Go! Folsom Lake/Lake Natoma


Folsom Lake has water! After months at low levels, the lake—thanks to melting Sierra snow—again laps shores closer to parking lots, inviting boaters to launch and go faster than 5 mph. Water released from Folsom Dam now flows copiously to Lake Natoma, the wide portion of the American River between Hazel Avenue and the city of Folsom’s Rainbow Bridge. This state recreation area includes both lakes and their shorelines, along with a segment of the American River Parkway/Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail. Time for Sacramentans to get out and play.

Folsom Lake Crossing
Once Folsom Dam Road closed after 9/11, anyone who wanted to cross the waterway between Granite Bay and East Folsom had to cut through Folsom’s Historic District. For nearly six years, Rainbow Bridge has been clogged with traffic, infuriating drivers, business owners on Sutter Street and residents surrounding Folsom’s quaint, antiques-store-packed downtown. When the new $139 million Folsom Lake Crossing opened March 28 this year, hundreds of people attended the grand opening and marveled at how much concrete was required to span the American River Canyon just west of Folsom Dam. It’s nearly two miles from one side of the canyon to the other, but the walking/bicycling path is wide, the view of the lake spectacular. It’s Folsom’s newest attraction, and a sure workout as you climb from the Folsom-Auburn side up to the Briggs Ranch neighborhood in Folsom. Bridge between East Natoma Street and Folsom-Auburn Road

Beals Point, Folsom Lake
Come for the day or camp out for the night. With a wide beach and swimming area, Beals Point draws families and others seeking a traditional beach experience. Bring a picnic or just enough cash for hot dogs and sodas from the on-site snack bar. Campgrounds fill quickly, so make your reservations early. Auburn-Folsom Road, Granite Bay

Sudwerk Riverside
Sit on the deck that overlooks Lake Natoma’s Negro Bar and treat yourself to a Hefe Weizen and an 8-ounce burger and fries. Or a chicken Caesar salad. Or Cajun-style jambalaya. Whatever you order, sit outside and take in the view. Word to the wise: If you come to watch the sunset, bring your mosquito repellant. Greenback Lane, Folsom

Preserve Path
Behind a small residential neighborhood in Folsom, a pretty little trail veers off the bike path and fronts Lake Natoma, providing a quiet spot for a mountain-bike ride, a walk or a picnic. Wander among fragrant fennel plants to discover one of numerous tiny beaches, where you can sit on the rocks and listen to the sculling teams as they practice on Lake Natoma or to the conversations of bicyclists on the trail across the lake.  Young Wo Circle, off Folsom Boulevard near Natoma Street

Negro Bar/Lake Natoma
Bring your bikes and pick up the Je-dediah Smith Memorial Trail here. Watch what you say as you ride between Lake Natoma and the bluffs; because of the natural acoustics, people all the way across the lake can hear your conversations. After your ride, relax beside the cold, clear lake or retire to the campground—one of two campgrounds in the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area. Negro Bar feels shady and cool compared to the more open, expansive beaces on Folsom Lake. Find a spot here to kick back. Greenback Lane, Folsom

Chicago Fire
Go for the stuffed pizzas, either the spinach and mushroom or the Chicago Fire combo (this baby’s loaded). After a day outdoors, slipping into a booth in this dark, cool spot will feel like heaven. Finish your meal with a chocolate chip pizza—a huge chocolate chip cookie topped with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream that’s big enough to feed the family. Sutter Street, Folsom

Granite Bay, Folsom Lake

On the Placer County side of the lake, Granite Bay is the place to go to hang out at the beach, rent personal watercraft, swim in a cordoned-off area near shore or launch a boat. No boat? Folsom Lake Boat Rentals, located at the water’s edge, rents boats, water skis, tubes and wakeboards. Stop at Dominick’s Italian Market & Deli for sandwiches on your way in or hit the beachfront snack bar. Douglas Boulevard, Granite Bay

Rudy’s Hideaway 
This place looks like a dive from the outside, but when you step inside, you’ll find yourself in a clean, tranquil spot that may transport you back to earlier times. The lengthy surf-and-turf menu, banquette seating, bright sea-life-focused paintings and low ceilings combine to create a submarine effect, so the choice is obvious. Order the house specialty: lobster. Don the plastic bib that says “Time to get crackin’”—and do just that. Folsom Boulevard, Rancho Cordova

Sacramento State Aquatic Center
Learn to sail, kayak, windsurf, water-ski, wakeboard and more at this educational gem on Lake Natoma, either in classes or through private lessons. Rent a kayak for as little as $9 an hour and paddle around the lake on your own, or sign up for a class and learn how to do it right. Summer programs include youth aquatic camps and family nights. Hazel Avenue, Gold River

Folsom Point, Folsom Lake
Launch your boat, walk your dog ac-ross the dam wall, crash through the wildflowers on your way down to the water’s edge—just watch out for goose poop—or simply relax at a picnic table on the grass as you gaze at the expanse of water. Pick up picnic supplies at the Raley’s at the corner of Blue Ravine Road and East Natoma Street. East Natoma Street and Briggs Ranch Drive, Folsom

Getting There
From Highway 50, take Hazel Avenue north to Lake Natoma or to Folsom Boulevard for various Lake Natoma access points; turn right on Natoma Street to reach Folsom Point and Folsom Lake Crossing. From Interstate 80, take Douglas Boulevard east past Auburn-Folsom Road to the Granite Bay access, or turn right on Auburn-Folsom Road to pick up other Folsom Lake access points.

Did You Know?—The road between Auburn and Folsom has two names. It’s Folsom-Auburn Road in the city of Folsom. Once you enter Granite Bay, the name changes to Auburn-Folsom Road.