Best Places For A Springtime Picnic Near Sacramento

June 7, 2014 5:00 AM

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Sacramento and the surrounding areas are full of places to lay out your picnic baskets. Couple that with the stunning spring conditions and it just gets better. Your choices run from staying in the city to heading out into the county or up into the foothills or mountains for a wonderful and relaxing picnic with family and friends. Flowers are in bloom, birds are singing at their best and you are in the middle of it.
Sacramento State Aquatic Center at Lake Natoma
1901 Hazel Ave.
Gold River, CA 95670
(916) 278-2842

Located right on Lake Natoma, this facility has a lot to offer. It has covered picnic areas, tables and picnic areas in the sun, right in a unique urban wildland interface. The lake is beautiful and the center offers rentals of kayaks, canoes, paddle boats, hydro bikes and stand-up paddle boards. Bring your own craft to wander about the lake too. Even better, the lake is restricted to human-powered craft. Listen to the birds, fire up the grill and enjoy the tranquility of this Sacramento treasure almost right in your backyard. The great American River Bike Trail weaves along the back of the picnic area.

Mather Regional Park
4101 Eagles Nest Road
Rancho Cordova, CA 95655
(916) 875-6336

Imagine this: 1,600 acres of wide open space dotted with vernal pools and a lake that is stocked with both trout and bass. Picnic areas and a full-on golf course are here, along with what may be the best-kept cafe secret in the county. Mather Regional Park is very easy to get to and has enough space to fly many kites, play all kinds of picnic games or simply wander around the natural beauty of the place. The bird population here is a wonderful mix of song birds, fishing birds and raptors. Enjoy blue sky from horizon to horizon, and on some days, the most incredible displays of huge puffy clouds you’ll ever see.

Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park
310 Black St.
Coloma, CA 95613
(530) 622-3470

There are some definite pluses to this park. The American River runs freely through it, the California gold rush started here and there is a replica of James Marshall’s mill. Old buildings and knowledgeable docents are available to tell you about everything in the park to make it even more interesting. There are lots of places to pitch your picnic blanket under the spreading oak trees or down by the river. You might even want to try your hand at gold panning, in the same place that so many of the 49ers did so many years ago. Yes, there is still gold to be panned at this beautiful spot along the American River.

Related: Best Playgrounds In Sacramento

Sly Park Lake
4771 Sly Park Road
Pollock Pines, CA 95726
(530) 295-6824

Head out of town on US Highway 50 to the beautiful mountain community of Pollock Pines. Just a short drive on Sly Park Road will bring you to Sly Park Lake, where you can set up your picnic at numerous areas around the lake. The lake is large, surrounded by the evergreen El Dorado National Forest. This is not the city experience you may be used to. You’ll be at 3,500 feet where it is a bit cooler, and the evergreens provide wondrous shade and fragrance. Fish, rent a boat or simply enjoy the mountain ambiance throughout the day. Day use is permitted from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. In spring, this very popular lake is uncrowded. Hike or mountain bike around the shore, or fish for dinner.

Tallac Historic Site
Highway 89 and Fallen Leaf Lake Road
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
(530) 543-2600

Your spring picnic could easily be held at the amazing Tallac Historic Site in South Lake Tahoe. Back in the early 1900s, some extraordinary mansions were built along the shore here. They have been preserved, and you get to tour them. Wandering through the estate grounds is an absolute requirement during your picnic time here. Picnic facilities are at the west end of the site. Your view of Lake Tahoe, large conifers and a natural setting is worth every second spent in this amazing spot. A spring picnic is perfect, as the area is less crowded. Plan on a full day. Once you get here, you’ll want to stay through the day to see the stars over the lake when the sun sets. It really is that special.

Related: Best Summer Vacation Activities In Sacramento

Charles Ferris is a freelance writer who has lived in the Sierra, halfway between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, for the last 37 years. In 2010 he retired from teaching after 36 years . He and his wife hike, kayak, cross country ski, snow shoe, ride mountain bikes and road bikes, year round. His work can be found at