A paved trail runs along side a wide, placid river with a trestle bridge visible in the distance.

The American River Parkway is a great place for joggers and cyclers. Photo © Christopher Arns.

Map of Sacramento and Gold Country, California

Sacramento and Gold Country

A “New Gold Rush” begins whenever visitors flock to the Sierra Nevada foothills for something fresh and exciting. This time it’s outdoor recreation, something found in abundance in Sacramento and the Gold Country.

Twenty-three miles of urban wilderness follow the American River Parkway’s course from its confluence with the mighty Sacramento up to Folsom in the lower foothills. Along the way, the paved Jedediah Smith Bike Trail bends along wide bluffs, levees, and through oak woodlands above the river, making a fantastic place for jogging and cycling.

The 4.8-mile-long expanse of Folsom Lake at the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area has plenty of open water for wakeboarding, Jet Skiing, and fishing as well as hiking and mountain biking trails around the northeast corner of the lake. Folsom Lake also has several campgrounds that offer families a chance to hang out on the waterfront.

A slice of heaven awaits at the Auburn State Recreation Area between Auburn and Cool. Visitors will enjoy swimming, horseback riding, or zipping dirt bikes through the off-road park. Mountain biking is extremely popular on trails like Quarry Road and Lower Clementine.

Once North America’s largest riparian wilderness, the Cosumnes River Preserve still attracts 250 species of birds every year during migration season. Bring binoculars and comfortable hiking shoes for a stroll around the park as you pass vernal pools, seasonal wetlands, and oak woodlands.

From Downieville to Sonora, plunge through diabolical Class II–V rapids on white-water rafting trips. The most popular trip is the South Fork of the American River near Coloma, the site of the first noteworthy gold discovery in 1848.

The best single-track mountain biking in California just might be in Downieville. Mountain bikers start at the Sierra Buttes, where they begin a 17-mile charge back to town.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Sacramento & the Gold Country.