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Folsom

Get outdoors and explore the city that country legend Johnny Cash helped make famous

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On the shores of its namesake lake, the historic Gold Country city of Folsom is both a haven for outdoor recreation and a place of pilgrimage for music fans.

Easily accessible from town, the 19,500-acre Folsom Lake State Recreation Area in the Sierra Nevada foothills offers endless biking, hiking, fishing, and boating experiences. The recreation area has 75 miles of shoreline, with campgrounds and picnic areas along the water, and 95 miles of trails, including the Darrington Trail, a popular mountain biking route. For a longer outing, you can ride the American River Bike Trail (also known as the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail) for 32 miles from the lake all the way to Old Sacramento.

Lake Natoma, the recreation area’s smaller body of water, is the place to go for non-motorized boating, such as kayaking and canoeing. A paved bike path follows the shoreline, while Folsom Powerhouse State Historic Park overlooks the lake from atop a bluff. Take a tour to see the 1895 generating facility, one of the world’s oldest hydroelectric plants.

Folsom was founded in 1849 and there’s a local saying that this is “the place where the West came and stayed.” That’s especially true in downtown’s Folsom Historic District, where you’ll learn about the area’s gold mining and Native American past at the Folsom History Museum. To explore the walkable downtown on foot (and get some added insight from a native Californian), VoiceMap offers a one-and-a-half-mile self-guided audio tour that you can pull up on your phone.

Train buffs will love examining the Folsom Turntable, the reconstruction of the structure that operated in town starting in 1867, at the Folsom Railroad Museum. About a mile from the museum, climb aboard the steam-powered Folsom Valley Railway, a miniature railroad that runs near the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary. The zoo is home to rescued animals—including bears, wolves, and mountain lions—that couldn’t survive if released into the wild.

The Folsom Historic District is also a great place for dining, whether you’re in the mood for an impeccably prepared ribeye at the Sutter Street Steakhouse or a California craft beer and a “Johnny Cash,” the bestselling burger at the gastropub Samuel Horne’s Tavern.

Many music fans first became aware of Folsom after hearing Cash’s 1956 classic, Folsom Prison Blues. (Cash also played a pair of legendary 1968 concerts for the inmates at the still-operational penal complex.) On the prison grounds, open to visitors, the Folsom Prison Museum commemorates Cash’s legacy and preserves artifacts from the notorious penitentiary. You’ll definitely want to check out the remarkable Ferris wheel that an inmate assembled from toothpicks.

Folsom also honors the “Man in Black” along the nearly three-mile Johnny Cash Trail. Bicyclists and walkers cross a pair of bridges (including one inspired by the prison’s Gothic architecture) as they follow this scenic pathway that runs from the historic district and connects into Folsom’s extensive trail network.

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