“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” — John Muir
Watching little birds flit through trees can be a great way to recharge during a busy week. Right along Woodward Park and Friant Road, there’s a great trail perfect for all ages and abilities. It’s a quiet gem next to a busy city, with scenic bluff views, riverside loops, and hyperactive lizards running through the grass. Basically it’s the perfect place to spend an hour or two unwinding from your daily grind.
Lewis S. Eaton Trail
Eaton Trail is a six mile trail along the San Joaquin River and Friant Road. There’s an entrance to the trail both at Woodward Park and at the River Center.
If you enter through Woodward Park, there’s a $5 entrance fee, but you can enjoy all of the park’s amenities before you take your walk. Playgrounds, the Shinzen Japanese Gardens and an overabundance of geese will keep you entertained. Alongside the Art of Healing Garden, the trail overlooks the river and the Thomas MacMichael Sr. Loop. With gorgeous views, you can even see Valley Children’s Hospital on the other side of the river.
If you decide to enter from the Coke Hallowell/River Center, parking is free. Here, you will also find bathrooms, picnic tables, and drinking fountains. Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., there’s a little fish tank of rainbow trout alevin to admire, the Sun-maid Vineyards, and a turtle pond. There’s also a fully restored ranch house from the 1800s (open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends) and a gift shop.
For those who travel by wheel and spokes, there are bike entrances to Eaton Trail at various intersections along Friant Road, as well as at both ends of the trail. Happily, you can pedal along without worrying about pot holes since the path is paved. Additionally, this makes the trail handicapped accessible. Finally, horseback riders can also access this trail, with horse trailer parking available at the River Center.
Thomas MacMichael Sr. Loop
Tucked a bit behind the Eaton Trail, the Thomas MacMichael Sr. Loop runs along the river and back around. This scenic loop is one of my favorite things about Fresno. If you take Eaton Trail to the north side of Woodward Park (don’t worry, here’s a map), you’ll find it.
A nice easy-going walking trail with lots of scenery, it runs along the river, which makes things very exciting. My kids like to race sticks in the water and run away from bumblebees. You know, the things childhood is made of.
Since it’s such a gentle path with benches and bathrooms, joggers and dogs with their walkers and parents pushing strollers always dot the trail. It feels very neighborly (in fact, twice I’ve run into my neighbor walking his retriever there). Finally, there are picnic tables near the river on this loop if you want to pack a lunch.
So next time you need a nature break, no need to run for the hills. A great walking trail is right in your backyard (and it has bathrooms!).
For more tips on exploring various nature trails along the river, contact the San Joaquin River Parkway here or by calling (559) 248-8480.
Additional paths along the river can be found here.
Find more about the River Center here.
Woodward Park has a $5 dollar entrance fee for vehicles. Here’s a map of the park and surrounding area.
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