Folsom, CA

Top 5 Gorgeous Hikes You Cannot Miss in Folsom Lake State Park


Not far out of Sacramento sits a state park with plenty of history behind it. Folsom Lake State Recreation Area offers a wonderful recreation area just north of Folsom, CA - the very place Johnny Cash sang about in "Folsom Prison Blues".

Whether you're looking for local art and history, or simply want a beautiful hike to enjoy, Folsom Lake offers a little something for everybody. Here are the five hikes you can't miss out in Folsom Lake State Park:
In Folsom, you'll get stunning views of the lake - no matter which trail you hike.Glauber Sampaio | Unsplash

1. The Oak Nature Trail

At just 1.6 miles, the Oak Nature Trail is one of the shortest you'll find in Folsom Lake. But this trail has no shortage of wildlife for you to view. Take a brief walk into the forest, and you'll quickly see it come alive. Birds chirp in the branches that shade this trail, and depending on what time of day you go, you may see deer, fox, or even a bear.

Not only that - you'll also get stunning views of Folsom Lake. Framed by the branches of the trees on this trail, you can get breath-taking photos on this short hike.

This interpretive trail also offers information about the local plants that grow in the recreation area. And even though the park itself sees an impressive amount of visitors, not many take this trail. You'll most likely have plenty of solitude here.

Bonus tip: Pack yourself a small picnic and make a day out of it. There's a picnic site at the trailhead where you can enjoy wonderful views of the lake.

2. Granite Bay to Beals Trail

Want something a little more challenging for your day trip? Check out the Granite Bay to Beals Trail. This 3.3 mile out-and-back hike will give you plenty of stunning views of Lake Folsom, all while giving you extra mileage for the day. This trail meanders along the shoreline for quite a ways, giving you ample opportunity to enjoy the cool breeze that blows off the lake in the summertime. This trail is also popular in the wintertime, as you can experience Folsom Lake in an entirely new way.

When you tackle this trail, keep your eyes up for mountain bikers. Because it's so well-graded, this trail is popular among cyclists - you'll probably see more than a few on the trail when you go.

3. Johnny Cash Trail

Paying homage to the "Man in Black", the Johnny Cash trail memorializes the country singer with eight different art exhibits. On this 6.3 mile loop trail, you can see all of them, and learn more of the story behind the man. Cash put Folsom on the map when he sang, "Folsom County Blues", and Folsom hasn't forgotten. The Johnny Cash Trail is their tribute.

Even though you'll put on the miles doing the full loop, this trail stays almost entirely level the full way. You might be surprised at the end of the day by just how far you've walked. With plenty to see and experience along the way, this trail offers a unique change to the traditional wilderness hike. This trail will give you a glimpse of music history, all while blending it with the beautiful nature all around.

4. Folsom Challenge

You read that right. The Folsom Challenge is a uniquely named trail that lives up to its reputation. This 26.1 mile point-to-point hike is a testing ground for endurance. Whether you walk it or cycle it, getting all the way to the end will certainly challenge you. Depending on which route you start, this trail begins or ends with a tough incline up Cardiac Hill.

Because it's point-to-point, you may want to bring a second vehicle to park at the far trailhead. If you're up to the full challenge of this trail, you can do the entire thing there and back again. You might need a bike to make it back before dark.

Though it sounds difficult, this hike is a fantastic place to view wildflowers in the spring. If you're simply looking to get out in nature, consider taking this trail and simply turning back when you're finished. There's no wrong way to enjoy your hike, so do what works best for you.

5. Cronan Ranch to Folsom Point

Was the Folsom Challenge not enough for you? Folsom Lake has a second, tougher hike that might give you more than you reckoned for. The Cronan Ranch to Folsom Point trail is a 30.5 mile point-to-point trail that stretches the length of the park.

The Cronan Ranch trail will have you sweating for most of its length. This difficult trail has some steep elevation gain. Expect to go through plenty of water, and if you're not carrying water treatment supplies, always bring a little more than you think you'll need.

Just as with the Folsom Challenge, you might want to bring two vehicles - one for each trailhead. If that won't work for you, consider hiking to the halfway point and turning back, and hiking the second half another day.


When you're looking to get out into the California nature, there are few places better for it than Folsom State Recreation Area. Regardless of your hiking level, this park has something for everyone.

Got a favorite hike on this list? Let us know in the comments which hike you're looking forward to doing next!

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I am a travel writer and sustainable lifestyle blogger. As a world traveler, I love giving others tips on budget travel, new cultures, and how to see the planet in a sustainable, ethical way. I also write on being a digital nomad, hiking and outdoor activities, as well as living an adventurous lifestyle.

Santa Fe, NM

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