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Sacramento, California: Long Walks and Longer Waterways


An adopted son of the Sacramento, California, area, the artist Wayne Thiebaud has in recent years undertaken a series of landscape paintings with the Sacramento River Delta his focus. If you’re new to the area, or even just passing through down busy Interstate 5 or Highway 99 you might not fully appreciate the subtle beauty of California’s Central Valley. But we’re here to tell you that there’s good reason to get outside, whether you stick to expansive parks in the city of Sacramento, California, itself or venture farther afield in search of the landscapes which inspired Thiebaud.

For those most comfortable within the framework of city blocks, the obvious choice for a sunny-day stroll is Capitol Park, which frames the State Capitol with carefully cultivated greenery. Between 40 acres of palm trees and paved paths you can even get a glimpse of the grand old building itself for a pleasant mix of culture and horticulture.

Completely eclipsing this urban park in terms of size, however, is the American River Parkway. Stretching along a significant stretch of the American River’s north bank as it winds past the city of Sacramento, the parkway takes in several parks, beaches and recreation areas as well as the 30-plus mile long Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail (frequented by both cyclists and pedestrians).

If it’s the prospect of exploring the Sacramento Delta that really rocks your boat though, you’ll need to leave the city lights behind. You can get a closer look at this marshy region driving Highway 160 to San Francisco, but better still is a water-based tour. Ecologically minded sorts might want to consider an educational cruise run by local operators like Delta Ecotours or a boat rental for an independent foray. It’s also possible to book a cruise from Sacramento out to San Francisco, or explore the San Jauquin River Delta (south of Sacramento) with a multi-day houseboat rental.

Spring, summer and fall are the best times to plan any outdoor adventures in the area, whether you’re considering a long walk or a long day on the water.

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