American River Parkway

30.00 Miles
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At about 30 miles of trail, the American River Parkway sounds like an urban oasis in the the middle of the California capital of Sacramento. Indeed part of it lives up to this expectation, but the quality (or even existence!) of the trail in segments can be questionable.

Old Sacramento in the center of the city hosts a worthy segment of the trail. The wooden boardwalk here passes by train tracks that provide steam train excursions and docks that berth riverboats. The city blocks within these 28 acres are not only a state historic area, but also a national historic landmark district. There are scores of restaurants, shops, museums and buildings that offer a glimpse of what the city looked like in the 1800's.

Just south of the boardwalk is a promenade that includes a large number of historic markers detailing many aspects of life in the state's capital into the early 20th century. The number of plaques is large enough to put a serious damper in your average hike speed, if you let it. The aptly named Tower Bridge was the first vertical lift bridge to be used in the California Highway System and is listed in the national register of historic places.

A bit further south the trail turns into a blacktop path on top of a levee that parallels the American River. The river is no longer a perpetually busy roadway for commerce so one is more likely to see birds bobbing on the water or pleasure craft slicing through the waves.

To the east of downtown lies Sutters Landing Park. According to Google Maps, the American River Parkway radiates out in both directions along the river. To the west, there should be a straight shot to downtown. This no longer appears to be the case. Some company involved in recycling and aggregates has built a fence almost to the waterline. Though it did look like part of the fence had been knocked down, the signs on it warn against trespassing and it's probably a good idea to just look elsewhere for a suitable trailhead. From this point the trail to the east does look clear.

As you would expect from a trail that follows a river in generally flat country, there's not much elevation gain to be found here, which could make it ideal for those looking to avoid it.

Tower Bridge
A closer view of Tower Bridge. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
The paved area immediately south of Old Sacramento provides views of Tower Bridge and a large number of historical markers. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
The trail south of Old Sacramento is a paved path atop the levee that parallels the Sacramento River. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Another steam train lies not too far away from the station, sealed up and neglected. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Up close
The steam train excursion passes right by the trail in places. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
For several blocks around Old Sacramento, the buildings are maintained to keep up appearances of a 1800's community. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Train Station
The trail runs along a boardwalk parallel to the station for the steam train excursion. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
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