Humbug-Willow Creek Bike Trail by Reuben Hernandez

The Humbug-Willow creek trail is really several trails combined.  The two primary trail sections follow the Humbug creek and the Willow creek, hence the name.  The trail is better marked than most trails we’ve been on, but the city probably needs to spend more money on placing signs at the intersections as it is incredibly easy to get lost.  If you go, make sure your map (or GPS) shows all the trails as there are more trail crossings and trail extensions than we’ve seen on any other paved trail we’ve ridden.

According to the city of Folsom there are roughly 45 miles of multi-use trails snaking through the city.  We would love to ride every inch of these trails and report back, but we didn’t want to plan an extended journey as we had to account for the possibility of taking a wrong turn and adding several miles more than our two children could handle.  As it turned out, this was a good approach.  We had planned a 9.9 mile route, and thanks to more than one wrong turn, we ended up going 11.14 miles.

We started our Journey at the Starbucks on the corner of East Natomas street and Blue Ravine Road at the Raley’s shopping plaza.  If you are using your GPS to find this Starbucks, the address is:

25055 Blue Ravine Road
Folsom, CA 95630

The trail runs along the backside of the shopping plaza.  This is a great starting point as there is more than one place to grab a meal or purchase a snack to take with you.  We journeyed east from the trailhead next to the Mexquite restaurant, but either way works since the trail constantly loops over itself in figure eights, and both directions take you to the same crossing.

One of the hallmarks of a great trail is good scenery.  What makes this trail so amazing is that it feels like you are a hundred miles away from civilization even though you are never very far from homes and businesses.  We were rarely more than twenty feet from the sound of the babbling creek, which was evidenced by the countless wooden bridges we crossed during our trip.  There are some wide-open fields to cross, but most of the trail is well shaded giving us that Wizard of Oz yellow brick road feel.  That is to say, it was magical.

We pedaled along the Humbug creek portion first, which is the northern section that never strays very far from Blue Ravine Road.  This appears to terminate unexpectedly at Oak Parkway, which left us hunting along our map for a little while.  There are two options from here, turn left (south) and ride the sidewalk until you see a crossing that takes you to Cummings Family park, which will eventually get you back on the trail.  We elected to cross Oak Parkway at the nearby intersection and catch the dirt trail where it picks up about a hundred feet south of where we were.  So we turned right, pedaled a hundred feet to the intersection, crossed Oak Parkway, then turned left (south) and spotted the dirt and gravel  connector that gets you back on the trail towards Bidwell.

There is a concrete bridge that crosses over Bidwell with side paths that take you down to the street on either side.  This is a good place to stop as there are numerous restaurants, coffee shops, and amenities at the corner of Bidwell and Blue Ravine road.  In hindsight, we probably would have planned the trip with a stop at The Habit Burger Grill on Blue Ravine, which isn’t visible from the trail but easy to get to if you have your map with you.

We followed the trail over the Jim Konopke Volunteer bridge, which is one of the most charming curvaceous bridges I’ve ever pedaled across, then down to Riley street where we took the trail fork on the left.  The fork turns sharply before you actually reach Riley, and takes you back along the Willow Creek trail.   If you can navigate your way properly (we couldn’t!) it should take you back to where we started.

This trail exceeded all of our expectations for family biking adventures.  There are hills but none of them are impossibly long or steep, so you should be able to bring your children along.  Just remember that most young children can’t handle more than a mile or two when you throw hill climbing at them. We have a contraption for towing our daughter on her bicycle, otherwise she would not have been able to make it.

In hindsight, we should have started down near Folsom Blvd or Prairie City Road, as this would have given us more downhill riding towards the end of our trip.  Nonetheless the climbing was not so difficult that our son couldn’t handle it.

This is the route as we had intended it:

If you live in the area and haven’t tried riding the Humbug-Willow creek network of trails, we encourage you to take your family out and ride it.   This is easily in the top ten bike trails we’ve ridden in the country.  There are numerous access points with excellent amenities nearby.   The trail is safe and scenic.  The trail can be shortened and lengthened in various loops with varying degrees of elevation change to appeal to any level of experience with several connections to other trails for a potential ride extending over one hundred miles.  But for us, this trail gets high praise because it is laid out to maximize the shade and mystery of what’s beyond the next turn.  It has that special appeal that makes you feel like you’re riding in a secret woodland passage between magical kingdoms.  Don’t miss it!

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