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A California Love Story: 5 Nearby Nature Areas

Carmichael Community Garden

It’s well established that the past year has challenged us mentally and physically. With so much shut down, our communities were pushed to get creative in how we cope with extreme situations, ultimately sending many of us straight outside—and for good reason.

Being outdoors and within nature has proven time and time again to be a natural pick me up, and a quick Google search will point to many scientific studies that reinforce this fundamental fact. Outdoor experiences have a way of calming, renewing, and inspiring our minds and bodies. Absorbing the magnitude of Earth’s various creations focuses our world lens into a better perspective. So, understandably, many of us head to the trails when times are tough.

And the best part for us? We live in a region that features an abundance of outdoor options—some right in our very own neighborhoods, quietly tucked out of sight but bursting with natural wonder and education. No need to pack the gear or carve out a weekend, here are 5 truly phenomenal yet simple local hotspots to appreciate all the nature:


University Arboretum


Trail maps are supplied, educational signs stand proud, and it seems the students and faculty running the show are having fun while working hard to maintain the grounds at the University Arboretum at Sacramento State. There’s an added whimsy with the naming of various gardens, squirrels wanting to get up close and personal, and impromptu bug forts made of tree stumps, branches, leaves, and such.


Traylor Ranch Nature Preserve and Bird Sanctuary


Traylor Ranch Nature Preserve and Bird Sanctuary in Penryn is an ideal hike for those who need wide, flat surfaces and easy, choose-your-own distances. No pavement or other blatant signs of human intrusion, Traylor Ranch gives all the feels of being deep into the woodlands, and it certainly helps that the 90 acres of donated land is further surrounded by other farms and ranches. Add in a seasonal creek, Nisenan grinding rocks, and multiple habitats of endless woodland creatures and you have yourself a sanctuary indeed!


Jensen Botanical Gardens


The discovery of Jensen Botanical Gardens and neighboring Carmichael Community Garden knocked our socks off. We had heard little of the botanical garden, with no idea of the added bonus of the garden next door. So much growing, gardening, and community going on that it’s one adventure you have to enjoy for yourself, as words don’t do it justice.


American River Water Education Center


Located along the levy of Folsom Lake, countless morning commuters likely drive past the American River Water Education Center without ever realizing the wow factor contained within its pathways. Best to visit when flowers are in full bloom, this hidden gem boasts picnic areas, historical artifacts, and educational signs. What’s more, groups can schedule guided field trips as well. Across the street you’ll find drinks and snacks and further down the connecting path is Folsom Lake itself.


Effie Yeaw


Effie Yeaw Nature Center is probably a bit more well known in our area and deserving of all the accolades. The museum (when open) boasts plenty of wildlife education in the form of taxidermy, furs, skeletons, preserved flora and fauna, and knowledgeable docents happy to teach. The onsite trails connect with the American River so it’s another easy way to make this experience as challenging as you’d like with the exercise component.


NOTE: With any location it’s always a good idea to check websites for details and policies to ensure a good experience when you go. And while you’re online, more local gems to consider researching: Fair Oaks Horticulture Center, the WPA Rock Garden in Land Park, Sacramento Splash Vernal Pools, Nimbus Fish Hatchery, Hinkle Creek Nature Area, Cosumnes River Preserve, and the Maidu Museum, to name a few. Let’s get outside and take care of our communities.


Loomis-based Instagram travel blogger journeys across the state with her family discovering under-the-radar people, places, and cultures. “Follow” her and her adventures here.