Folsom Lake State Recreation Area

Hike, fish, sail or ride a horse in this expansive state park, just 40 minutes east of downtown Sacramento.

Nestled at the base of the Sierra Nevada foothills, just 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of Sacramento, this park provides access to the great outdoors, any time of the year.

The 19,500-acre (7,900-hectare) park hugs the borders of Folsom Lake, but also includes Lake Natoma, a favorite for watersports enthusiasts. During the warmer months you’ll see people in sailboats, kayaks and motorboats all enjoying the calm waters.

The man-made, lifeguarded beach at Granite Bay offers safe swimming. If you want to get out on the water yourself, head to the Snack Bar, also at Granite Bay, where you can rent everything from kayaks to sailboats and Jet Skis. Keen anglers can fish for a number of different species here, including bass, perch, trout and catfish.

When it’s too cold to lie on the beach, explore the park’s network of trails. Choose to walk, cycle or even ride a horse along the 32 miles (51 kilometers) of well-maintained paths. Note that some trails do not allow bikes.

To really get involved with life in the great outdoors, bring a tent and pitch it in one of the park’s campgrounds. A campsite at Beal’s Point is open all year, while the Peninsula campground on the opposite side of the lake is open from April to September.

Whatever you do in the park, be sure to be alert for the local wildlife. Coyotes, golden eagles, raccoons and many more species inhabit the area, as well as the less bashful groups of wild turkeys.

If the history of the area interests you, stop in at the Folsom Powerhouse. This was once one of the most powerful electricity plants in America, and provided Sacramento’s power from 1895 to 1952. It was the first plant in the country to transmit long-distance hydroelectric power; the four original turbines are still on display.

A visit to the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area can fill an entire weekend or longer if you are camping, but those wanting to spend a short time here should still allow for at least an afternoon. The park is open daily, with the opening times of certain areas varying according to the season. There is a small charge to enter the park.

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