Hiking & Local Trails

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 nightlife. See the walking tour maps to both 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.

Nevada City is fortunate enough to have the Tahoe National Forest as its back yard. With over 655 miles of accessible trails, numerous State Park, BLM and National Forest camp sites and unlimited lakes, rivers and streams for fishing enthusiasts, Nevada City has become known as “ground-zero” for non-motorized recreational participants. Castle Peak, Grouse Ridge and the Sierra Buttes areas host the Pacific Crest Trail, known to hikers from around the world as the prime hiking route of the western United States.

Trails in or near Downtown Nevada City…

Four local trails are accessible on foot from downtown or 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

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.

View the Deer Creek Tribute Trail Map

Hirschman Trail

hirschman trail

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.

View the Hirschman Trail Map

Cascade Canal Trail

cascade canal trail

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

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.

View the Orene Wetherall Trail Map

Trails within a short drive…

The following describes 16 trails, each with its own attractions and characteristics. Some are flat (two are wheelchair-accessible) and others demand fitness and climbing abilities. To help you find the right trail, we have included difficulty ratings as part of the trail descriptions.

Please help preserve Nevada County’s great outdoors; show respect for the environment, don’t litter and don’t trespass on private property. Carry water and be prepared for changing weather, especially at higher elevations. Always tell someone where you plan to hike and when you will return.

1. BRIDGEPORT BUTTERMILK BEND TRAIL
South Yuba River State Park
Trailhead: Off Pleasant Valley Road, upstream of Bridgeport, north side of river.
Where to park: North parking lot
Directions: From Grass Valley, west on Highway 20 to Penn Valley. Right (north) on Pleasant Valley Road, eight 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.

2. SOUTH YUBA RIVER INDEPENDENCE TRAIL
South Yuba River State Park Trailhead: Highway 49, 5.5 miles northwest of Nevada City Where to Park: Turnouts at and beyond trailhead. Use caution when crossing highway 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. Interesting note: Flume and canal systems built to carry water now carry people. Special features: Wildflower walks in Spring. Website: www.sequoyachallenge.org

3. ROCK CREEK NATURE TRAIL
Tahoe National Forest Trailhead: Off access road, seven miles east of Nevada City Where to park: At trailhead Directions: Highway 20 east from 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: 0.8-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.

4. HARDROCK TRAIL
Empire Mine State Historic Park
Trailhead: Empire Mine Visitor Center
Where to park: Main parking lot
Directions: Exit Highway 49 at Empire Street, drive east one mile to park.
Distance of hike: 2 mile loop
Degree of difficulty: 2
Seasons: Year-around
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 Gate equestrian staging area.This trail is multi-use, open to hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians. Dogs must be leashed. Open daily sunrise to sunset. Trail maps are available at park visitor center.

5. 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 Visitor Center) or at Pennsylvania Gate staging area (free entry for hikers).
Directions: Exit Highway 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-around
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.

6. UNION HILL TRAILS
Empire Mine State Historic Park
Trailhead: Highway 174 at Empire Street.
Where to park: Empire Street opposite Empire Court, at the Pennsylvania Gate equestrian staging area.
Directions: Exit Highway 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-around
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.

7. 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: Highway 49 to No. Bloomfield Road. Drive eight miles, past the river, follow signs to the campground and trailhead.
Distance: 7.5 miles one way
Degree of difficulty: 7
Season: Year-around
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 maintained camping. Swimming, fishing, nature study.

8. RIM TRAIL (Malakoff Diggins)
Trailhead: North Bloomfield Road or Malakoff Campground. Parking.
Directions: From Nevada City, Highway 49 north to Tyler-Foote Crossing Road, then right (east) to Malakoff Diggins.
Distance of hike: 3 miles
Degree of difficulty: 6
Seasons: Year-around. Some snow in winter.
Historical significance: Views of the Malakoff hydraulic diggings
Special features: Pine and cedar forests. No Dogs. Bicycles Okay.

9. DIGGINS LOOP TRAIL
Trailhead: Diggins Overlook, North Bloomfield Road. Parking.
Distance of hike: 3-mile loop
Degree of difficulty: 3
Seasons: Year-around. Some snow in winter.
Historical significance: Trail loops through what was once the largest hydraulic mining operation in the U.S.

10. BLAIR TRAIL
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-around. 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.

11. NORTH BLOOMFIELD TRAIL
Trailhead: North Bloomfield Road, village of North Bloomfield
Where to park: Near the trailhead, in town.
Distance of hike: 3/4 mile
Degree of difficulty: 6
Seasons: Year-around. Some snow in winter.
Special features: Pine and cedar forests.

12. MISSOURI BAR TRAIL
Tahoe National Forest
Trailhead: Located off Forest Road No. 729-3
Where to park: At the trailhead
Directions: From Nevada City, Highway 49 north to Tyler-Foote Crossing Road, then right (east) to Malakoff Diggins and Relief Hill Road. Follow signs.
Distance: 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.

13. HUMBUG CREEK TRAIL
Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park
Trailhead: North Bloomfield Road in the state park.
Where to park: Trailhead parking lot.
Distance: 3 miles each way
Degree of difficulty: 6. Includes a 1,000-foot return climb out of the river canyon
Season: Year-around
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 with 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.
- Hank Meals, co-author, Yuba Trails

14. So. Yuba Trail, East
South Yuba River Canyon
Trailhead: Hike upstream from the trailhead at the South Yuba Campground. To hike downstream, begin at Poorman Creek, two miles downstream from the little town of Washington. Both trails are clearly marked.
Where to park: Ample parking at trailheads.
Directions: The South Yuba Campground is reached from Nevada City via North Bloomfield Road to Grizzly Hill Road. Poorman Creek is reached via Highway 20 and Washington Road to the town of Washington. Cross the bridge and follow the signs to the trailhead.
Distance of hike: 16 miles one-way
Degree of difficulty: 5 (but it will take all day)
Seasons: Year-around
Historical Significance: Thousands of placer miners occupied this area during and after the Gold Rush.
Special features: Grand views, huge oaks, beautiful pools and solitude.
- Hank Meals, co-author, Yuba Trails

For More Information

For more detailed information on Nevada County trails, check with local State Parks or Forest Service ranger stations:

Tahoe National Forest
U.S. Forest Service
Coyote Street & Highway 49
Nevada City, CA 95959
(530) 265-4531

Gold Mines Sector
Calif. Department of Parks & Recreation
10556 East Empire St.
Grass Valley, CA 95945
(530) 273-3884

For historic trail information, see:

Yuba Trails: A Selection of Historic Hiking Trails in the Yuba River Watershed
By Susan Lamela & Hank Meals
$13.95 at local book stores

For lodging, dining and other visitor services:

Grass Valley/Nevada County
Chamber of Commerce

248 Mill Street
Grass Valley, CA 95945
(530) 273-4667

Nevada City Chamber of Commerce
132 Main Street
Nevada City, CA 95959
(530) 265-2692

Nevada County Gold
www.ncgold.com
This is published as a service of The Joint Chambers of Commerce of Nevada County