Cycling the American River Trail

Following the success of our August overnight bike tour, the Dude has been asking to do another tour, this time with his Dad. So I willingly got planning. Our destination this time would be the American River Trail – 35 miles of flat, paved pathway between Folsom and Sacramento. Perfect for a family bike tour. The plan was to drive up to Sac on Friday night, get the light rail to Folsom with the bikes on Saturday morning and cycle back over Saturday and Sunday, overnighting in Rancho Cordova, roughly half way along the trail.

We spent Friday night at the Youth Hostel in Sacramento which was a delight. It’s an old mansion, dating from the 1850s. I sorely miss the atmosphere of old buildings and the sense of history that you get from being in them, but this wonderful old house was incredible! Our private room was perfect and only $69 for the night!!

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Day 1

The morning’s train shenanigans was a little messy. For reasons that are now inexplicable, I got on the back carriage and the boys got on the front carriage…but the carriages weren’t linked and I was unable to join them. My phone had run out of juice, so I sat all by myself hoping they’d remember we were getting off at the end of the line at Folsom. Apparently not, because at Iron Point Station, two stations early, I saw the Dude and the Husband on the platform. I barely got off the train in time. It seems the Dude assumed that (of course) we would get off at Iron Point because it had the word ‘iron’ in the name! It wasn’t a big deal but it meant we missed out on about two miles of cycling. Oh well.

We ended up doing about 11 miles that day. The trail was lovely – relatively flat and safe as houses. It was very well used – we saw literally hundreds of cyclists and almost as many runners over the two days. Initially we cycled alongside Lake Folsom and then the American River, we could hear the shrieks of the rafters as they floated along.

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We spent the night at a hotel in Rancho Cordova, a suburb half way along the trail. We had lunch at a mexican place – it was much better than we expected and the margaritas were huge! We sent the afternoon napping, watching TV, using the putting green and reading books and it was pretty gorgeous. The Husband has had a crazy busy few weeks at work so it  was really good to see him unwind.

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Day 2

We demolished the excellent hotel breakfast and set out again, expecting to do about 20 miles today. The cycling was fairly uneventful all day but very pleasant. The trail looped on and on, it was very busy with weekend cyclists and runners. We stopped for a few geocaches and popped into a Starbucks for lunch (there’s a dearth of cafes on the trail) before pressing on.

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Before too long, we saw signs for the end of the trail in Discovery Park in Sacramento. We’d already done about 20 miles – the Dude’s longest ever ride was 16.8 – so I was a little concerned as I knew the car was a mile or so away. But the Husband could always go and get the car for us if the Dude faded at the end.

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20 miles! A big moment

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Discovery Park was a huge disappointment. Seriously – what would you expect from a big park in a city? Maybe a cafe? Definitely a playground! We’d been promising the Dude a playground for miles. But no – no playground, no cafe, nothing but some dodgy looking loos and lots of vagrants. Hmmm.

We gave the Dude the option of cycling the remaining mile or so to the car or waiting in the park. He chose to cycle on, and by the time we got back to the car, he’d notched up nearly 26 miles. Miraculously, there hadn’t been even a single complaint, whine or moan. We were pretty proud.

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Our only family photo of the tour – in a car-park!

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Practicalities

The American River Trail was pretty much perfect for our family trip. I would definitely recommend doing it in the direction ‘Folsom-Sac’ as opposed to ‘Sac-Folsom’. There was a downward slope the whole way. You wouldn’t notice it, it was never noticeably ‘downhill‘ but the incline was there. I can imagine that encouraging a 5-year-old to cycle uphill for 30-odd miles would be much less fun!

The trail is excellent…well-paved, fairly shady and there are bathrooms regularly along it. It’s not spectacular but it is pretty and is pleasant cycling. The only downside is that signage is very poor – it’s pretty obvious where to go but there are a few places where some signage would be useful. Also notable is that there are NO cafes along the way! Using the map on my phone wasn’t much more useful – there just aren’t many places to eat or drink without adding extra miles. Be sure to take plenty of snacks and drinks with you and maybe even a picnic lunch.

Getting the light-rail was very easy and cheap ($2.50/person). Each train officially carries 4 bikes but we saw about 8 bikes on our train and no-one batted an eyelid! I heard that historic Folsom is very pleasant – but our unexpectedly early start meant I never got to see it. You could also cycle between stations if you didn’t want to go so far.

I would totally recommend this trip for an easy family bike trip! It was great!

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Kate says:

    I’m so impressed by all the miles the dude cycled. He’s pretty awesome! Looks like a fun family trip.

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you! It was a good trip!

  2. Congrats cyclists family!! And a huge congrats to your little man! He is a champ!

  3. Jen says:

    I hope you don’t mind, but I’m always “bragging” about the Dude and how he’s the fittest 5 year old I know. Team Ramsden is awesome!

    1. Cathryn says:

      I’m kind of relieved someone else brags about him 🙂 Thought it was just me.

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