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Rancho Seco Howard Ranch Vernal Pools and Wildflowers

Howard Ranch Trail at Rancho Seco

This will be a leisurely 7 mile hike.  We will stop and smell the flowers and peer into the vernal pools in hopes of seeing signs of aquatic life.  We will take a lunch break a little more than half way around the trail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 ETA at the trailhead: 9:00am
$10 charge per vehicle at the gate

Description provided from the Cosumnes website listed below:

The 7-mile Rancho Seco Howard Ranch Trail is a hiker’s paradise!  The trail begins by winding around the north end of Rancho Seco Lake along willow scrub and riparian marsh habitat.  As the trail leaves the water's edge, it travels up onto a flat terrace supporting a mosaic of vernal pools and grassland habitat.  This terrace also offers dramatic views of extensive blue oak woodlands in the foothills and the far-off peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

When filled with water, vernal pools are crucial to the short life cycle of federally listed threatened and endangered species, such as the California tiger salamander, fairy shrimp, tadpole shrimp, and Western spadefoot toad.  In the spring, masses of flowering plants carpet the basins of these pools creating a sight not to be missed.

 How to get there (link with map):

From Sacramento, take Highway 99 south to the Twin CitiesRoad/Highway 104 exit. Go east on Highway 104 for 15 miles to the Rancho Seco Park entrance. After you stop and pay the park fee, watch for the small sign on the right for Howard Ranch Trail and take the first right on the gravel road after passing the two towers.You will begin and end the hike at the North Parking Lot.

 What to bring?

Water, a snack/lunch, sunscreen and a hat.

Waterproof hiking boots may be a good idea, depending on rain conditions the week before the hike.  There may be muddy or wet sections along the trail.

$$$  About $7 to you carpool driver, and a $10 charge per vehicle to get into the Rancho Seco Recreational Area.   

What not to bring?

Dogs (some of the trail passes through a working cattle ranch).

What time will we be done?

Walks generally take 3 1/2 - 4 hours which includes a stop for a snack/lunch.


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  • Craig V

    Looks like it was a great day to do this hike, with all the Filaree in bloom.

    April 24, 2014

  • Jean W

    Thanks, Shannon, for another great outdoors adventure! Pretty flowers on a coolish morning.

    April 14, 2014

  • Alanretired

    Always great with Shannon.

    April 14, 2014

  • Frank P.

    After a 33 mile road cycling ride on Saturday this 7 mile hike was refreshing. I really didn't know how much green range land there was around the Rancho Seco cooling towers. And was surprised at how many thousands of tiny wildflowers graced the vast landscape.

    April 14, 2014

  • Richard C

    A very nice hike today.

    April 13, 2014

  • Anneli

    Very relaxing and enjoyable hike with lots of great people and happy cows. Thanks Shannon!

    April 13, 2014

  • Debrah S.

    Thoroughly enjoyed the scenery and the group, what a great day

    April 13, 2014

  • Terri

    Thx Shannon for the super duper hike! So peaceful n pretty.

    April 13, 2014

  • Steve S.

    Had a nice time with good peeps. Shannon was great as usual!

    April 13, 2014

  • Terre

    Thanks Shannon - it was a great morning hike.

    1 · April 13, 2014

  • Phanh

    Thank you for organizing the hike today Shannon! Looking forward to more hikes! :-)

    April 13, 2014

  • Teila

    I am so sorry, Shannon! I spaced out and forgot about this hike! :(

    April 13, 2014

  • EB

    not finding the group but walking anyway.

    April 13, 2014

  • Deby H.

    Ok so my daughter amd I fou d the visitors center but no park enterance. Can someone call me at[masked] and let me know where we need to be?

    April 13, 2014

    • Deby H.

      Google maps sent us to the wrong place. Back on track and may have to just catch up with the group. We will be about 20 min late.

      April 13, 2014

  • Frank P.

    I will meet at the trail head. If anyone needs to carpool ride from Stockton or Lodi then call by at least 7am to[masked]-4117. I will be leaving Stockton no later than 8 am for the trail head.

    1 · April 13, 2014

  • Jeff K

    I'll meet you at the trailhead. I'll be riding my motorcycle the back roads via Jackson Hwy and Dillard Rd.

    April 13, 2014

  • Cyndi

    Anyone else want to meet at Old Navy in Elk Grove off Laguna Blvd? Meet up at 8:15am. Still room for a couple more.

    April 12, 2014

  • Cathy H

    Will meet at the trailhead.

    April 12, 2014

  • Richard C

    Shannon, It looks like we'll have a full carload from Davis, so we'll go directly to the trailhead and meet you there.

    April 12, 2014

  • Richard C

    Is anyone coming from Davis and interested in carpooling from Davis?

    April 12, 2014

    • Edie

      Hello, Richard. Yes, I am definitely interested in carpooling from Davis!! I will PM you with my number. :-)

      April 12, 2014

    • Anneli

      Hi Richard, I am interested in carpooling from Davis as well. I will send you my number.

      April 12, 2014

  • Tom R.

    Hi Shannon. My first hike with your group (kind of excited!) We're a little concerned about finding the trailhead. Is it tricky to find? Will you wait for us?

    April 12, 2014

    • Phanh

      I am wondering if anyone will be at 11th and P tomorrow? It seems quite a few hikers are either meeting at the trailhead or meeting elsewhere.

      April 12, 2014

    • Marisa C P.

      i will...

      1 · April 12, 2014

  • Cyndi

    I am interested in carpooling from the Elk Grove area. Anyone else? Pls suggest a location and time along Hwy 99.

    April 10, 2014

    • Jean W

      I will meet you there, too, as I need to run errands in Elk Grove after the hike. Will be there no later than 8:15 am.

      1 · April 11, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      Cindy. Please read your email

      April 12, 2014

  • Jean W

    Shannon - I will meet Cyndi & Susie in Elk Grove & go from there. See you Sunday for another glorious hike!

    April 11, 2014

  • Debrah S.

    I'll meet you at the trailhead - Thanks

    April 10, 2014

  • Terre

    Hi Shannon - I am out in Rancho Murieta so I will meet you at the trailhead if that is okay.

    April 10, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Anyone in the Elk Grove area who is interested in carpooling and heading out directly to the trailhead? Please contact me directly. Thanks

    April 8, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Hi, Shannon, I'll meet you at the trailhead ... thanks for organizing this trip!

    April 7, 2014

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