This 2.1-mile backpacking trip in the hillside city of Auburn just outside of Sacramento is both great for beginners and rewards you with a great view at the turnaround point. Located off of Highway 49 near Old Foresthill Road along the American River, you’re going to want to look up where the trailhead actually is. Halfway to the turnaround point, you’ll encounter the infamous “No Hands Bridge” which was a concrete railroad bridge known for its iconic arches. When you finally reach “The Black Hole of Calcutta Falls,” don’t expect a gigantic waterfall but more of a peaceful and quaint one. Expect for the entire hike to take all of an hour and a half.
With 63,960 acres of pristine federally protected wilderness in the Eldorado National Forest, you’re going to want to do a bit of research before heading over to Desolation Wilderness for a backpacking trip. Beginners should head on over to REI for an inexpensive map of all the trails, roads and campsites available for your hiking adventure. Being that there are so many trails, an out-and-back trip is what to expect as Desolation Wilderness contains few loops less than 15 miles. You will need a valid permit to make a visit, so have all your paperwork ready beforehand.
The Auburn State Recreational Area is ripe full of backpacking trips worth your while. The Lake Clementine Trail is a relatively moderate out-and-back hike that spans over 662 feet in elevation climb and can be taken at a leisurely pace. The trail is mostly used for mountain biking and hiking. A quarter of a mile into the hike you’ll pass Clark’s Pool, a swimming hole frequented by lots of people on this trail. So if it’s going to be a hot one, it would behoove you to pack a bathing suit or trunks so you can take a dip!
Located in Lake County, California, Cache Creek Wilderness is but a short drive from Sacramento. The Cache Creek Wilderness is focused around a 17-mile stretch of the Cache Creek originating from Clear Lake in Eastern Lake County. The nearest trailhead that you should enter from is the Redbud Trailhead at the intersection of Hwy. 20 and Hwy 53. Unlike the Lake Clementine Trail, no permit is needed. In addition, crowds are particularly light.
Located a little over an hour from Sacramento, Mendicino National Park offers some serious backpacking hikes that’ll be worth a weekend of hiking. Most trails are located a good 6,000 ft. up in elevation, so if you haven’t hiked hard in thin air, the Mendocino National Park trails probably aren’t for the beginner hiker. Keen backpackers will stop at the ranger’s station ahead of time where they can give you a heads up on open roads and trails. Locals will recommend hitting up the aforementioned Snow Mountain Wilderness set of trails.
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