The Longest Biking Trail in Northern California

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Updated: March 28, 2023
© Buell
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Key Points
  • The American River Bicycle Trail is the longest biking trail in Northern California.
  • Hiking, cycling, horseback riding, inline skating, strolling, and jogging are just a few of the activities available along the trail.
  • The trail is one of the country’s longest paved cycling paths.

What could be better than riding your bike past breathtaking seaside views, fragrant trees, and rolling hills, while basking in the sun and feeling the wind on your face?

And where can you find this cyclist’s paradise? Of course, it has to be in California. The bike trails in the golden state have a lot to offer, whether you’re training for a big cycling race or just looking for a relaxing ride.

With its diverse terrain and infinitely stunning views, California provides something for every biker. From mountain biking on forested dirt trails to strolling along concrete coastal pathways, there’s something for everyone. In this article, we’ll look at the longest biking trail in California.

We’ll cover everything you need to know about the trail, including activities to carry out on the trail and the notable landmarks and attractions.

Let’s begin!

The Longest Biking Trail in Northern California: The American River Bicycle Trail

American River Bicycle Trail
The American River Bicycle Trail is a popular leisure and commuter route for cyclists.

© Buell

The American River Bicycle Trail, voted the best bike trail in 2006, is a popular leisure and commuter route for cyclists. From the intersection of the American and Sacramento Rivers north of downtown to Folsom Lake, it follows the American River for 32 miles. It is also excellent for trekking and watching wildlife because of its dynamic nature and picturesque locations. The trail is one of the country’s longest paved cycling paths.

Hiking, cycling, horseback riding, inline skating, strolling, and jogging are just a few of the activities available along the trail. Biking is also a common, healthy, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation. Visitors frequently combine trail activities with shopping or dining, while others prefer fishing or camping under a shaded tree. Equestrian access to the paved trail surface is allowed only at trail crossings and bridges.


In the early 1800s, Jedediah Smith, a prominent fur trapper, explored the area east of Sacramento, between the town at the confluence presently known as Old Sacramento and Folsom. The region follows the American River’s path and is home to a wide variety of wildlife. In the late 1800s, the track was built by the Capital City Wheelmen, an early cycling club. When cars became popular in the early 1900s, the track was no longer used as a commuter route.

The trail went into ruins until it was reopened to bikes in the 1970s as a transport route. A portion of the route that goes along the south side of Lake Natoma and into downtown Folsom was constructed later. The track became a national trail in 1974.


The American River Bike Trail, also known as the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail, is a paved multi-use pathway that stretches from the intersection of the Sacramento River with the American River, north of downtown Sacramento, CA, to Beal’s Point at Folsom Lake, north of Folsom, CA. It is about 33 miles long and located away from major cities, making it a peaceful and pleasant getaway.

Near Azteca Stadium, the bike route intersects with the Sacramento Northern Bikeway, which is north of Del Paso Boulevard. The walk parallels the American River Parkway and loops several times over the American River, from where it gets its name. Although it began as a collection of unconnected smaller trails, the path has evolved into what it is today.

Trailside maps, mile markers, drinking fountains, bathrooms, and telephones are located along the two-lane trail. There are also numerous locations to dine, rest, or take in the beauty. Although the trail passes through some sloping hills, it is primarily flat and covered. You’ll pass along various parks, swimming places, and Sacramento’s suburban neighborhoods along the way.

Two bridges crossing the river along the route are so stunning that you can’t miss them. The Guy West suspension bridge connects the route to the California State University campus, while the Fair Oaks Bridge is a truss bridge that was constructed in the early 1900s.

Waddell Beach
The Pacific Ocean coastline close to Santa Cruz, California; People windsurf on a sunny day at Waddell Beach.

© Photography

A separate bike lane runs for around 2 miles along the trail. Also, in-line skaters and horse riders frequent the popular trail. From beginners to experts, everyone can appreciate the trail. Short journeys are just as easy to organize as those that go to Folsom and back because there are multiple campsites, access points, and water stations.

However, crime is common because the trail passes through some isolated places and is densely forested. Bring a friend to take in the sights with you and ensure your safety. Users should keep the significant risk of assault along the trail in mind.

Allowable Transportation on The Trail

The following methods of travel are all permitted on the American River Bike Trail:

  • Pedestrians and Runners
  • Bicycles
  • E-Bikes
  • Horses (only on designated horse trails)
  • Roller skates and roller blades

The following methods of travel are prohibited on the American River Bike Trail:

  • Motorized transportation, including motorcycles and ATVs
  • All automobiles including cars, trucks, and SUVs
  • Skateboards

Notable Landmarks and Attractions

American River Bicycle Trail
The American River Bicycle Trail is home to deer, woodpeckers, and western rattlesnakes.

© Buell

From Folsom to Sacramento, the trail goes through various exciting places. These include Sutter’s Landing Park, where Sacramento’s founder and notable area entrepreneur, John Sutter, first arrived, Discovery Park, the Guy West Bridge, California State University, River Bend Park, Sacramento, William B. Pond Recreation Area, the Fair Oaks walking bridge, Lake Natoma, the Nimbus Fish Hatchery, and Folsom Lake.

The trail also passes through several parks and undeveloped areas where a range of animals can be found. Deer, woodpeckers, and western rattlesnakes are among the creatures found along the trail. Coyotes have also become more common along the path and are becoming more accustomed to human presence.

Activities on the Trail

American River Bicycle Trail
The annual Eppie’s Great Race triathlon takes place on the American River Bike Trail.

© Buell

The annual Eppie’s Great Race triathlon takes place on the American River Bike Trail. It is part of the American Discovery Trail, which runs from coast to coast.

The route technically begins at mile zero in Discovery Park and proceeds east to Beal’s Point (about where mile marker 32 would be). Every half-mile along the trail, mile signs appear. The length between Old Sacramento and mile mark zero is around one mile, making the overall journey nearly 33 miles long.

The trail is open to pedestrians and bikers and is one of the few areas in Sacramento where horses are permitted.

There is a 15 mph speed limit in place. Motorcycles are not permitted. Bringing dogs or riding a horse on the paved bike trail, walking dogs without their leashes, and not tidying up after your dog are typical violations. Sacramento County is responsible for maintaining the trail.

Biking With your Dog

If you’d like to take your dog with you while biking we recommend getting a dog bike trailer. They can be a great way for dogs, especially smaller ones to join you on your adventure and stay cool in the shade at the same time. Many of the best dog bike trailers also provide storage options to bring bike repair kits, snacks, water, and other useful materials for your trip.

38 miles of trails stretch from the San Gabriel Mountains to Seal Beach.


When You Can’t Be Up North

Longest Biking Trail in Southern California

If you want to enjoy a bike trail but aren’t near the Sacramento area, you still have plenty of options. California has numerous outdoor activities throughout the state and in Southern California, you will find the San Gabriel River Bike Trail. The is a 38-mile trail that stretches from the base of the San Gabriel Mountains in Los Angeles and San Bernadino Counties to Seal Beach in Orange County.

This trail is open year-round and is popular for hiking, biking, and birding. Dogs are permitted but they must be on a leash.

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The Featured Image

American River Bicycle Trail
American River Bicycle Trail or Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail
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About the Author

I hold seven years of professional experience in the content world, focusing on nature, and wildlife. Asides from writing, I enjoy surfing the internet and listening to music.

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