Can there be any cheaper way to exercise than hiking? Yes hiking on trails where there are no fees for parking and minimal cost to drive. The challenge to some hiking is that is is several hours drive to get to a good parking spot such as some of the areas near Dinkey Creek. The other challenge is that some of the hiking areas are in national parks which can have some significant admission fees. Yes, if you are a frequent hiker there you can save money by purchasing an annual pass. The great thing about those are they are typically good at many other national parks. Unfortunately they get costly. If you are a senior citizen, disabled, or a former USFS employee you may be able to get a discounted pass, but the cost still hits your pocket book.
Fortunately there are many options that are close and have no fee for parking or entrance. These include Fresno Sugar Pine Trail, Old Town Trail, Railroad Trail, Kaweah Trail and Woodward Park trails which are all right inside Clovis or Fresno city limits or county islands surrounded by Clovis or Fresno. The drawback is that these trails are fairly sunny so while they are great in the morning, winter season, fall season, and spring season they get awful during the summer summer season. The other drawback is since they are in the city going there isn't much of a get away.
If you want a close get away think about the Millerton Lake Recreation area. There is a multitude of trails and if you look you can get free parking. Buck Ridge Hoop and the Bridge Trail are also great trails each about 2.5 miles and free to use.
Lost Lake Park Fun
The Lost Lake Park has two fantastic hiking trails. It also has bbq areas, picnic areas, volleyball areas, and more shade than you can ever imagine. There is even a great area for kayaking and canoeing. The area tends to be quite cool even during summer. The negative part is that the water is extraordinarily cold to the point you may not want to swim. Go very early to avoid the entrance fee otherwise really disappointing. Also in the early morning it is nice but as the day progresses it gets pretty dirty from personal experience and it is not uncommon to see some alcohol and rowdiness in the afternoon and evening.
Woodward Park Delight
Woodward Park is located at 7775 Friant Road. There is an entrance fee for cars, but you can avoid this by going very early in the morning or by parking in the Audubon neighborhood on the street and walking across the street and into the park. There are some amazing running trails around the three lakes there. If you have kids it is fabulous because there are two playgrounds so they can play while you run. There are loads of trails everywhere including one that goes around in a circle around the playground where the playground is in sight during the entire trail.
Drawback is some of the trails are predominantly sunny so quite tough to do in the summer. The good park is the trails around the lake are shady so during the summer you just choose your trail carefully.
Misty Falls Trail Delight
Amazing amazing amazing area near Badger. The drive to the Roads End trail head is beautiful and weaves along rivers and canyons. The only warning is that it is very windy so not advisable if you get car sickness.
The hike is about nine miles round trip and a bit tough as it is uphill virtually all the way out. A word of warning is to make sure you are in good shape as it is very secluded and there are not too many hikers there so if you get in trouble it can be tough to depend on someone running into you.
If you really like nature you can even camp overnight and do some more trails around the area.
Dinkey Lakes Fun Hiking
The Dinkey Lakes Wilderness Area is great if you want an easy hike that you can jog if you would like. It is also a good place for backpacking without facing tough terrain. The relatively flat trail is a seven mile loop. There are some spur trails that have some slope but overall it is very easy exercise and hiking.
The drawback is the roads are pretty awful. The road to the IMHO trail is windy, rough, filled with areas where the asphalt is broken and a bit rocky so you want to make sure your car has good clearance. In the spring you also want to make sure you have 4-wheel drive. The good thing is that once you reach the parking lot the parking is flat and easy.
Bass Lake Free Hiking Fun
Hiking here you might feel like you never left Fresno. It seems that many Fresno residents go here or even have cabins here. There is a great hiking trail around the lake which is flat, heavily shaded with a fell exceptions and easy to run.
The main challenge is that wasps are not uncommon there. Bug spray really is a must although from experience it seems like the wasps don't bother you if you don't bother them. The other drawback is they charge if you bring a boat and use the boat launch. If you just hike or hike and kayak there is no charge.
Florence Lake Hiking
You reach Florence Lake just after Kaiser Pass Road. This is near Huntington Lake. The benefit of this over Huntington Lake is that it is more secluded and more primitive so feels more like hiking. The camping site near here has no showers and only vault toilets so not for those that are fussy.
The hiking is amazing with over a dozen hikes near the campsite. The best thing about these hiking trails are that they seem relatively unused so are very serene and it is not uncommon to see a multitude of wildlife.