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Hiking - Peak Experiences Await

When it comes to hiking, we have all the elevations, ecosystems and ranges of difficulty that a disparate and randomly chosen group of one hundred hikers could long for. Depending on the season and weather you may want to hike high in the mountains with granite under your boots around, let’s say Donner Lake or maybe up the Glacier Lake Trail. You could go almost desert-like at Kyburz or enjoy rare mountain wetlands at Pierce Creek or get a historic slant along the Emigrant Trial or at Empire Mine. Heck, go up Humbug Creek just so you can say you’ve been there or take the Spaulding Lake Trail as an excuse to sing “Hooray For Captain Spaulding” in your best voce Groucho. John Muir was right and you can prove it around here, so watch your step and have a really good time. For hikers and walkers, the Grass Valley-Nevada City area offers a trail for every taste, age and ability. Short hikes are found near town, others meander through the nearby South Yuba River canyon, and high country hikes are found in the Tahoe National Forest and Grouse Ridge Lakes Basin.

Before heading to the woods, explore Grass Valley and Nevada City, their Gold Rush charm, fine shops, dining and night life. Spend a night in a historic bed and breakfast inn, hotel or motel. See the walking tour maps to all three downtown areas. For short walks in town, try the trails in Grass Valley's Condon Park. In Nevada City, walk the Rotary Club Miners Trail along Deer Creek.

Few hikers who have lived in Nevada County, even those who have lived here for years, have walked all the trails or seen all the sights of the area. And each trail has a completely different flavor depending on season and weather. Below is a listing of some of the most popular trails in the county.

 

BRIDGEPORT BUTTERMILK BEND TRAIL - South Yuba River Canyon

Trailhead: Off Pleasant Valley Road, upstream of Bridgeport, north side of river.
Where To Park: North parking lot.
Directions: From Grass Valley, west on Hwy. 20 to Penn Valley. Right (north) on Pleasant Valley Road, 8 miles to Bridgeport.
Distance Of Hike: 1.25 miles each way.
Degree Of Difficulty: 3. Fairly flat except for one 50-yard upslope.
Seasons: All year.
Special Features: A favorite wildflower hike in March, April and May. Offers nice views of the river canyon, access to many swimming holes. Literature available at the ranger station.

 

SOUTH YUBA RIVER INDEPENDENCE TRAIL - South Yuba River Canyon

Trailhead: Hwy. 49, 5.5 miles northwest of Nevada City.
Where To Park: Turnouts at and beyond trailhead. Use caution when crossing Hwy.
Distance Of Hike: 2.5 miles downstream (west) and 2.5 miles upstream (east). West trail offers a 4.3 mile loop along swimming trail to Jones Bar Road, up to Excelsior Canal and back to start.
Degree Of Difficulty: Both 2.5 mile sections are rated 1. West Loop: 5.
Wheelchair Accessibility: 1.5 miles in each direction of trailhead.
Seasons: All year. Can be muddy in Winter.
Historical Significance: Trail follows alignment of the Excelsior Canal, built during the Gold Rush. Gold Rush-era wooden flumes.
Special Features: Wildflower walks in Spring.

 

ROCK CREEK NATURE TRAIL - Tahoe National Forest

Trailhead: Off access road, 7 miles east of Nevada City.
Where To Park: At trailhead.
Directions: Hwy. 20 east of Nevada City to Washington Ridge Conservation Camp Road (2 miles beyond the Five Mile House). Turn left, follow signs to access road, trailhead.
Distance Of Hike: .8 mile loop
Degree Of Difficulty: 1.
Wheelchair Accessibility: First 500 feet.
Seasons: Spring, Summer , Fall
Special Features: This interpretive trail has been used for many years in school nature study programs. Native plants and trees are identified. Brochures are available at the trailhead.

HARDROCK TRAIL - Empire Mine State Historic Park

Trailhead: Empire Mine Visitor Center.
Where To Park: Main parking lot.
Directions: Exit Hwy. 49 at Empire Street, drive east 1 mile to park.
Distance Of Hike: 2 mile loop.
Degree Of Difficulty: 2.
Seasons: Year-round.
Historical Significance: Passes many historic mining sites.
Special Features: Visitors entering through the visitor center must pay admission. Free entry is allowed by parking at the Pennsylvania Gaye equestrian staging area. This trail is the only one in the park for hikers only; no mountain bikers or equestrians are allowed. Dogs must be leashed. Open daily sunrise to sunset. Trail maps are available at park visitor center.

OSBORNE HILL TRAILS - Empire Mine State Historic Park

Trailhead: Empire Mine Visitor Center or Pennsylvania Gate.
Where To Park: Main parking lot (admission charge at gate) or opposite Empire Court )free entry for hikers).
Directions: Exit Hwy. 49 at Empire Street, drive east one mile to park.
Distance Of Hike: Approx. 5 miles of connected trails.
Degree Of Difficulty: Up to 6.
Seasons: Year-round.
Historical Significance: Area is dotted with old mine sites and foundations.
Special Features: Beautiful forest setting, small creek crossing. Trail maps are available at the park visitor center.

UNION HILL TRAILS - Empire Mine State Historic Park
Trailhead: Hwy. 174 at Empire Street.
Where To Park: Empire Street opposite Empire Court, at the Pennsylvania Gate equestrian staging area.
Directions: Exit Hwy. 49 at Empire Street, drive east one mile to park.
Distance Of Hike: Approx. 5 miles of trails on Union Hill.
Degree Of Difficulty: Up to 4.
Seasons: Year-round.
Historical Significance: Area is peppered with old mine sites and includes the pipeline that brought water to the mines.
Special Features: Detailed trail maps are available at the park visitor center.

SOUTH YUBA RIVER TRAIL - South Yuba River Canyon

Trailhead: Eight miles northeast of Nevada City, off North Bloomfield Road.
Where To Park: Parking lot at trailhead.
Directions: Hwy. 49 to North Bloomfield Road. Drive 8 miles, past the river, follow signs to the campground and trailhead.
Distance Of Hike: 7.5 miles one way
Degree Of Difficulty: 7.
Seasons: Year-round.
Historical Significance: Trail passes through Gold Rush remains.
Special Features: Trail can also be accessed from Purdon Crossing. Hiking, horseback riding, picnic sites, primitive and maintaibed camping. Swimming, fishing, nature study.

NOTE: The following 4 trails are located at the Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park.

RIM TRAIL - Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

Trailhead: North Bloomfield Road or Malakoff Campground. Parking.
Directions: From Nevada City, Hwy. 49 north to Tyler-Foote Crossing Road, then right (east) to Malakoff Diggins.
Distance Of Hike: 3 miles
Degree Of Difficulty: 6.
Seasons: Year-round. Some snow in Winter.
Historical Significance: Views of the Malakoff hydraulic diggings.
Special Features: Pine and cedar forests. Pets Must be leashed.

DIGGINS LOOP TRAIL - Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

Trailhead: Diggins Overlook, North Bloomfield Road. Parking.
Distance Of Hike: 3 mile loop.
Degree Of Difficulty: 3.
Seasons: Year-round. Some snow in Winter.
Historical Significance: Trail loops through what was once the largest hydraulic mining operation in the U.S.

BLAIR TRAI - Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

Trailhead: North Bloomfield Road near North Bloomfield.
Where To Park: Parking at trailhead.
Distance Of Hike: Half-mile loop.
Degree Of Difficulty: 2.
Seasons: Year-round. Some snow in Winter.
Historical Significance: The Blair pond dates to the mining era.
Special Features: Spur goes to campground, 3/4 miles. Pine and cedar forests. No dogs, bicycles or horses.

NORTH BLOOMFIELD TRAIL - Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

Trailhead: North Bloomfield Road, village of North Bloomfield.
Where To Park: Near the trailhead, in town.
Distance Of Hike: 3/4 miles.
Degree Of Difficulty: 6.
Seasons: Tear-round. Some snow in Winter.
Special Features: Pine and cedar forests.

MISSOURI BAR TRAIL - Tahoe National Forest

Trailhead: Located off Forest Road No. 729-3
Where To Park: At the trailhead.
Directions: From Nevada City, Hwy. 49 north to Tyler-Foote Crossing Road, then right (east) to Malakoff Diggins and Relief Hill Rosad. Follow signs.
Distance Of Hike: 1.6 miles one-way.
Degree Of Difficulty: 6.
Seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall.
Historical Significance: Was probably used by miners in North Bloomfield's mining heyday.
Special Features: Planned trail extension will provide connection to the South Yuba River Trail. Watch for poison oak.

HUMBUG CREEK TRAIL - Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

Trailhead: North Bloomfield Road in the state park.
Where To Park: Trailhead parking lot.
Distance Of Hike: 3 miles each way.
Degree Of Difficulty: 6. Includes a 1,000 foot return climb out of the river canyon.
Seasons: Year-round.
Historical Significance: Malakoff was once the largest hydraulic mine in the world and its almost 8,000 foot North Bloomfield drain tunnel emptied into Humbug Creek, carrying mine tailings into the South Yuba River.
Special Features: Trail connects wuth the South Yuba Trail at the river. waterfalls, swimming in the Yuba. Historic relics include ditches, mine shafts, rock walls. No pets, no mountain bikes.

CANYON CREEK TRAIL - Tahoe National Forest

Trailheads: The north trailhead is off Bowman Lake Road at Windt Point. South trailhead is at the Arctic Mine, 6.3 miles from Washington.
Where To Park: On the north, park at the windy Point Cliffs viewpoint, 3/4 miles north of the trail junction with Bowman Lake Road. On the south, park at the Arctci Mine, 3 miles via primitive road past the Golden Quartz picnic area.
Directions: From Nevada City, Hwy. 20 east to Bowman Lake Road, approx. 22 miles, then 11.9 miles north to the unmarked trailhead, or east on Hwy. 20 to Washington Road, approx. 13.3 miles, then 5.2 miles to Washington, then 6.3 miles to trailhead.
Distance Of Hike: 8 miles one way.
Degree Of Difficulty: 10
Seasons: Summer, Fall
Special Features: Creekside hike through rugged primitive terrain.

GROUSE LAKES AREA - Tahoe National Forest

Trailhead: Grouse Ridge Lookout
Where To Park: Near the Grouse Ridge campground.
Directions: From Nevada City, Hwy. 20 east to Bowman Lake Road. Turn left, proceed north 6 miles. Turn right on Grouse Ridge Road. The campground is 5.3 miles up a bumpy dirt road.
Distance Of Hike: Hikes range from 2 to 8 miles.
Degree Of Difficulty: 3-10
Seasons: Summer, Fall
Historical Significance: Some trails date to the mining days.
Special Features: High alpine environment, expansive views, many lakes, fishing, swimming, wildflowers.

GLACIER LAKE TRAIL - Tahoe National Forest

Trailhead: Grouse Ridge Lookout campground. Hike on the Grouse Ridge Trail north to Glacier Lake Trail.
Where To Park: Near the campground.
Directions: From Nevada City, Hwy. 20 east to Bowman Lake Road. Turn left, proceed north 6 miles. Turn right on Grouse Ridge Road. The campground is 5.3 miles up a bumpy dirt road.
Distance Of Hike: 4 miles one way.
Degree Of Difficulty: 5.
Seasons: Summer, Fall.
Special Features: High Sierra meadows, forests, glacial moraine. Glacier Lake is nestled in a small red fir forest in the shadows of the Black Buttes.

EMMIGRANT TRAIL
Follow the trail of the original immigrants to California. Starting off Highway 20, east of Nevada
City at Lowell Hill Rd. Mostly a dirt and gravel road.

THE LOLA MONTEZ LAKES TRAIL
Starting from Soda Springs, just off Interstate 80, this walk takes you to two scenic Alpine lakes. Open to Mountain Bikes.

PACIFIC CREST TRAIL
Castle Peak area, near Donner Summit on Interstate 80. This is for hikers only, though horses are allowed in the Castle Peak direction. The trail runs from Mexico to Canada along the crest of the Sierra Nevada.

SCOTTS FLAT TRAIL and PIONEER TRAIL
65 miles of trail on Forest Service land and some private property. Accessible from Highway 20 near one mile east of Skillman Flat. Pioneer Trail accessible also from Lone Grave Trailhead.

 

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