Howard Ranch Trail

Clay, California

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2 Reviews
3 out of 5
The Great Valley has lost 99 percent of its native grasslands. What hasn’t been tilled for agriculture or paved for development has been overwhelmed by non-native grass species. Public opportunities to view the Valley’s few remaining open grasslands are limited. The Howard Ranch Trail, which begins in Rancho Seco Park, provides perhaps one of the best opportunities to visit the Great Valley grassland (as transformed as it is by exotic grasses) and vernal pool ecosystem. The Nature Conservancy purchased the ranch in 1999 from the heirs of Charles Howard (of Seabiscuit fame) and then resold it to a local rancher while retaining conservation easements. The California Conservation Corps constructed the trail, which is maintained by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD). SMUD also manages the adjacent Rancho Seco Park. The trail offers nice views of Rancho Seco Lake and provides access to the open, rolling grasslands at the base of the Sierra foothills. It circles a large area of vernal pools—shallow pools that provide important seasonal wetland habitat and a gorgeous display of spring wildflowers.
Top Trails Sacramento

DESCRIPTION FROM:

Top Trails Sacramento

by Steven L. Evans (Wilderness Press)

The Great Valley has lost 99 percent of its native grasslands. What hasn’t been tilled for agriculture or paved for development has been overwhelmed by non-native grass species. Public opportunities to view the Valley’s few remaining open grasslands are limited. The Howard Ranch Trail, which begins in Rancho Seco Park, provides perhaps one of the best opportunities to visit the Great Valley grassland (as transformed as it is by exotic grasses) and vernal pool ecosystem. The Nature Conservancy purchased the ranch in 1999 from the heirs of Charles Howard (of Seabiscuit fame) and then resold it to a local rancher while retaining conservation easements. The California Conservation Corps constructed the trail, which is maintained by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD). SMUD also manages the adjacent Rancho Seco Park. The trail offers nice views of Rancho Seco Lake and provides access to the open, rolling grasslands at the base of the Sierra foothills. It circles a large area of vernal pools—shallow pools that provide important seasonal wetland habitat and a gorgeous display of spring wildflowers.

©  Steven L. Evans/Wilderness Press. All Rights Reserved.

Activity Type: Hiking
Nearby City: Clay
Length: 6.83
Elevation Gain: 50 feet
Trail Type: Loop/Lollipop
Skill Level: Moderate to Difficult
Duration: 3 hours
Season: Best: Spring
Accessibility: Kid-friendly
Local Contacts: SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Utility District)
Local Maps: USGS Goose Creek
Topo Map: Howard Ranch Trail Topographic Map
Guide Book: Top Trails Sacramento Guide Book
Driving Directions: View Directions
Trail Directions: View Guide

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Recent Trail Reviews

4/23/2011

This isn't really a hike so much as a nature walk, except you're walking through a bunch of cow patties... The rolling hills were nice enough but the pools were completely dry when we went (in April) so there wasn't much to it. They do have guided tours...

1/30/2010

Beautiful lush green landscape with vernal pools full of water at the end of January. Wildflowers not yet blooming, but will be coming soon. Cumbulus clouds in the sky and views east to the oak woodlands of nearby sierra foothills and snow-covered mountains in the background. Grand views over a valley to the SE for about 1/4 of the hike. A very enjoyable and worthwhile hike this time of year. Probably better yet when wildflowers in bloom (over the next 2 to 8 weeks?). No one else was around and the trail seemed little visted. The walk is a relatively level and easy about 7 miles. Cattle on the range for part, and a bull who watched us but wasn't aggressive.

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