Not all hikes lead to a specific destination, but those that do are rewarding—especially when the weather is hot and the destination is wet. Cronan Ranch Regional Trails Park, a 1,418-acre hiking and equestrian preserve near the Gold Country city of Auburn, offers multiple ways to access the swift and cold South Fork of the American River. Twelve miles of trails and an easily cycled ranch road roll over mellow, oak-studded hills and through long, shallow valleys, offering glimpses of the river racing through the canyon below.
In spring, hillside meadows glow green, wildflowers color the sides of the paths and butterflies seem to be flittering everywhere you look. Trails vary in difficulty (Long Valley is easy; Down and Up is a workout), but all end up along the shady shores of the river, where dogs can cool off and their people can rest or picnic while watching kayakers and rafters sweep by. A loop trip utilizing any combination of trails will put 4.5 to 6 miles under your boots.
Cronan Ranch is administered by the Bureau of Land Management, whose tolerant attitude toward dogs means it’s OK to let Duke and Daisy off leash. Just be sure to get a grip and move to the side of the trail when horses or cyclists approach.
Photo: Hiking with Ollie, Allie, Dot and Dash at Cronan Ranch — Janet Fullwood