Northern California is full of beautiful outdoor destinations – some of the finest just about an hour’s drive from Sacramento.
But Sacramento also has plenty of nature preserves and family-friendly city parks to explore.
Here are some local nature preserves and parks in the Sacramento area for you and your loved ones. Most parks are free.
Auburn State Recreation Area
501 El Dorado Street, Auburn
The state recreation park is a 40-mile stretch in Auburn that offers hiking, camping, and fishing. Some visitors also come to the park to find gold. The park’s website advises visitors to watch out for rattlesnakes, mountain lions, and black bears as well as the poison oak that grows on site.
Daily usage fee is $10.
Cronan Ranch Regional Trail Park
Pilot Hill, California 95664
This dog friendly trail is located approximately 50 minutes from downtown Sacramento. Visitors can bike, hunt, fish, bird watch, and horseback ride the 12-mile trail that connects the American River Trail Corridor. Camping is not permitted in the park.
Cosumnes River Reserve
13501 Franklin Blvd., Galt
This natural expanse in Northern California is centered around the Cosumnes River and offers opportunities for canoeing, hiking, kayaking and paddling, according to the Bureau of Land Management. The reserve’s visitor center includes a terrace and an outdoor exhibition that is always open to the public. Dogs are not allowed.
Effie Yeaw Nature Center
2850 San Lorenzo Road, Carmichael
This nature reserve is located inside Ancil Hoffman Park in Carmichael, just a 15 minute drive from downtown Sacramento. The 100-acre refuge includes a riparian zone, grasslands and aquatic habitat. The trails are open to the public from dawn until dusk, according to its website. Parking is $5 per car, and the natural area prohibits dogs, horses, bicycles, and smoking.
North Laguna Creek Wildlife Area
6400 Jacinto Ave, Elk Grove
North Laguna is a wildlife refuge located in Elk Grove. The more than 100-acre wildlife reserve also includes a park that includes sports fields, including a basketball court, soccer field, and two tennis courts. There is also a pond in the middle of the park for gathering.
Overlook the park
855 Pacific Avenue, Auburn
Overlook Park offers hiking and horseback riding trails that have access to a nearby canyon. It also has a skate park. The park opens at 7:30 a.m. daily and closes at night depending on the time of year. For the month of March through May, Overlook closes at 7:30 p.m., according to the Auburn Recreation Department.
Folsom Lake State Recreation Area
7755 Folsom-Auburn Road, Folsom
This state recreation area that centers Lake Folsom offers visitors biking, fishing, boating, and biking. The park, which is about a 40-minute drive east of Sacramento, also serves as a year-round campsite. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, concession stands at the park are currently limited, according to the park website. Dogs are allowed on the trails and in the water. Parking to enter Folsom Point is $12. at any time of the day.
Hansen Ranch Park Site
400 W Ascot Avenue, Sacramento
Hansen Ranch Park is a large 260 acre park that has lots of wildlife and is is home to a variety of animals including turkeys, coyotes and herons. For those who want to get away to the great outdoors with their office or family, the city demands a application form fill. The fee to apply is $5.
Ray and Judy Tretheway Oak Preserve
2230 River Plaza Drive, Sacramento
The Ray and Judy Tretheway Oak Preserve, formerly known as Natomas Oaks Park, is a smaller park located along the Sacramento River in South Natomas. The park includes a jogging track, lawn and picnic tables for families and friends.
601 Alhambra Blvd, Sacramento
Built in 1871 by the Sacramento Street Railway Company, this historic park has many sports fields and courts, a garden and an arts center as well as several play areas for young children. It is open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden
1046 Garrod Drive, Davis
The public garden is only 20 minutes from Sacramento. The arboretum emphasizes sustainable gardening practices and features a variety of plants used for academic and research purposes. Entrance to the gardens is free and dogs on a lead are welcome.
Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park
2701 L Street, Sacramento
For those interested in learning more about California history, this state park, located in the heart of Midtown Sacramento, is open daily for guided tours. Founded in 1839, Sutter’s Fort represents the first permanent European settlement in the central valley of the state.
Admission to the park is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 6-17.
Natomas Rose Garden
2921 Truxel Road, Sacramento
This the volunteer-run garden is part of the South Natomas Community Park and operates in tandem with the opening hours of the park, which is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. In addition to hundreds of rose bushes, the garden has benches and picnic areas where people can sit and smell the roses.
Sutter’s Landing Regional Park
20 28th Street, Sacramento
Sutter’s Landing Regional Park is known for its multi-use trail along the American River Parkway for cyclists and joggers. The park also has two outdoor basketball courts, a pétanque court and a skate park.
William Land Park
3800 W Land Park Drive, Sacramento
Also known as “Land Park”, this large urban park in Sacramento has a lot to offer. Located between Interstate 5 and State Route 150, the park includes a zoo, an amphitheater, a golf course, and ball fields. It is also home to the Fairytale Town theme park.
Do you know of any other outdoor activities and parks that should be included in this guide? Let us know by emailing [email protected]