History and Hiking in Folsom, California

“Closed? What do you mean it’s closed?” That was my reaction when we walked up to the Folsom History Museum on Memorial Day. You see, I was looking for a new day trip adventure with my family. We’ve done Old Town Sacramento. A lot. We did the train museum, the history museum, the steam train ride, the shops, Polar Express, Wells Fargo Museum, etc. During a recent travel expo I learned a bit more about Historic Folsom, California. 30 minutes east of Sacramento, it had it’s own history and small town charm. We were all in, we wanted to go! So on Memorial Day we loaded in the car and drove 1.5 hours to Folsom. Full of excitement, we consulted the map and walked over the to the History Museum ready to learn all about California’s gold rush and Folsom’s part in it. So imagine our surprise and disappointment to find it was closed…

Looks interesting, too bad it’s closed

Ok..ok..no problem. There is a Railroad Museum, just a block away. Closed. Wait, there is a Pioneer Village with actors showing how they lived in that time…closed. I started to panic. How could I be so dumb? Me the planner, didn’t think to look and see what would be open on during the week. But it turns out, in Folsom, the museums are all closed on Mondays, even holiday Mondays. I was about to despair when my husband noticed that the Powerhouse State Historic Park was not that far off. We figured that the visitors center wouldn’t be open (it wasn’t) but that at least we could see the old powerhouse buildings and walk by Lake Natoma. That’s when we discovered the other side of Folsom…

Our desire to explore the history of Folsom quickly hit a wall

As we go down to park, we walked past the old hydroelectric canals. There is something beautiful about decaying buildings, and nature taking back things that were man made. We saw the wildflowers and plants grow over the canals and up the wall. As we neared the entrance to the park, we saw photos of what the plant looked like in it’s glory days. The kids were impressed by the pictures of the tall turbines and rows of controls. They listen to their father with glee as he explained how it all worked.

The beautiful urban decay of the old hydro-electric power plant

Then we entered the park, In the park you could see historic markers, more pictures, and the backs of the decaying buildings. But we also saw hiking paths. We decided to take a gently sloping path down, and it lead us right to Lake Natoma. The lake looks like a river, but really it’s a narrow lake, And along the banks are great rocks to climb on and the most breathtaking scenery. The kids loved climbing the rocks, looking at the water, and lamenting that we didn’t bring bikes, swimsuits or water shoes (hey kids, I planed a day of history, not hiking). But they bounced from rock to rock and loved looking at the water. After a time, we hiked back up and decided to see if we could get a closer look at the historic Rainbow Bridge.

Checking out the decaying buildings and historical plaques

We found the trails down to the lake*

The view across the lake was spectacular on this beautiful day

Rainbow bridge was built in 1919 and for 100 years has served to cross cars over the lake. It as one large arch that looks like a rainbow, hence the name. We had to backtrack a little to find a safe place to cross the road. As we walked back on the pedestrian trail, we saw many bikes, scooters , strollers and wagons (more complains that I forgot these thing). It was a beautiful day and everyone was out. We quickly discovered we couldn’t go on rainbow bridge, but the path lead to the Historic Folsom Truss Bridge. This bridge built in 1983, and moved twice before it was returned to it’s original location in 2000 to serve as a pedestrian walkway over the lake. The kids were excited to cross a bridge, get a good look at Rainbow Bridge, and check out all the kayakers, swimmers, and canoes below.

The walk over the Truss bridge and the views were one of the highlights of the day

I noticed that there was a whole series of trails that branched off and went down further. But we were getting hungry, so we decided to turn around and head back into town. As we did, we saw a sign for the Johnny Cash Trail. I had no idea why that was there, so we moved on. Later, talking to my Dad he said “You were in Folsom? The same Folsom form the Johnny Cash song, Folsom Prison Blues?” Looking at the map I realized the trail goes very close to Folsom Prison. Well, that explains it…

The mystery of why this trail exists was solved by my father

In town we found food at the Sutter Street Grill. Served sizable breakfast all day long, so we had a fantastic meal. Then we decided to check out the stores in town. We played some games at The Game Getaway, bought fun socks at Socktown, and cute hair bows at Pixie Spirit Boutique. My son even had a small concert, playing his piano pieces on a piano outside Not Too Shabby. And you can’t have a fun day without ice cream! We each had cones at Snooks Candies and Chocolate Factory. I wanted to buy chocolate but decided not so since I would just eat it.

We explored the shops and food in the Historic District and found so many gems

After a long day we decided it was time to head back to the Bay Area. We meandered back to the parking lot thinking about the fun we had that day. In the morning, I thought I had ruined the day for everyone. I thought we would have nothing to do. Instead we discovered this wonderful town full of hiking, walks, stores and even more we didn’t get to see due to the museums being closed. We all agreed we have to come back and check out the history museums. But we will also enjoy the lake, trails, and shops that make this a great town to spend the day.


My kids, after years of watching me write and reading my blogs, said they wanted to contribute. But being more modern than there mom, they chose video as their format. So check out the YouTube video below, and like it if you want to see more from the Around the World with Kids Blog Kids.

*Stared photos taken by Atma Photography

One thought on “History and Hiking in Folsom, California

  1. Pingback: Live Like a Gold Miner at Columbia State Historic Park | Around the World with Kids

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