Howard Ranch Trail is a 7 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Herald, California that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, and trail running and is accessible year-round.
The trail is 7-miles, roundtrip, which starts at Rancho Seco Recreational Area and winds around the north end of Rancho Seco Lake. The trail provides visitors with the opportunity to see vernal pools, seasonal wetlands that are ecological havens, as well as riparian and marsh habitat, colorful flora The landscape changes dramatically throughout the year. Each season has unique beauty. Winter and early spring feature the vernal pools where fairy shrimp and a variety of other aquatic animals use the pools to complete their short lifecycles. Vernal pools are crucial to the life cycle of federally listed threatened and endangered species, such as the California Tiger Salamander, vernal pool fairy shrimp, and vernal pool tadpole shrimp. Following the rainy season, when the water evaporates, vivid floral Powering forward. Together. Rancho Seco Howard Ranch Trail displays spring up to carpet the ground. In the summer heat, the carpet turns to a golden brown. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) worked together with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the California Conservation Corps (CCC) to make this trail a reality. TNC funded construction and Corps members from the CCC Tahoe Center constructed the trail, which included bridges, gates, and the turnpike (gravel) section.SMUD will maintain the trail. The trailhead is on SMUD property, which provides road access and public parking. The trail traverses a portion of the historic Howard Ranch, a ranch that was purchased in the 1930s by Charles Howard, owner of the racehorse Seabiscuit, made famous by the book and movie. In 1999, TNC purchased 12,000 acres of the Howard Ranch, adjacent to Rancho Seco, from Charles Howards heirs. The Nature Conservancy placed permanent protective restrictions on the property and resold the land to a local cattleman.
It was a good day to go. Cloudy and cool. Otherwise there wouldn't have been much shade. Beautiful views but not a lot of diversity. Would like to check out in other seasons.
I was happy that there were no mosquitos ! The spring wildflowers are blooming and it looks like a sea of yellow! Only complaint is that some of the trail was hidden under a vernal pool. Be prepared to get your shoes wet. This is a great, easy walk on mostly flat ground with lovely views of cows grazing and wildflowers.
Swarms of mosquitos. No dogs on the trail.
Swarms of mosquitos!
Nice loop. I parked on 104 (twin cities) and ran 1 mile up, then almost 1 mile to the trail head. Total run back to my car was 10.2. Nice flat run but pretty boring as far as scenery. It was a clear day so I could see snowy mountains off in the distance. Not dog friendly. A good place to access a trail since I live about 45 minutes from the american river.
Easy trail, flat. The parts by the lake were pretty. Dirt road/field portion not too exciting. Saw rabbits and birds along the way.
it has some minor hills. great place for running. it's a bit of a drive to get there but it's a fun place
If California ever has a good rain season, this trail may be worth it. But if you just want to get exercise, this walk will do it.
This is a beautiful trail that is flat and accessible by just about everyone. Wonderful for Fall, Winter, Spring trail running and early morning in the summer. I just started running (2, 5k's under my belt) but I ran this in 1.5 hours.
This is one that you can keep coming back to.
Fun hike, it was a tad warm and dry today but I look forward to returning to this spot in the fall or spring. Trail is marked out very well. Saw a huge coyote!
Quite beautiful in the spring, green grasses, flowers blooming. The first mile or so (also the last mile) next to the lake is especially beautiful. Lots of birds. Once you get out past the lake, the rest of the trail is through cow pasture. The map shown here is not correct; this map shows the road that goes around the lake. Here is a link to a trail map: https://www.smud.org/en/about-smud/community/recreational-areas/documents/0073-12-howard-ranch-factsheet.pdf. The trail is seven miles, making a loop through cow pastures of a working ranch, and then back by the lake where you started. There are vernal pools which can be filled with wildflowers, but not so much this time. They even have guided walks with naturalists in the spring. I would rate this as easy, best in the spring and maybe the fall. It costs $10 to park.
Grateful to have been outdoes, beautiful views off in the far distance, you could see the mountains and we certainly got some exercise...the trail (if we were actually on it the whole way) was riddles with cow pies, yes to be expected...pelts of castle and muddy ground. We lost the trail at some point, so we followed the fence line. Not a trail we will revisit.
Grassy rolling hills, beautiful cow county. Don't go after a rain though, we had to big puddle jump quite a few parts of the loop. I clocked us at 7.5 miles which took us 2.5 hours at a moderate pace.
Beautiful green hills in the spring.