Sacramento’s climate and geography are too perfect to keep you cooped up for too long
Many Sacramento State students will tell you that one thing they enjoy most about living in the Capital City is its near-perfect weather and location for outdoor activity. But if you’re new to the area you might not know what to do, much less where to do it. Don’t worry, though. We’ve come up with a few suggestions to keep you active through finals week.
Just because Sacramento is flat as a tortilla doesn’t mean good hiking can’t be found nearby. Only 45 minutes east on I-80 you’ll find Auburn State Recreation Area (ASRA), a picturesque riverfront hiking and mountain biking paradise with 100 miles of trails. The relatively flat three-mile, multi-use Clementine Trail skirts the American River, passing several choice locations for a dip en route to the 280-acre eponymous lake. The Western States National Scenic Trail extends 100 miles from Auburn to Lake Tahoe, with 20 miles in the ASRA. It is the best-marked trail in the area, and a good introduction to the park for new visitors. The 4.4 mile stretch between the Ruck-a-Chucky campground (so named for the “rotten chuck” food served in area mining camps in the 1800s) and Ford’s Bar is moderate and scenic. You’ll pass bubbling rapids, lush vegetation, swimming holes and a couple of sandy beaches. ASRA also has campgrounds, boat launches and picnic areas. Visit the park office on Highway 49, one mile south of Auburn, for a trail map and more information. El Dorado Street at Old Foresthill Road, (530) 885-4527, www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=502
Get wet and have fun doing it with a whitewater-rafting excursion—something you can do roughly from April to October in Sacramento. Three forks of the American River in the Auburn State Recreational Area feature various degrees of difficulty, or danger, depending on your attitude. The North Fork and its Class IV and V rapids are best left to experienced rafters. The Middle Fork features some Class IV rapids but also the slightly less scary Class II and III and is good for intermediate paddlers. Those who don’t like to enter any body of water without a flotation device will enjoy the South Fork, where the 10-mile Chili Bar Run traverses mostly Class II and III rapids, although an initial encounter with rapids called “Meat Grinder” and “Trouble Maker” might leave you white-knuckled. Area whitewater outfitters include:
W.E.T. River Trips(888) 723-8938, www.raftwet.com
Gold Rush Whitewater Rafting(530) 295-8235, www.goldrushriver.com
Mother Lode River Center(800) 427-2387, www.malode.com
Skiing and snowboarding
Just two hours from Sacramento is one of the top winter recreational areas in the country. Lake Tahoe offers so many venues for skiing and snowboarding it would be impossible to name them all. But first a little geography lesson. Most of the ski areas are located around Tahoe’s North Shore, accessible via I-80. The options here range from small, affordable, family-oriented mountains with two lifts and 16 trails (Donner Ski Ranch, 530-426-3635, www.donnerskiranch.com) to massive, multi-peaked mega-resorts that once hosted the Olympics (Squaw Valley, 800-545-4350, www.squaw.com). The South Shore has fewer resorts, but they are large and well-appointed. For example, Heavenly Ski Resort (775-586-7000, www.skiheavenly.com), with 30 lifts and 91 trails on 4,800 acres, is one of the region’s largest and most popular destinations. As you’d expect, the larger and more posh the resort, the higher the lift ticket. But college students can get plenty of deals. At Boreal Mountain Resort (530-426–3666, www.rideboreal.com), college students with ID pay just $10 for a lift ticket on Fridays. Last winter, Squaw Valley offered $23 off the regular adult lift ticket price of $65 on Tuesday, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Join the Ski and Snowboard Club at Sac State (www.csus.edu/org/skiclub) to get other deals and discounts.
If skis move a little too fast for you, try snowshoeing for a more sedate adventure. At Kirkwood (209-258-6000, www.kirkwood.com) on the South Shore, snowshoers can shoe on miles of groomed trails that meander through varied terrain. Rentals, lessons and special monthly outings, such as full-moon tours and lunch outings, are available. Northstar-at-Tahoe (530-562-1010, www.skinorthstar.com), just off I-80 past Truckee, has more than 30 miles of groomed scenic trails, plus lessons and rentals. Royal Gorge (800-500-3871, www.royalgorge.com), off I-80 in Soda Springs, is the largest cross country ski resort in North America, featuring 90 trails, ten warming huts and four trailside café, all available to snowshoers.
Adjacent to Sacramento State in a recreational gem you can enjoy without spending a nickel: the 30-mile Jedediah Smith Memorial Bicycle Trail. Just cross the Guy West Bridge on the east side of campus and take your pick. To the left is the more urban route, about eight miles to the riverfront Discovery Park and another two to Old Sacramento. Turn right, and it’s a pleasant 23-mile ride to Folsom Lake. The trail skirts the American River the entire way, so it’s mostly flat with some rolling hills. The farther you travel from campus, the thinner the crowds and the more picturesque the scenery.