Treadmill Rating (out of 10): 3 out of 10
Distance: 5 mile round trip
Elevation Gain: very little
Max Elevation: 300
Generally I’m not very excited about urban hiking as cities have tried to add “trails” along old railroad right of ways and other roads to appeal to suburbanites and others looking for a place to jog or walk their dog. The Lewis S. Eaton trail though is a nice trail that goes along the San Joaquin River basin and through Woodward Park, one of the nicer parks in Central California.
Our adventure started with an activity for my daughter’s church group. They wanted to hike this trail on a cool, fall morning as an activity. We parked at a small park on East Copper Avenue, walked across Friant Road and entered the trail head. Immediately we were treated to a wonderful view of the San Joaquin river canyon as we began hiking south on the trail. There were lots of Saturday morning walkers, runners, joggers, and bicycles using the trail. The main trail is paved but there are some short spur trails on the dirt that leave the main trail and go closer to the river basin.
If you prefer hiking on dirt there is ample room on both sides of the paved trail for hiking as well. We saw a lot of joggers using the unpaved portions of the trail.
The trail was busy the morning we were there but the view was good and the weather nice. Every so often a nice bench sits off to the side of the trail allowing travelers to sit and enjoy the view. After a mile or so there is a small restroom on the trail. The trail continues for another mile and a half to two miles over some small hills and across a couple bridges and then enters Woodward Park.
Woodward Park is a 300 acre park with lots of green grass, trees, and the occasional lake. The park has several nice restroom facilities and drinking fountains. We stopped at one on the south end of the park and took a short break. There is a motor vehicle entrance fee which I believe was four dollars at the time we hiked but there is no charge for entering the park on foot.
There are also other trails through the park or you can stay on the Lewis S. Eaton Trail until the trail terminates at the north end of the park. The State High School Cross Country meet is usually held here annually along with other races. Off road trails for bicycles are also available. There are also other events such as concerts in the park that are held here. The park has over five miles of multipurpose trails and there is also an Authentic Japanese Garden with gates, statuary, Koi pond, bridges, and a tea house.
On the north end of the park the trail ends making the current length of the trail about five miles. After a short break we continued on foot into Fresno for lunch with our group. We did not return to our start point as vehicles were waiting to pick us up at our destination but it would have been nice also to have eaten lunch in the park and returned the five miles to our starting point.
WHERE IS THE HIKE LOCATED?
This is a semi urban hike in north Fresno, CA that currently extends five (5) miles from Woodward Park north to the intersection of East Copper Ave and Friant Road (HWY 41). The trail can be started in Woodward Park or on the west side of Friant Road where it is intersected by East Copper Avenue. The advantage of the East Copper Avenue start is that you can park for free at the small park across the street from the trail head. Woodward Park charges a vehicle entrance fee. There are other start points along the trail as well with parking available on the side streets off of
Friant Road. Highway 41 in Fresno becomes Friant Road on the north end of the city.
This trail is new and future plans call for it to expand from the current five miles to 22 miles so trail head start locations and distances may change over time. The plan is to have the trail go from the Friant Dam in the Sierra Nevada foothills all the way to highway 99 in Fresno. If the trail is completed in the future the entire trail would make for a fun yet challenging day hike.
HOW TECHNICAL IS THIS HIKE?
This hike is not technical at all. Comfortable shoes and water are all that are required. There is even water on the trail and restrooms.
WHO CAN DO THIS HIKE?
Anyone can do this hike from small children to more seasoned citizens. With options for multiple starting points and turn around points hikers can make this hike as challenging as they desire. On the treadmill scale I would give it a three (3) due to the five mile distance of the trail but if you want to walk fast or make it a round trip hike it can be made more physically challenging. This is not a difficult five mile hike. It gains little to no elevation, it is not steep, has amenities on the trail such as restrooms, drinking fountains, and benches for resting making it rather pleasant. And the view is nice.
WHEN SHOULD I GO?
Ideal hiking days are probably in the morning during the late spring, summer, and early fall periods. Fresno can get very hot in the June-September period with temperatures in excess of 100 degrees. Fall, winter and early spring temperatures make hiking all day an option. Winter may have fog blanketing the area. On the day we went the high was in the 70s with 50s in the morning when we started. Early spring is a wonderful time to go as the grass along the river is green and wildflowers may be present. In the winter it can get cooler in the low 30s at night but day time temperatures are rather pleasant even then. Check the weather forecast before you go.
This trail is a great place to train or if you are in Fresno visiting or for business this trail can be a great place to get some exercise. It’s low elevation, lack of steep hills, and lots of amenities make it a great place to walk, jog, run, or bike for exercise or just to get out in the fresh air. If you plan on tackling it for a hike for the first time a basic fitness level is all that is required. If you can walk around the mall on a leisurely afternoon you should have no problem on this hike.
I took some water and the day pack with my normal hiking supplies. Sunscreen is nice to have as well as insect repellent. There were no insect problems the day we went but it was too cool in the morning for the mosquitoes to bother us. With the river nearby and other water sources I am certain that they could be a problem at other times. But with water and restrooms on the trail a person could hike this trail with nothing other than comfortable clothing and a decent pair of shoes.