Hiking in Fresno is an amazing and budget way to get exercise. An advantage of hiking as opposed to going to a gym is less cost since there is no membership fee to hike. You also may find that you save money on vitamins since you get natural vitamins from the sun. Although some of this savings on vitamins may be offset by cost for sun screen.
A great Fresno area hiking option is the Pa'san Ridge Trail. This amazing hiking trail is located in Auberry just outside of Fresno. The hiking trail is a 7.8 mile trail that is located inside the San Joaquin River Gorge Management Area. The Auberry hiking trail is a moderate trail with options of hiking, running, and mountain biking in addition to horse riding. Driving from Fresno through Auberry and into the parking area for the trail is very feasible for a car pulling a horse trail. The roads are well maintained. The hiking trail is also quite wide to accommodate two horses passing each other. Fresno residents can reach this area with just a short drive from downtown Fresno. As an added benefit this Auberry area trail is relatively well used so you don't feel like you are alone here. Also there are some major stores in Auberry if you want to grab a drink or meal on the way to or from the hike.
If you are visiting this trail in winter be ready for some cool weather. One can expect the weather to be around 68 degrees in this Auberry area hiking trail during mid December. Although the weather is cool there is still a significant risk of getting sun burn so make sure to bring some sun screen when you visit this trail. Also make sure to bring water even through it is winter because you can still get dehydrated in the winter. Additionally wear layers as there is some elevation change on the trail so you may want to ensure you can adjust along the way. If you expect to sit make sure to bring some type of small blanket in your backpack if you are hiking during the winter. The ground is very wet during the winter. There are only a few benches along the way so do not plan on having one easily accessible as soon as you want to stop.
If you are hiking in spring expect this Auberry trail to have some amazing weather. This Auberry area trail is typically cooler than urban Fresno. During the spring expect temperatures in the 60 to 70 degree range. The flowers bloom during the spring so make sure to bring your camera. There is a myriad of beautiful pastures along the way to photograph and enjoy. If you have allergies you my want to take allergy medicine prior to coming on the hike as there is not a way around the flowers in the summer. Additionally make sure that you bring shoes that area washable. There are often a multitude of cows grazing on the land during the spring. The cows will often cross the trail and leave cow pies on the trail. If you are not careful you can get a shoe in one of the cow pies so you will want to make sure the shoe is washable.
If you go in summer expect it to be hot hot hot. Although it is in Auberry area so the temperatures are cooler than Fresno it still is quite hot. Bring water since there are no drinking fountains along the trail. Additionally there are few options for getting water from natural sources even if you have iodine or other water cleansing sources. The available water is tough to access and in some cases impossible or dangerous to access. Much of the waters is running and moving at a decent rate. In the summer make sure to wear a hat and plenty of sunscreen as there is little shade along the way. Additionally watch out for animals including snakes. It is not uncommon to see a snake or reptile laying on the trail gathering heat from the sun, especially early in the morning. It is also good to bring some bug spray as you may encounter bugs such as mosquitos here.
Prior to driving here from Fresno make such that your vehicle is topped off with water and/or radiator fluid, particularly if you are going in the summer. The road to the trail head can be a long and quite hot climb. One starts the steep drive at the bridge which is near Balch Camp. The road is mixed with areas of pavement and areas that is dirt. There is a long section with a multitude of switchbacks which occurs near the peak of the mountain. The road, although large enough to bring a trailer if you area a good, confident, and and experienced driver is still narrow. It also drops off sharply. It clings along the side of the Patterson Mountain. There are some frightening areas where there are drop offs, narrow road areas, and unpaved sections. The climb during this drive is about 7,000 feet.
Views On the Drive
When you are driving your passenger can look off the side of the Patterson Mountain. It is breath taking as the drop offs are quite steep. One can enjoy views of the canyon on the majority of the ride once you cross the Balch Camp bridge. One can also enjoy a view of the Black Rock Reservoir as one is going up the side of the mountain. The Black Rock Reservoir is the first reservoir that you will see. A little further up you will see the Wishon Reservoir which is truly amazing. You can follow the McKinley Grove Road once you reach the top of the mountain and then drive down to the trail. One may stop along the Kings River to let your engine cool off a bit.
The trail is very tough to navigate when it is wet. Regardless of the season you can typically find a time when the trail is dry to go. I would highly recommend this. Some of the unpaved areas can get quite muddy. It is not uncommon for a vehicle to get stuck in the down hill creek areas of the drive to the trail area. The PG&E company men have been known to have to come out to help vehicles that got stuck on the road during the wet season. There are some area where some serious and very technical driving is needed to ensure that the vehicle that you are driving to the hiking trail does not get stuck along the way.
There is a variety of things to expect. There are also things to not expect. The first thing to not expect is for the trail to be friendly to ATVs or motorized bikes. It is first and foremost a hiking, jogging, biking, and horseback riding trail. Additionally there are times when it is decently maintained. However there are also periods of time when it just gets progressively worse and gets more and more difficult to navigate. It seems from my experience that it gets bad, then people get frustrated and clean it and then it gets progressively worse and again people act and clean it up and so on and so on. This being said expect that there is somewhat of a chance that you may need to make use of your technical skills. However do not let this dissuade you from doing this hiking trail. Even at its worst it is very great and the views are totally amazing.