Sacramento County Walkabouts
The “Sergeant Margie” dog-face beside an entry means the place is dog-friendly (you can take your leashed dog there).
American River Bend Park, Rancho Cordova, CA: This is one of my all-time favorite places to go for walks. It’s dog-friendly, has both paved and unpaved paths, easily-located public restrooms, and places to picnic and camp overnight. There’s an entrance fee to get in, but if you get the year-long pass to the place it pays for itself in just a few visits. The scenery, mostly oak and riparian forest with views of the American River, changes a lot throughout the year and you get to see wild turkeys, mule deer, and a variety of birds, insects, and fungi on a regular basis. Low-cost admission; easy paths to walk. Lots of photo-opportunities.
The Cosumnes River Preserve, Galt, CA. Dogs aren’t allowed here, but if you like to see birds, this is a great place to go. It is open to the public, usually year round, free of charge. There is adequate parking and easily accessible restrooms, but keep in mind that the gates to the lots don’t open until around 9:00 am… so in the summer months, you sometimes can’t get onto the preserve by car in the cooler early-morning hours (even though the trails are supposed to be open from dawn until dusk). The big attraction here is that it’s smack in the middle of the Pacific Flyway, and migrating birds converge on the area from about November through March each year. During my trips to the preserve I’ve seen Red-Winged Blackbirds, Sparrows, White Fronted Geese, Canadian Geese, Pintail Ducks, Northern Shovelers, Green-Winged Teals, Gadwalls, a Bufflehead, Mallards, Black-Necked Stilts, Cinnamon Teals, Hummingbirds, and Coots… among many others.
Nimbus Fish Hatchery: You might not think a fish hatchery would be a particularly good place to get a nature walk in, but the Nimbus Fish Hatchery is extraordinary. Sitting right alongside the American River, the hatchery provides both paved and more “rural” walkways for visitors, and is quickly becoming one of my favorite day-trip destinations. You can walk through the raceways where the baby fish are (and even feed them if you want to), take a walk through the Visitors Center, walk along the fish ladder and then down to the hillside overlooking the river itself. There are also bike trails running along one edge of the place if you’re so inclined. Dogs (on a leash) are allowed along the outdoor paths and trails, but are not allowed inside the Visitors Center. Restrooms can be found inside the Visitors Center, and there’s a small picnic area outside the building as well.
Old Historic City Cemetery, Sacramento, CA: I know, you’re saying, “A cemetery? Really?!” Yes, really. This cemetery boasts some lovely gardens and paved walkways along with the historical headstones, mausoleums, and some gargantuan statuary. It’s also dog-friendly (which is always a plus for me). Check in advance to see if they’re open; they’re usually closed on Wednesdays, Thursdays and holidays. The gates are usually open by 8:00 am. Restrooms are something of an issue as the ones usually available to the public are port-a-potties. Free admission; easy paths to walk. Lots of photo-opportunities.
William Land Park, Sacramento, CA: This is a sprawling dog-friendly park with an adjacent golf course and three distinct duck ponds that play host to a variety of local ducks, geese and vultures, along with some fancy seasonal visitors like green herons, blue herons, tufted cormorants, egrets, merganser ducks, and coots. There aren’t a lot of paths (paved or otherwise) but the grassy, sometimes wild-flower laden laws are relatively level throughout. Fishing is allowed in the larger ponds (with a permit), as is picnicking and other like activities. Free admission; easy paths to walk. Lots of photo-opportunities.
Sacramento Zoo: The Sacramento Zoo is located adjacent to the WPA Rock Garden and William Land Park, right across the road from Fairy Tale Town. The 14.5 acre zoo is relatively compact, so you can see a lot of animals within a small space — about 140 different species — all in about a two-hour walk. All of the walking paths are level and well-paved. You won’t see any large animals there like Elephants or rhinos (due to a lack of space), but there are plenty of big cats, primates, birds, other mammals, and a reptile house to keep you engaged and entertained. No pets are allowed on zoo grounds.
WPA Rock Garden, Sacramento, CA: This is adjacent to the William Land Park, and is a a small garden stuffed full of flowering and leafy plants all clustered around a central open-air gazebo. What’s visible depends on the time of year, but keep to the paths and move slowly so you can take it all in. Dogs are permitted, but must be kept on a leash. Please don’t let them dig in the dirt. Free admission; easy paths to walk. Lots of photo-opportunities.