Winter has come and gone, leaving the hills of Northern California’s fabled gold country a lush emerald green worthy of Ireland itself. Experience the rebirth of Spring yourself by hopping on your mountain bike and trekking several of the best trails around. Here are three rides whose beauty will leave you breathless.
Sandusky Loop-Nevada City
About an hour north of Sacramento near the gold rush town of Nevada City, sits the Sandusky Loop. This is a 13 mile intermediate ride on hard packed trail mixed with some paved sections. A short, moderate climb in the beginning is followed by a mostly downhill ride through true beauty as you pass through fragrant pine and cedar forests. Near the end of the loop you will be rewarded with a cool passage into a lush ravine resplendent with creeks and old growth forest. Temperatures are mild in the Spring, and even chilly in some of the denser parts of the woods so you will want to dress in layers.
American River Bike Path-Sacramento
Starting at Discovery Park in Sacramento and winding up towards Folsom Lake, the American River bike trail is one of the most popular and beautifully paved bike paths around. Stretching just over 32 miles in length along the American River you will no doubt see an abundance of wildlife, including frolicking river otters and wild turkey, along with impressive views of Folsom Lake and the historic Folsom Prison. The trail slopes gently upwards to about 400 feet above sea level and is shaded by a variety of old growth oak’s, making this a ride that novice riders can enjoy. If time is short, there are plenty of parks and picnic areas along the trail to start from so you can mark off a ride of any length you wish and still experience the areas beauty.
Salmon Falls Trail-Auburn
Just north of Folsom Lake, the Salmon Falls Trail is the grown-up cousin to the American River Bike Path. Although some sections are smooth, hard-packed sand, be prepared for rocky riding that is best suited to intermediate cyclists. Springtime paints a panorama of green grasses, red berry bushes, and golden California poppies. Plus, the temperatures are about as perfect as you will find, making for a comfortable ride. Near constant views of Folsom Lake along with natural woodlands makes this a real treat for the eye. As the weather warms, be on the alert for the occasional rattlesnake that may be sunning itself on the trail. Also, bring along some bug repellent for mosquitoes.