Riverside Parks

When hiking or rafting, or just spending a day outdoors, get a picnic lunch at one of the local restaurants or cafés and take it to one of these great public parks. All of these parks have river frontage and shade trees. Most have access to hiking and boating as well.

Photo by Paul Cockrill

Public Parks

These parks are open to the public and have some facilities. Eat, play, enjoy the water, go for a hike — have a great time in the valley.

Cronan Ranch Trails Park - The Cronan Ranch Trails Park is located near the South Fork of the American River in Pilot Hill, California. This park features 12 miles of trails that explore various Sierra Nevada habitats, from grassland to riverside to woodland; the park serves as a nature corridor, and it contains an abundance of native flora and fauna. This ranch has experienced rich history since it was developed by the California Pacific Railroad in 1887, acquired by Michael Cronin in 1918 for agricultural development, and eventually purchased by Francis Bacci in 1945. This portion of Bacci Ranch was acquired in 2004 by the American River Conservancy for recreation and wildlife conservation purposes. Visitors are invited to go hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding along the expansive trails of the Park. A map can be found here.

Dave Moore Nature Area - The Dave Moore Nature area explores multiple habitats of the Sierra foothills on a short, mile-long loop between the parking lot and the South Fork of the American River. Take a moment to explore the tailing piles and creek channels created by Chinese laborers during the Gold Rush. The nature park is free to enter. It is also pet friendly and accessible to wheelchairs and baby strollers; this is a beautiful place to watch birds, picnic, or take a jog. The park is open 7 days a week from 8 AM to sunset. There are no access fees. Boaters may stop for picnics, however, put-ins and take-outs are not allowed. (916) 985-4474

Henningsen-Lotus Park - The Henningsen-Lotus Park is a great place to spend the day with your family, with 51 acres of land available for various activities. The park includes a public boat launch on the South Fork of the American River, a beach for swimming, two soccer fields, and a softball / little league complex. It also includes a short loop for jogging or walking. Dogs are welcome. The park is open 7 days a week from 8 AM to dusk. Entrance into the park is $5 for a private vehicle. Fees to put in and take out rafts, kayaks & inner tubes collected, use the ball field, use the soccer field, or rent the pavilion can be found on the Henningsen-Lotus Park home page. (530) 621-5353

Marshall Gold Discovery State Park - The Marshall Gold Discovery State Park is located in the city of Coloma, California, where it borders the South Fork of the American River. In 1848, James W. Marshall was building the Sutter Sawmill when he spotted tiny flecks of gold in the tailrace. The word of his discovery quickly spread, and thousands of people flocked to California to get their share of the fortune. In this park, visitors can dive into the history of the California Gold Rush, try their hands at panning for gold, or take a scenic bike ride or hike through the park. To experience Gold Rush history, you can visit on a Living History Day, as hosted by the Gold Discovery Park Association! This reenactment event occurs every month on the second Saturday. Historical re-enactors wear period attire and demonstrate many aspects of life during the gold rush. Families are welcome to explore the history of the California Gold Rush; there are many hands-on activities for children. Gold Panning lessons are available for only $8 per person through the Eureka Experience Program! Supplies are provided while you learn how to pan for gold during the 45-minute lesson, and pans are available for purchase if you choose to try your hand at panning on the South Fork of the American River! Please note that panning is only allowed in designated areas.

Folsom Lake State Recreation Area - Folsom Lake is nestled at the base of the Sierra foothills; this State Recreation Area offers a wide variety of activities for visitors. The park boasts 95 miles of trails for a range of activities including hiking, camping, running, biking, and horseback riding. On the water, there are opportunities for fishing, boating, and water skiing. A wealth of information can be found on the Folsom Lake SRA website, including hours of operation, rules, and regulations, and information on boating on the lake. Boat ramp and campground information can be found on the map at the end of the Folsom Lake SRA Brochure. Hiking and riding trails, including designated horse assembly locations, can be found on this map. Please check the Folsom Lake SRA website for day use and camping fees.