The Closest Escape from Fresno is the Eaton Trail
Yes, Fresno is sadly the butt of jokes: the meth capital of California, it looks better from a rear-view mirror, the spoof of Dallas staring Carol Burnett. Most of the comments derogatory towards Fresno are made by people who never spent time here, or, sadly, have only driven through on CA-99. But the fact is, this city of 500,000 has plenty of quirky neighborhoods to explore and is rich in diversity. Plus, if you love nature, three national parks are about 90 minutes away, and you do not have to go far to escape urban stress.
The best place to start is by going to Woodward Park and finding your way to the Lewis S. Eaton Trail. Whether you decide to explore by bicycling, horseback or walking (with humans or the dog, as I recently did), the Eaton Trail is an easy walk and offers spectacular views. So far it is about five miles of pathways that merge onto Old Friant Road, where the offices of the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust are located. Several local non-profits, including the San Joaquin River Conservancy, are striving to procure more land to expand local wildlife habitat and extend the trail as far as 22 miles.
Views of the San Joaquin River bluffs, the Sierra Nevada Mountains on a clear day and local farms can be enjoyed while taking in a bike ride or brisk walk. If you want to pack a lunch, the Lassens on Fort Washington and Friant is a good place to stock up—note that they are closed on Sundays. If you happen to travel to Fresno, an afternoon here on the Eaton Trail is time well spent. Dogs are welcome; just be sure to use common sense and pick up their waste.
Image credits: Leon Kaye