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Ask An Expert: Best Bike Rides In Sacramento

The Sacramento region boasts bicycle trails for every level of cyclist from recreational beginners to advanced, mud-loving mountain bikers.


John Buchanan
Natomas Bike Shop
3291 Truxel Road
Sacramento, CA 95833
(916) 641-8640

Some are born knowing their path in life, but most people change direction a few times before settling down. Natomas Bike Shop (NBS) owner John Buchanan, for example, studied criminal justice at Sacramento State, then spent years with Fish and Game in Alaska. But until he came home to Sacramento and bought the bike shop 15 years ago, he felt like he was just spinning his wheels.

Buchanan says bicycles were the main mode of transportation for much of his life, starting with his first attempt at age five. "It was pretty memorable" he says with a laugh, because he immediately crashed into the back of a car in the driveway. Employee "Bike Mike" Wilson calls out "hey, that's what happened to me too." They now sell push bikes, a perfect way for kids to learn how to ride without crashing into anything.

In addition to selling bikes, attire and supplies, NBS provides a full range of services for "anything and everything with wheels and a chain." Buchanan also collects vintage cycling artwork and signs, many of which are on display at the bike shop.


Jedediah Smith Memorial Bicycle Trail (American River Parkway)

According to Buchanan, the paved American River trail is "one of the finest in the nation" and is good for all levels of riders. The 32-mile path runs from Old Sacramento to Beals Point in Folsom, and riders share space with walkers, runners and equestrians. NBS manager Scott Meyer says it is perfect for beginners to learn about bike safety and etiquette, and to practice using different gear combinations.

Sacramento Northern Bike Trail

Wilson suggests this lesser-known path that he has ridden for the past 12 years. It begins at C Street in Sacramento and goes to Elverta Road in Rio Linda. At just under 10 miles long, the paved trail runs through very rural areas and through historic neighborhoods as well. Beginners and leisure riders will appreciate the scenery, especially the parts that run along a beautiful stream.

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Granite Bay Trail

Intermediate mountain bikers will enjoy the varied routes and hilly inclines of Granite Bay Trail, but Meyer says it is also the easiest place to introduce someone to riding. The trail, adjacent to Folsom Lake off Douglas Boulevard, is where Meyer first took his son to learn mountain biking. So while more experienced riders can find plenty of challenges, the Granite Bay Trail has something for everyone.

Folsom Lake

The area around Folsom Lake has a number of bike trails, including one that takes the rider past the fish hatchery, dam and the aquatic center of the university. The Loop trail has plenty of turns and climbs, making it perfect for more advanced riders. There is even a skills course for BMX and mountain bike riders with a pump track, mountainous field and a 15-foot tall wall.


Cool/Olmstead Loop

Olmstead is an 8.6-mile trail used by hikers and more advanced mountain bikers. East of Auburn, the trail runs parallel to the American River Canyon and Highway 49. The area is beautiful and full of wildlife, flowers and scenic vistas, but riders love it for the mud, steep inclines and similar challenges. Olmstead Loop is home to the annual Cool Mountain Bike Race, which draws riders from all over California.

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Valerie Heimerich is a freelance writer out of Sacramento. She typically covers animals and community issues. She has volunteered and worked for many organizations helping animals and people.
Her work can be found at

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