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 waters 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.
The trailhead is located at the North Dam parking lot in Rancho Seco Recreational Area off Highway 104/Twin Cities Road ( 14960 Twin Cities Road, Herald, CA 95638)
Once in the Recreation Area, turn Left before the dam and drive down the gravel road to the Lake/Trailhead.
Walks generally take 3 1/2 – 4 hours which includes a stop for a snack/lunch.
We advise you to bring water, a snack, sunscreen and a hat.
Rancho Seco Recreation Area is open daily from 7am-6pm and there is a $12 charge per vehicle.
Registration is required for each hike.