Nevada County is endowed with a rich mosaic of beautiful landscapes, healthy forests, historical treasures, and small towns. The land sustains life and replenishes the spirit. Our towns comfort us with timeless charm. Our farms and ranches feed our communities. The quality of life here is tightly connected to these precious resources.
The forests and woodlands surrounding Nevada City are full of many awe inspiring hiking, biking, jogging and equestrian trails. Visitors will find a special balance between small town attractions and beautiful walks through our pristine Northern Sierra foothills landscapes.
Four local trails are accessible on foot from downtown within 5 minutes by car. These are Deer Creek Tribute Trail, Hirshman Trail, the Cascade Canal Trail and the Orene Wetherall Trail.
Deer Creek Tribute Trail
The highly diverse 8-mile long Deer Creek Tribute Trail memorializes the early contributions of native Nisenan and Chinese people to the history of this place. The trail begins across from Pioneer Park and follows Little Deer Creek, moves along an historic route through downtown, connects to Deer Creek canyon west of town out to a beautiful natural plaza at Stocking Flat on the creek, and across the Chinese Bridge to a forested loop trail at the end.
There are many ways to walk or ride the Deer Creek Tribute Trail, depending on your time and interest. It’s a multi-used trail, with areas that are ADA compliant and easily accessible for strollers. Joggers or mountain bikers may want to go the entire length from one end to the other and back.
History buffs will enjoy the route through Nevada City’s early Chinese Quarter to the Chinese Memorial. Visit to the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce and pick up a copy of the “Chinese Quarter Walking Guide.” Using the guide, walk up Commercial Street, especially noting the concentration of historic Chinese Quarter buildings. Then visit the beautiful little Chinese Memorial.
Visitors will enjoy the neighborhood feel of the route west from Miners Foundry. Beyond town there is the rural beauty of a more extended excursion down the canyon of Deer Creek to a natural plaza at Stocking Flat and a loop forested trail on the far side of the Chinese Bridge.
Back in town, many will appreciate the Tribute Trail’s woodsy shortcut along Little Deer Creek to Pioneer Park Pioneer Park with its tennis courts, grassy fields, swimming pool, children’s playground, and rustic buildings across from the trailhead.
It all adds up to a great trail system with lots of interesting and beautiful options to explore.
View the Deer Creek Tribute Trail Map
Only a mile from the heart of Nevada City, here is a trail system that gets you quickly out into nature. The centerpiece is lovely Hirschman’s Pond, named after brothers who were pioneer miners and merchants of the area. The eastern 0.4 mile of trail is constructed to ADA standards, providing barrier-free access to Hirschman’s Pond.
From the trailhead the trail weaves westward along in thick forest, first passing then several small seasonal ponds that in winter and spring may be alive with noisy frogs. Highlighting this section of trail is a 40-foot long trestle that was built to replicate the railroad and flume construction techniques of the late 1800s. Here are nice views of Hirschman’s Pond as you reach its shore.
Hirschman’s Pond is five acres of water from natural sources at the foot of tall cliffs carved by hydraulic mining of the area. Now people visit to enjoy the tranquil scenery, fish along the shore, and view wildlife including ducks, geese and heron on the pond. There is a nice bench on the south shore of the pond for taking in the view, and an area of large smooth rocks on the west picnicking.
For 2-miles west of the pond, the trail climbs then reaches a ridge and begins to drop down the side of a shallow valley where you will find a large open meadow. The meadow is the only place of its kind on this hike — a place to explore if you wish and to ponder Native American and pioneer history of the area.
View the Hirschman Trail Map
Cascade Canal Trail
This easy trail offers an almost level walk along a peaceful historic miners’ canal through a forest with many Douglas firs and dogwoods. At 3,200′ elevation, it is a bit higher and cooler than many local trails. There are several places along the route where views open up briefly to more distant scenery.
This is an easy trail to follow since it runs along the open water of the Cascade Canal for most of its 4.5 mile length. One of the best viewpoints along the entire canal trail is where there is a red sluice gate across the canal. Here you can look out through thinned forest and see downtown Nevada City and distant ridges beyond. The white spire of St. Candice church and the bulk of the Nevada County courthouse are the most obvious landmarks visible in the town.
View the Cascade Canal Trail Map
Orene Wetherall Trail
If you hanker for some elevation change try the Orene Wetherall Trail. This is a nice 2 mile loop trail that switchbacks down through lovely forest then you climb back up to the Cascade Canal Trail. This trail gives you an elevation change of about 350′ down and 350′ back up.
The trail goes through the Woodpecker Preserve, a 28 acre parcel of land donated to Bear Yuba Land Trust. You may spot wildlife in this area since it is a nature preserve, and on clear days you will have some good views toward Nevada City and the mountains beyond. It was named for a mated pair of Pileated Woodpeckers that lived in the tall trees for many years, which they have left to their descendents.
View the Orene Wetherall Trail Map
Marty Coleman-Hunt, Executive Director
Bear Yuba Land Trust is a private, non-profit, membership-supported group promoting voluntary conservation of our natural, historical and agricultural resources through protection and enhancement of natural areas, farms and ranches, trails and parks to provide a lasting community heritage. We save land, build trails and get people outdoors to discover nature. For more information on trails and guided hiking events visit our website at www.bearyubalandtrust.org