On a crisp January afternoon, the kids and I explored a segment of the Salinas River Walk in Atascadero that offers creek access, a picnic bench and a quaint meadow off San Gabriel Road. We played. We splashed (bring rainboots!). We found a giant leaf. And then we went home and learned about how this area is related to one of the largest National Trails in the
United States.

But first, let’s talk about how to get there: head west on Highway 41, then turn right at San Gabriel Road stoplight. Immediately on your right, you’ll find two off-shoulder dirt parking spots. It’s there you’ll see the little grassy meadow along the shore of Atascadero Creek with a dirt footpath toward the water. The meadow is also adjacent to the northernmost point of the half-mile paved trail the City of Atascadero calls the Route 41 Multi-Purpose Pathway Project. This 8-foot-wide path runs along the western edge of Highway 41 between Portola Road and San Gabriel Road. I’ve only seen it while driving to the Charles Paddock Zoo, but it seems super popular with dog walkers, joggers and cyclists. It’s also populated enough to feel safe.

MOM TIP: The kids and I played “red light/green light” up and down the paved pathway for a while. It was a nice way to burn some energy. I also like that game because it teaches the kids to STOP when I tell them to.

Since the meadow isn’t physically located along the Salinas River (quite a bit inland, in fact), the Salinas River Walk sign surprised me. But, I’m guessing that since Atascadero Creek feeds into the Salinas, that makes it part of it. But just what is the Salinas River Walk, exactly? Well, it’s a master-planned 35-mile walking trail system that will one day connect Santa Margarita to San Miguel. Except, the sections aren’t all connected, or even all in existence yet. But that’s the endgame. The most well-known parts of the Salinas River Walk constructed today are in Paso Robles.

FUN FACT: Much of the Salinas River Walk is also part of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. Stretching a whopping 1,200 miles, the trail celebrates the original route Col. Juan Bautista de Anza trekked in the 1700s as he led colonists from Mexico to California to establish a settlement in San Francisco. A portion of that route was along our very own Salinas River corridor.

Lots of reasons to celebrate the river, outdoor walks and how kids can enjoy nature here in the North County.