Tell Us About Yourselves:
We’re the Kemp family, and we love getting outdoors! Family Trail Time started in 2015 when friends and friends of friends started regularly reaching out, looking for nearby family-friendly hikes. With both parents working full-time outside of the home and three young kiddos, our months are about schoolwork, doctor appointments, and laundry; not exactly grand expeditions deep into forests and in faraway places. The Family Trail Time blog and Facebook and Instagram accounts are devoted to hitting the trails when and where a family can, the happiness of sharing nature as a family, and a hope to empower others to do the same.
Our family faced the unimaginable when our middle child was diagnosed with the terminal illness of Tay-Sachs disease and passed away in December 2019. Then, and now, we hike for Grayson and know that if we can find a way, most families can, too. We combine our love for hiking and fundraising for a cure by putting on our virtual 5k each March, Take A Hike Tay-Sachs for Cure Tay-Sachs Foundation.
Follow Family Trail Time on social media for local trail information and conditions, recommendations, organized group hikes, and how you can participate in our annual Take A Hike Tay-Sachs.
5 Favorite Local Hikes:
In & Close to Elk Grove:
1. Elk Grove Creek Trail and Laguna Creek Trail
A favorite reason for living here, you can jump on the paved trail at multiple spots in Elk Grove – it’s so easy to get outside!
Location: Various. Our favorites are at Jack E Hill Park – 9380 Porto Rosa Dr, Elk Grove, CA 95624, and by Leatherby’s Ice Cream at 8238 Laguna Blvd, Elk Grove, CA 95758.
Website: elkgrovecity.org (search for either trail name)
Why We Love It: It’s an easy way to get in a nice walk and exposure to a bit of nature without heading out of town. You can grab a coffee just off the path or walk to one of multiple playgrounds!
For the Young Ones (0-10): These trails are plenty wide and mostly flat. We’ve often motivated little ones to go for a walk by enticing them with playground time when we’re finished. If you’re interested in a great playground and wetlands to explore, Jack E Hill Park is a great place to start and end.
For the Big Kids (10+): There are educational signs along parts of the trails that older kids may enjoy reading, but as a “hike” or nature walk, it may be on the boring side for older kids unless they’re focused on getting in some cardio, walking with friends, or accompanying you on a bike.
Keep in Mind: There are typically a few walkers with dogs, but I’ve only ever seen dogs on leashes and held them close when passing. Be on the watch out for bikes, who hopefully ring before passing.
2. Stone Lakes
The Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is located south of Sacramento, in far west Elk Grove. The Blue Heron Trails is a paved trail that consists of just a mile of loops around managed wetlands.
Location: 1624 Hood-Franklin Road, Elk Grove, CA 95757
Why We Love It: It’s enough of getting out in nature to feel refreshed, while still short and simple! You get away from the bustle of every day, but you’re not too far away from home. In addition, the trail is completely wheelchair and stroller accessible and it’s free to get in!
For the Young Ones (0-10): Our little reader really enjoyed the eight environmental education panels at the four kiosks along the way.
For the Big Kids (10+): There are so many different kinds of birds that come through this area, they’ll enjoy spotting and identifying all of them. If you have an older kid dragged along who doesn’t want to do the walk, they can sit and hang out in the pavilion in the center of the loops.
Keep in Mind: Do NOT use your GPS to get here or you’ll go crazy trying to find it. Traveling south on I-5, take the Hood Franklin Road exit. At the stop sign, turn right, heading west for about one mile. The entrance sign and turn lane will be on your left. The entrance gate is timed to open and close automatically just after sunrise and just before sunset. Also, the trail is completely exposed, so make sure to have your sun protection.
3. Cosumnes River Preserve
Just about fifteen minutes south of Elk Grove on I-5, Cosumnes River Preserve is an ideal hiking and nature introduction for your family. It contains over 50,000 acres of wildlife habitat and agricultural lands!
Location: 13501 Franklin Blvd Galt, CA 95632
Why We Love It: It takes no time to get Cosumnes River Preserve. The walks are laidback and simple, without being too simple but also not being too much of a challenge. We’re not avid bird watchers, but we were super excited to see many different kinds of birds. It’s also free!
For the Young Ones (ages 0-10): The paved path of the Wetlands Walk is great for those on wheels (stroller, wheelchair, etc.) and it’s also a relatively short hike. It allows kids a bit of freedom to run around, since it’s a mostly flat path (other than the initial bridge). To get further immersed in nature, take the River Walk to observe more plants, birds, animals, and discover the train tracks bridge.
For the Big Kids (age 10+): The River Walk may qualify as more of a “real” hike to adventurers looking for more than a paved path, as it winds its way along raised levees through a variety of habitats, including buttonbush thickets, native grasslands, Valley Oak riparian forest, cottonwood-willow riparian forest, and tule marsh. Also, Cosumnes River Preserve features a dock for you to launch your canoe or kayak from, which may be more of an interest for older kids.
Keep in Mind: The Wetlands Walk crosses over the main road, so be sure not to let little ones run too far ahead. Also, since most of the preserve is exposed, make sure to have sun protection.
A Bit Farther:
4. Effie Yeaw Nature Center
Effie Yeaw Nature Center is a little oasis in the middle of the Greater Sacramento area! It’s easy to get to, the trails are short and sweet, and there’s so much to observe and learn.
Location: 2850 San Lorenzo Way Carmichael, CA 95608
Why We Love It: The nature center itself has live animals (who doesn’t love seeing owls, snakes, and more?) and an Exhibit Hall that allows visitors to explore the natural and cultural history of the area. Make sure to grab a map and pay your $5 parking fee before heading out. We love all of the wildlife you’re able to see, including deer, birds (turkeys!), ducks, and tadpoles, just to name a few.
For the Young Ones (0-10): If you’ve taken your little ones on paved walks around town, this is a perfect next step to graduate up to dirt and more narrow trails (not designed for strollers or wheelchairs). Keep them close and enjoy a picnic by the river.
For the Big Kids (10+): If big kids are interested in bird watching, this is a great spot! We’ve seen many different kinds of birds and were recently introduced to the red-breasted sapsucker.
Keep in Mind: The American River can be fast flowing. Take every caution near the water’s edge, but enjoy!
5. Hidden Falls Regional Park
Hidden Falls Regional Park is a whopping 1,200-acre park and offers 30 miles of multiple-use trails, two observation decks allowing close-up views of 30-foot waterfalls, picnic areas, and fishing access.
Location: 7587 Mears Place, Auburn, CA 95602
Why We Love It: In the park you really feel like you’re getting away from it all and can take on as much as your family is capable of hiking. We’re always fans of getting to a goal, and everyone loves getting to a goal as awesome as views of waterfalls! Make sure to print a map from the website before you go!
For the Young Ones (ages 0-10): Little ones will be blown away by the magnificence of the falls and will love the water access points along the trails. Our kids could spend hours throwing rocks into water!
For the Big Kids (ages 10+): There are SO many trails in this park! Big kids can plan an adventure entirely their own that is completely different than a hike for young ones. This makes Hidden Falls a fantastic location for your family to return to over the years as the family’s hiking skills grow!
Keep in Mind: While there is a good amount of parking, this park is extremely popular. The parking fills up fast and early and reservations are required on weekends, holidays, and some Fridays. Permits must be purchased using the online parking reservation system, available through the website.