TrainTrek #7

Sacramento River Parkway - South
Train line: Amtrak Capitol Corridor Station stop: Sacramento, 401 I St., Sacramento, CA 95814 Distance to trailhead: 0.5 mi. (urban) Total roundtrip hiking distance from station: 2-10 miles Amenities nearby: restaurants, coffee, restrooms, hotels, museums, galleries, parks, marina, gifts, minor league baseball Rating: Easy Hike duration: 2 hours min. Trailhead coordinates (map linked): 38.584908 -121.505679 Summary: This hike passes through Old Sacramento State Historic Park, so it's an ideal trip if you want to add in lunch and some gift shopping. The trail is paved, the walking is easy, and there are nice urban river views with water access in places. The views aren't quite as nice as the parkway leg to the north. Unique features: Most people will want to allow a couple hours for non-hiking activity on this trek. There are easy detours to the best museums (fine art, trains and cars) in the region. Old Sacramento offers many dining and shopping options, as well as the opportunity to ride a horse-drawn carriage or a historic train. Baseball fans might want to book a waterfront hotel room and watch the River Cats, the Oakland A's minor league affiliate that has won its division for six straight years.

© 2013 Matt Weiser


The train station: The Sacramento station is a massive brick Renaissance-style structure built in 1926. At this writing in July 2013, the building is undergoing structural upgrades to withstand earthquakes, and then will be extensively remodeled and restored. Some areas will be off limits for a couple years. But it still provides basic station services, including restrooms, drinking fountains, ticket counter, waiting area, limited food service, pay phones and baggage service. Hours are 4:15 a.m. to midnight daily. Special note: One of the less-desirable renovations is that the Amtrak boarding platform was moved about 300 yards north of the station itself. The path is clear, but allow extra time coming and going between the station and your train. Directions: From the station’s rear (north) entrance, walk west through the parking lot. At the end of the lot, just before the freeway overpass, look for a sign that says "Amtrak vehicles only. No exit." Walk past this sign, under the freeway, and look for a large concrete arch with the words "To Old Sacramento" painted above it in old-fashioned yellow letters. Pass through this arch, which puts you on 2nd Street. Turn right at the first intersection onto I St. Follow this straight ahead, across the gravel plaza, to reach the Sacramento River Parkway trail and the river's edge. Turn left here to take the trail south, or wind through Old Sacramento instead. Description: For many people, this will be a "stretch-your-legs-afterlunch" sort of hike, with the lunch happening at one of the many restaurants in Old Sacramento. There's a lot of lunching to be had, whether it's grabbing a slice of pizza or sitting down to a full meal at The Firehouse Restaurant, one of Sacramento's best-rated eateries. As for the walking, you've got a level, paved path

Click here for live map.

© 2013 Matt Weiser

www.traintreks.org that stretches out 5 miles along the Sacramento River to another worthy local restaurant, Scott's Seafood. It is housed within the Westin Hotel on the river. So if you choose, you can work up your appetite first, sleep it off after, then catch the train home in the morning. The walking itself is easy: It's all paved and level, except for the first part through Old Sacramento, which takes you over the battered wooden wharf. For your first chance to get down to the water, look for the metal gangway between Rio City Cafe and Joe's Crab Shack. It leads to a public dock, where sea lions have been known to haul out and bask in the sun after feasting on salmon and striped bass. Yes, sea lions — 70 miles upriver from the ocean. They are known to steal fish right off the hook, so they are detested by area fishermen. But most everyone else enjoys watching them. This waterfront is really where California began. It is these river bluffs where travel-weary immigrants disembarked from steamships to take part in the Gold Rush of 1849. This led rapidly to statehood and made California a touchstone for dreamers the world over. You sense that history on this hike, which immerses you in the restored buildings of Old Sacramento. The southern edge of the historic district is Capitol Avenue, which crosses the Sacramento River on the distinctive, gold-painted Tower Bride. Be sure to look both ways when crossing Capitol Mall, or you'll miss a great view of the state capitol to the east. As the parkway path continues beyond the bridge, it merges with the Riverfront Promenade, which passes in front of the Embassy Suites Hotel. There's another public dock here if you want to be near the water. But we suggest you take in the historic markers instead, which explain the significant early days of Sacramento's waterfront. Among other things, you'll learning that people have been stretching their legs on this levee since the 1850s. If you want to visit the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento's largest and newly expanded, your detour comes up next. Turn left at O Street and cross over Interstate 5 to the museum front door. The trail opens up a bit after O Street. The water access isn't great here, as the levee is steep and rough. But there are nice views across the river to West Sacramento, and downriver toward the soaring Highway 50 bridges. Just ahead on the left is a small pocket park, with benches and drinking fountains. Even if you're not thirsty, it is worth stopping to check out the public art piece, especially on a warm day, to discover its unique cooling feature. The little park also marks the detour point for the California Auto Museum. The other side of the park touches on Front Street, and you'll follow that south about three-fourths of a mile to the museum, which is at 2200 Front St. Unfortunately there is no sidewalk, so be careful.

© 2013 Matt Weiser

www.traintreks.org Past the park, you may notice a cluster of hulking old train engines and cars on a railroad line that follows the levee. These are awaiting restoration by the California State Railroad Museum. The rail line is the Sacramento Southern Railroad, which is operated by the museum. Our primary destination is Miller Park, a broad expanse of lawn and riverfront that lies just beyond those Highway 50 overpasses. It's a nice place for a picnic that offers pleasant views near the water. To reach the park, turn right from the parkway at Broadway. A shortcut is available on a dirt single-track atop the levee just before Broadway. You may find trash and homeless people there, but also access to a popular fishing spot along the river bank. Note, however, that Miller Park is a dead-end finger of land that wraps around the city marina. If you want to continue south on the parkway, stay on the paved path after crossing Broadway. This will lead to wilder sections of riverfront, some of it shaded by beautiful overhanging trees, and eventually to a dead-end at the Westin Hotel. The trail ends here because, decades ago, when these levees were built, city and state officials failed to acquire a public easement to the levee from some private property owners. But the city has a plan to change that, so hopefully in the years to come this trail will run a lot further along the river. Local highlights: The California State Railroad Museum is a must-see for anyone who enjoys train travel. It is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and admission is $10 for adults. Other museums within walking distance are the Crocker Art Museum and the California Auto Museum. The museum offers rides on the restored Sacramento Southern Railroad, which follows the levee south for several miles, from April to September for $10 per adult. Old Town Sacramento State Historic Park is a National Historic Landmark that features more than 50 buildings dating back to the Gold Rush. Most of them are open for business as gift shops and restaurants. So there is plenty of shopping and eating to be had. A personal favorite is Rio City Cafe on the Old Town wharf, which offers great river views. If you have time, be sure and ask about the underground tours. The tours explore the original first floor of certain buildings, which were abandoned when the entire waterfront was elevated 20 feet for flood protection.

© 2013 Matt Weiser

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