Trails, blazed

Stir-crazy SN&R interns take a hike, report the good dirt

Now is the season when Sacramento’s best and brightest join SN&R’s editorial team for annual summer internships. And, of course, as soon as they arrived, we told them, “Take a hike,” and sent them off to the hills. Here are their stories.

Dead trucks and something else

I was dreading this American Canyon Trail hike. I know, nature is great and all that stuff. I’m just not a big hiker—or even walker for that matter.

The hike’s first half is almost all downhill into the beautiful canyon. California sister butterflies are everywhere. On the way down to the merging of the American and Hoboken creeks, I passed two streams and filled up my water bottle. Later, I learned that this is an easy way to get giardiasis, an infection from a parasite that causes diarrhea.

Before reaching the canyon’s bottom, I opted to hike up the steep Dead Truck Trail to see the promised truck atop the hill. And while it was a nice break from going downward, I never found the truck (sad). If you are looking for an alternate route back to the trailhead, though, you can take the Dead Truck Trail to the Something Else Trail to loop back.

The river was the perfect ending after a leisurely downward trek, with a cool swim completely alone in a beautiful canyon. Unfortunately, there was still the 90-minute hike back up. This was also around the time the sun was setting early behind the mountains, and the mosquitoes—and perhaps even mountain lions—were coming out. Still, this trail worked its magic on me. (Natasha vonKaenel)

Red like the dirt

Once you find this preserve—the Spenceville Wildlife Area—it is pretty freaking gorgeous: 20 miles of trails winding around the foothills, cutting through long slopes of meadows dotted with wildflowers and oak trees. The path just off the turn from Camp Forest Drive wasn’t exactly strenuous. The surrounding areas are full of similar trails, some steep enough to actually merit hiking boots, leading to waterfalls hidden high in the nooks of the hills. Personally, I’d recommend a morning hike, since most of the landscape is flat and low, and all of Sacramento’s delicious summer sun will be beaming down on you for the entire trip.

One awesome, off-the-path bonus: Right around the corner from the preserve is Camp Far West Reservoir, which is breathtakingly blue and largely underpopulated by jet skis and motorboats, even on a triple-digit day. Bring a farmers’ market lunch and make a low-key afternoon of it—just be prepared to get dusty, since the rich, red dirt still hasn’t washed off of my zip-off pants. (Kathleen Jercich)

Family vs. wild

I don’t usually think about what to do if I encounter a bear. I never wonder what plants are edible or how to identify north using nothing but intuition and patches of moss. I leave those kinds of problems for Bear Grylls. Still, I found myself on a recent weekend arguing with my brother about all of these topics while on a rare hike with the family.

The Tahoe Rim Trail is a 165-mile trek that offers amazing views of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada. Before leaving the hotel, we called the trail a “nature walk”; we didn’t take the hike seriously and were less than prepared. A “real hiker” laughed when he caught us listing every shrub that might contain ticks. Though we’re more accustomed to paved paths and quiet jaunts around the lake, we still had a chance to appreciate the amazing views and fresh alpine air. The trail is still very manageable even for inexperienced hikers, at least if they venture out with proper footwear (not sandals, like me). For the record: The only animals we actually saw were bees and chipmunks. I’ve been watching way too much Man vs. Wild. (Gina Finn)

To get to the American Canyon Trail: From Auburn, take Highway 49 south to Cool. Turn left on Highway 193 at the blinking red light and drive 6 miles. Turn left on Pilgrim Way and look for the trailhead on right side, just before the gated entrance to Auburn Lakes Trails development. Parking available on both sides of trailhead along Pilgrim Way.

To get to the Spenceville Wildlife Area: Take Interstate 80 east towards Reno, then Highway 99 towards Marysville. In Wheatland, turn right on Spenceville Road (also called Main Street) and then left on Camp Far West Road. When the road turns to gravel, start watching for trails—you’ve hit the preserve.

To get to the Tahoe Rim Trail: There are a variety of places to begin for day hikes and multiday backpacking excursions. Visit for maps and directions.