Get off the couch

Five regional hikes will help you lose winter pounds
By: Don Chaddock, The Telegraph
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As a regular hiker with a family, I’ve struggled to locate trails that are easy enough for my children (the youngest of hiking age is 9) but long enough to help me burn fat. The following is a list of trails that are family friendly with great views of nature. 1. Western States Trail: Just up the road from Folsom and El Dorado Hills is the world-famous Western States Trail, a 100-mile long trail running from Squaw Valley to Auburn. There are sections with easy access that can be handled by children. From Highway 49, between Auburn and Cool, park on the west side near the bridge that crosses the North Fork of the American River. Walk through the green gate and follow the path that once served the old Mountain Quarry Railroad. The path comes to a fork. Hikers should turn right and cross over "No Hands Bridge," a historic landmark. Once over the river, follow the trail, without taking side trails, for a nice gradual climb along the upper banks of the river. 2. Stagecoach Trail: The Stagecoach Trail is located at the confluence of the North and Middle Forks of the American River, just northeast of the Highway 49 crossing before the old curved bridge near Auburn. Park along the road and follow the trail. This trail was once the stagecoach route between Foresthill and Auburn. The toughest part is the first quarter-mile, but once you’re beyond that, the climb is gradual. Be advised that the trail forks near the starting point and would appear to keep going straight, but turn left to stay on the Stagecoach Trail. Do not hike toward the foot of the Foresthill Bridge (unless you really want to). The trail offers great views of the canyon, trees and even a small waterfall and pond. My kids and I hiked the entire 2 miles to the top of the trail and then came back down. Watch out for mountain bikes. 3. History hike: I’ve dubbed the hike out to see the ruins at Red Bank the "history hike." The trail starts at the Mormon Island Auxiliary Dam and is probably the steepest from the parking lot to the top of the dam. To get there, take Green Valley Road to Silva Parkway and turn toward the dam from the intersection. Follow the dirt road to the parking lot (there is a $3 per vehicle fee). The trail begins at the back of the parking lot closest to the dam. Once over, follow the wide flat trail the hugs the hillside. You can see three hills and this trail crosses between the two on the right. I’ve even taken our off-road stroller on this hike and the baby did great. Once over those hills, look for the Natoma Ditch. It will be marked by tree stumps that line its banks. The ruins are in this area. There is no shade, so be sure to wear sunscreen. The ruins of Red Bank (foundations, artifacts and old walls) are only visible during severe droughts. Note that it is illegal to remove items from the park. 4. Old Salmon Falls: Taking Salmon Falls Road (either from Highway 49 to the north or Green Valley Road from the south), turn into the dirt parking lot marked with "Falcon Crest" on a faded wooden sign. Below the lot is another sign marking the Old Salmon Falls recreation area and parking lot. Once you’re in the lot, you can look out and see the old Salmon Falls Bridge (during drought years). Leave the lot and follow the old road down to the smaller washed out bridge over the small creek. On the other side, atop a hill slightly to the right of the washed out bridge, are the remains of foundations, a cellar and concrete stairs. Across the bridge you’ll see the old road and some artifacts. This is a very easy hike, not too long, and is perfect for kids. Again, there is no shade, so wear sunscreen. 5. Olmstead Loop Trail: The entire loop is 8.6 miles, which I wouldn’t advise doing with children, but there are many shorter loops available. Parking is at the firehouse in Cool just off of Highway 49. Enter the trail from either side but the one from the east is easier and leads hikers through gently rolling hills and oak trees. The trail eventually loops around to a paved road (that once served as the access road to the never-built Auburn dam site). On the other side of the road, the trail gets a bit more difficult but my 10-year-old son handled it well. Be on the lookout for equestrians and mountain bikers while on the trail. Parts of the trail are shaded, but as always, wear plenty of sunscreen. Don Chaddock wrote a weekly hiking column for another newspaper before becoming The Telegraph editor.