Gerle Creek, El Dorado National Forest
Any Sacramento Valley dweller will tell you that the best thing about living in this part of Northern California is that you can drive 1 1/2 hrs and find yourself enveloped in some of the most beautiful scenery found in Nature.
Day trips are numerous with the Croxford Clan and the Crystal Basin Recreation Area is one of our favorite spots. Just up HWY 50, it's a beautiful, scenic drive from Sacramento through mountains & forest and neat little towns that beckon memories of the Gold Rush and times long since past.
Located in the El Dorado National Forest, there is no entrance fee and there are quite a few designated spots for picnicking & camping alike. Some of the campsites require NO FEE at all, which is really great for a family on a budget, but beware- these sites have no running water. There's an obvious solution to that problem though- bring water.
We visit Gerle Creek mainly for fishing, even though it's always either feast or famine. No luck this trip, but we usually do well when we visit in the Fall. Even if you're not into fishing, it's a great place to explore, with creeks, a lake & a couple different reservoirs to choose from all within 20 minutes of each other.
There are plenty of places to hike, though not along designated trails. It's pretty easy, if hot, and kids do pretty well on their own. You can see in this picture that Shrinky was not very happy about that backpack carrier. She is an "I do it myself" kind of girl, but I'm afraid she's just not old enough to cross the creek alone yet!
We always have a great time in this area. it's close, it's cheap, and it's beautiful, which is everything we need in a day trip. If you're in the area from now until Fall, make it a point to visit Gerle Creek.
I promise you'll leave with some fond memories :)