Run the Parkway!
The American River Parkway (also known as the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail) is a paved, 32-mile long, multi-use trail along the beautiful American River.
It starts at Discovery Park (Downtown) and ends at Beals Point, part of the Folsom Lake Recreation Area. It is a local treasure and helps make Sacramento a terrific place to live and run. There are drinking fountains and toilets at most parks along the trail.
Reasonably accurate mile marks are painted on the center of the paved trail, starting with “0” at Discovery Park and ending with “31” on the climb up to Beals Point. Astute observers will note there are two “0” mile marks in Discovery Park, but the real one is almost directly underneath the I-5 overpass.
There are wonderful dirt trails running along much of the paved Parkway trail. Runners are welcome, but horses have the right of way on these trails. Bikes are not allowed on the unpaved trails, but watch out because people still ride on them. Use caution in isolated areas–run with a buddy.
Rules of the Road: There are rules and they generally boil down to: share the road, pay attention, and don’t be a jerk. There is plenty of room for everyone. Runners need to keep to the left and run on the shoulder where safe. Bikers should ride single file and not too-fast. If you want to ride your bike super fast, then take it out on the street. If you must use headphones, keep the volume low enough so you can hear the folks around you. If you want to be out there with your dog, keep it on a short leash. Even your harmless pooch can seriously injure someone by tripping them.
Is it Safe?: While there are occasional serious crimes along the parkway, it is safely used by hundreds of locals every day. Of course, you should always run with a partner and pay attention to your surroundings. (Remember the headphones?) Vehicle break-ins are common in nearby parking areas so do not leave your wallet 0r other valuables in your car. There are multiple call boxes along the trail, but don’t hesitate to borrow a cell phone from a passing cyclist! The number for the County Parks Rangers is (916) 875-7275 (875-PARK ) and the State Parks Rangers can be reached at (916) 988-7322. (Tip: Put these numbers in your cell phone right now!)
Are there Wild Animals: Yes. Wildlife abounds along this scenic trail. Deer, coyote, jack rabbits, cottontails, wild turkey, skunks, opossum, waterfowl, birds of prey, and many species of snakes (including rattlers) are common. Less common but occasionally reported are cougar, beaver, and river otters. Rattlesnakes are regularly seen on the trail, especially in the evening as they seek out heat by lying on the asphalt. They will generally leave you alone if you go around them, but may bite if stepped on, picked up, or ridden over. (Don’t do this.) Seek immediate medical attention if you are bitten by any animal on the parkway.
Support the Parks: Although there are numerous points along the Parkway where you can park for free and run into the park, you should support Sacramento County and State of California Parks by purchasing annual parking passes.