You guys, my whole family flipping loved this hike. Maybe it was because we haven’t been hiking since before Christmas (thank you sickness that would never end). Maybe we loved it because we hadn’t been outside in a few days (we were taking care of a family member, which we were super happy to do…but you know…fresh air is so good!!). Maybe it was because this hike had rocks and boulders all over the place to climb on. Maybe the scenery was really pretty (and it was). Maybe it was a combination of all of that but, whatever the reason, this place is totally worth a stop.
We decided to check out Knights Ferry Recreation Area. My husband grew up coming here during the summer to hang out by the river and we have brought our boys here for the same reason. But, it being winter meant that we weren’t going to be hanging out in the water today! Instead we got a chance to check out the hiking trails. We drove east from Modesto for about half an hour and found ourselves out of town and surrounded by foothills and cows. We followed the signs for Knights Ferry Recreation Area, parked, paid the 5$ entrance fee and started walking.
From the parking lot we took the path past the information center. If the information center is open it is worth a walk through. It has a little museum full of information about the animals, habitat and history of the area. Erik and I like it as much as the kids, there is taxidermy animals, historical artifacts, a hands on area, skulls and skeletons of local animals, buttons to push and things to learn.
From there we headed left out the door and up the compacted dirt path. This part of the path is stroller friendly but it quickly becomes too rocky and bumpy for strollers or wheelchairs. The trail is an out and back trail and a little less then 1.5 miles each way. We stopped by what still stands of the old mill buildings, read the informative signs, learned a little bit and kept walking. We walked until we got to the bridge. This is not just any bridge, it is the longest covered bridge west of the Mississippi! It’s a beautiful bridge and worth a walk across. We walked across and back, just to say we walked on it and to enjoy the views. After we came back across the bridge we turned right and went up the hiking trail.
We decided to take the smaller, rocky trail that parallels the river and I totally recommend doing that if you can. We had a great time scampering over rocks, admiring the river, watching wildlife and finding cool plants.
The kids had a blast climbing up rocks and being ‘king of the rock’. I had a, um, time of learning, to not hover over my kids. I will be the first to admit that it is not easy to let your kids do slightly precarious things. I want to hover and yell ‘be careful’ all the time. But that isn’t really helpful. I mean hollering at them and making them aware that what they are doing is potentially dangerous is not helpful at all. I am trying this new thing where if I feel like hollering I yell encouragement instead. Things like, ‘You’ve got this buddy!’ ‘Way to go!’ ‘You can do it!’ I want my kids to know that I support them learning, working and doing hard things. Plus it helps ease any anxiety I have too. We are always cautious and we try to teach them to be smart about their abilities and their surroundings but, I want them to be brave and daring and curious so I let them climb. But, enough about the parenting things I am working through. Check out these pictures and few more final thoughts below.
The weather this time of year is great for hiking out in Knights Ferry, winter, fall and spring would probably be the best seasons to hike here, or very early on a summer day, it gets really hot during the summer. The scenery is beautiful with the river flowing and huge boulders scattered around, the moss and grass and trees. It’s all just so beautiful. I think Knights Ferry is a common destination for the local Central Valley dwellers and it sometimes gets written off, but it’s totally worth a stop. Just a quick drive from Modesto and a great hiking, rock scampering trail that works if you only have a few hours or spend a whole day hiking, picnicking and gazing at the river. If you are on your way up the 108 toward Sonora or Yosemite this would be a great place to stop for a pit stop, there are a few places to eat, including a creamery (that is only open during the summer) for some ice cream or coffee. Yum!
Have you been here before? Did you love it as much as we did? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
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Get up, get out and go adventuring!