Hiking & Local Trails

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.

Nevada City Trails

Take a long walk on the trails in and around the historic Gold Rush town of Nevada City.  Here is a list of some of our favorite Nevada City Trails, either walkable from downtown or located just a short drive away. The good news with all of these outings is the accessibility to the outdoors and proximity to in-town coffee shops, restaurants, wineries, pubs, art galleries and theaters.

Follow each link for maps, detailed descriptions and directions to trailheads.

Deer Creek Tribute Trail

deer creek suspension bridge nevada city

This popular trail begins as an urban stroll through downtown Nevada City. In almost no time, you can be out of town on the Tribute Trail and walking in a quiet rural neighborhood near Deer Creek. For first-timers, finding the trail is a bit of a challenge and numerous sections make for some planning before heading out. A suspension bridge spans a beautiful section of Deer Creek, connecting to the Environs Trail on the other side. more info

Deer Creek Environs Trail

deer creek environs trail

This two-mile forested Environs Trail loop (part of the larger Deer Creek Tribute Trail system) follows the old Rough and Ready ditch and remnants of the Providence Mine. Interpretive signs along the trail tell of the history, language and culture of the native Nisenan Tribe of the Nevada City Rancheria. Hikers and bikers can glimpse traces of Nevada City’s Gold Rush history. more info

Hirschman Trail

hirschman trail nevada city

Only a mile from the heart of downtown Nevada City, the Hirschman Trail, located at the foot of Cement Hill Road is wheelchair accessible for the first 0.4 miles and ideal for families with younger children. Named after the Hirschman brothers, pioneer miners and merchants of the area, the lovely Hirschman’s Pond is the centerpiece of this trail. West of the pond the trail narrows and meanders through oak woodlands, pines, and grasslands. more info

Sugarloaf Mountain

sugarloaf mountain hiking trail nevada city

Nearby, the iconic landmark, Sugarloaf Mountain is a nice hike with 360 views of Nevada City’s fall foliage and distant mountains. Most of the 30 acres is steep and heavily wooded but the top is flat — a great place for sitting on a bench and looking back down on the town and out to distant mountains. A trail to the top follows the grade of an old road. more info

Cascade Canal Trail

cascade canal trail nevada city

On Banner Mountain east of Nevada City, this popular trail offers an almost level walk along a peaceful canal through a forest with many Douglas firs and dogwoods. At 3,200 feet 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. more info

Independence Trail

independence trail nevada city

Located just over six miles from downtown Nevada City, the forested Independence Trail founded by Naturalist John Olmsted was the first wheelchair accessible wilderness trail in the country. Because of the easy, level grade, this is a good walking trail for families and folks with limited mobility. more info

Pioneer Trail

When the air cools, the Highway 20 corridor is a special place with interesting color, low angle light and shadow that produce a spectacular combo, especially for mountain bicyclists. The trail closely follows the route of Highway 20 from the Five Mile House, five miles east of Nevada City, to Bear Valley. more info

Hoyt Trail

hoyt crossing yuba river

For an enjoyable easy to moderate scenic river walk above the South Yuba River, visit Hoyt Trail located about 6.9 miles northwest of Nevada City. This trail leads to swimming holes along the South Yuba River and the historic Hoyt Crossing.  Southern exposure means warmth on cool days on this trail a mix of live oak woodland, chaparral and occasional conifers. more info

Spring Creek Trail

spring creek trail nevada city

This short, easy to moderate, mostly level hike to Spring Creek is a beautiful place to picnic and view thousands of lady bugs on the trunks of trees at the trail’s end. The trailhead is not sign posted. The trail is mostly level with a few washed out areas at access spurs down to the South Yuba. These sloped areas can be easily traversed with some caution. more info

Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

North Bloomfield Malakoff Diggins

Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park is the site of California’s largest hydraulic mine. Visitors can see huge cliffs carved by mighty streams of water, results of the gold mining technique of washing away entire mountains to find the precious metal. Recreationists will find more than 20 miles of scenic foothill trails with degrees of difficulty varying from easy to strenuous. The renowned South Yuba Trail connects to this park’s trail network. more info

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.

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

For more information on trails and guided hiking events visit our website at www.bearyubalandtrust.org

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

Trails near the South Yuba River…

SouthYuba 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.

South 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.

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.

Trails in Grass Valley…

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.

Osborne Hills Trail

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.

Union Hills Trail

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.

For maps of local trails in Nevada County visit:

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