowing you to forfeit the need for a belay device, rope, and harness. You only need you and some shoes to boulder (that chalk we recommended earlier; definitely still recommended) and a “spotter” to help protect you on the falls. While the technique is very similar to climbing, bouldering tends to be more about power where climbing is geared more toward endurance. Both are amazing and worth doing to become a well-rounded climber.

Grades of Difficulty
Climbing routes in the U.S. are symbolized by “5.”something (e.g., 5.5 all the way up to 5.15). 5.6 is going to be much easier than 5.10. For your first time out, play around between the 5.6-5.9 range. 

Bouldering “problems” are symbolized with a “V”something.  V-easy is the easiest going all the way up to V16. Play in the V-easy to V2 range for a first-time outing.

Have Fun!
Remember to climb safe, breathe, enjoy the experience, and don’t be hard on yourself; it’s about challenging yourself and having a good time! 
Rocklin Quarry


4 LOCAL CRAGS WE LOVE

1) Auburn Quarry

Situated a short 40-minute hike from Highway 49 and the North Fork of the American River, this is a great place for a beginning lead climber to practice their lead climbing skills. There are plenty of easy to moderate routes with good protection.  We recommend starting out on the first wall you see on your left side as you approach the crag, known as “scale wall.” It can also be accessed from the top to easily set up a top rope. 

Favorite climbs on the “scale wall:” M+M (5.8), Scooby Snacks (5.9), and Scale Wall (5.10)

2) Sugarloaf
Sitting just across Highway 50 in Kyburz, Sugarloaf offers traditional and sport climbing routes on smooth, 350-foot-tall granite. Park on the south side of Highway 50 and start across the street toward the phone company building.  A steep approach leads you to Sugarloaf, the most prominent formation on the hillside. You can’t miss it.

3) Deer Park Creek/Rocklin Quarry
With over 70 boulder problems ranging from V easy to V10, Deer Park Creek (or the Rocklin Quarry) is a great option for a quick climbing escape. Situated alongside Pacific Street, accessing this old granite quarry is as easy as it comes. Bring a “crash pad,” some chalk, and high vibes for an awesome outing on some short but quality rocks.

Hop on “The Warm Up” (V0), “Desperado” (V2), “Nemesis”(V3), and “Thin Traverse” (V4) for an epic day.

4) Lover’s Leap
“The leap” is one of the best trad climbing areas in the state, and by far the best local spot if you’re looking for some real exposure. With the cliffs rising up to 600 feet, to say that this is a bold adventure is understating it.  There are very few “sport” routes, mostly above 5.10+.

If you’re new to trad climbing, start on “Hog’s Back,” which has routes from 5.5 for you to learn to place gear and become comfortable with the systems. For those who are already comfortable leading traditional routes, some of the classics are “Bear’s Reach” (5.7), “Corrugation Corner” (5.7), “Haystack” (5.8), and “The Line” (5.9). 

INDOOR CLIMBING GYMS:

Prepare for the Great Outdoors
The growth of indoor rock climbing has quickly become the fastest-growing market in the fitness industry, and for good reason. Climbing is an incredibly complete training incorporating strength, flexibility, endurance, and mental focus into a single activity. For the first time in history, a climbing film won an Oscar for best documentary (Free Solo) and the sport is even making its debut in this year’s Summer Olympics. Indoor climbing gyms are the best place to learn important skills and meet experienced climbers before venturing outdoors. What’s even better, they’re accessible to the entire family, even the little ones!

Get to know the ropes (pun intended):

Granite Arch Climbing Center
11335 Folsom Boulevard, Suite G
Rancho Cordova
916-852-7625
The Boulder Field
8425 Belvedere Avenue,
Suite 100
Sacramento
916-329-8994
Sacramento Pipeworks Climbing and Fitness
116 N 16th Street
Sacramento
916-341-0100
touchstoneclimbing.com/pipeworks
Blue Granite Climbing Gym
1259 Emerald Bay Road
South Lake Tahoe
530-600-2761
bluegraniteclimbing.com

TOP TIPS

1. Use your feet.
The key to becoming good at climbing is trusting your feet and your legs to push you up the wall, while only using your arms to keep you on the wall.
2. Straighten your arms. By keeping your arms straight and relaxed when possible, you’ll save much-needed energy to get you to the top.
3. Keep your hips close. This will help keep your center of gravity close to the wall and, more importantly, over your feet where you should have most of your weight (see “Tip #1).
4. Climb smarter, not harder. Climbing is as much a mental activity as it is physical. If something is feeling really hard, sit back for a few minutes and think about the best way to climb up. It’s more like solving a puzzle than it is about brute strength.

MUST-HAVE APP

Mountain Project, Climbers use this app to share information on climbing areas and how to access them, route information and grades, and “beta,” or specific route information helping climbers find key holds, protection points, and anchors.
Darrington Trail


Camping & Backpacking 

Extend the Adventure
Disconnect from the day-to-day grind and immerse yourself in that sweet mountain air…for days!

4 SWEET BACKPACKING SPOTS

1) Lake Tahoe Rim Trail

Hike the entire 165-mile trail, or break it into sections: 
Brockway Summit to Tahoe Meadows (20.3 miles, intermediate)
Tahoe Meadows to Spooner (23.3 miles, intermediate)
Spooner to Kingsbury (17.9 miles, intermediate/difficult)
Kingsbury to Big Meadow (22.6 miles, intermediate)
Big Meadow to Echo Lake (18.3 miles, intermediate )
Echo Lakes to Barker Pass (32.9 miles, intermediate/difficult)
Barker Pass to Tahoe City (16.6 miles, intermediate)
Tahoe City to Brockway Summit (20.2 miles, intermediate)


2) Pacific Crest Trail

Highway 80 to Highway 49 (39.1 miles)

3) Darrington Trail

Start: Salmon Falls Road
Parking: $8/day; no overnight parking at the trailhead; arrange pick up and drop off
Distance: 20.2 miles
Notes: Hike to Peninsula Campground at Folsom Lake 
Camping: Make reservations during high season ($33/night); not required during off-season ($28/night)

4) Lake Aloha

Start: Echo Lakes Trailhead
Distance: 12.5 miles
Notes: Wilderness permit required for overnight camping ($5/per person first night; $10/per person second night); book at recreation.gov/permits/233261

5 COOL CAMPGROUNDS

Clock out and check into one of our amazing local camp spots. Gather around a fire, roast some marshmallows, tell some stories and connect to yourself, nature, and the fam.

  1. Beal’s Point.  One of the most accessible camping spots on this list, located just off Folsom-Auburn Road at the edge of Folsom Lake; $33/night (peak season)
  2. Mineral Bar Campground (Auburn SRA). Sited on the east side of the North Fork of the American River; $28 year-round/per night; one extra vehicle allowed per campsite is $10 per night
  3. Finnon Lake. A lesser-known escape only 25 minutes out of Placerville. $30/night; reservations accepted online
  4. Stumpy Meadows. Located in Georgetown; opens May 22; $22/single site
  5. Giant Gap. Located on the north shore of Sugar Pine Reservoir in the Tahoe National Forest, just 15 minutes from Foresthill; opens May 15; $24-$48/night

Aeropress coffee


THE BEST CUP OF OUTDOOR COFFEE

One of the best cups of coffee is made with an Aeropress. It’s light, compact, and portable enough to even take backpacking.
  1. Get your favorite roast from Coffee Republic in Folsom. Use fine-ground espresso beans.
  2. Place coffee grounds into an Aeropress coffee maker.  Place Aeropress on top of your favorite camp mug.
  3. Add a bit of hot water and stir to evenly wet the grounds, then fill to the top.
  4. Coffee will drip into cup. Leave sitting for around 15-20 seconds
  5. Depress plunger.
  6. Sniff Before You Sip!

Camp Essentials Checklist

  • Water container
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleep pad
  • Camp stove/gas
  • Lighter/matches
  • Collapsible pots/pans
  • Camp mugs, cups, plates, and silverware
  • Eco-friendly soap & hand sanitizer
  • Thermos
  • Folding table
  • Folding chairs
  • Headlamp/lanterns
  • Knife
  • Hatchet
  • Shovel
  • First aid kit
  • Toilet paper (not to be forgotten!)
  • Battery recharger (for the electronic family members)


Words & Photography by Ryan Martinez