Earth Day Outings in the Yuba Watershed

Feeling cooped up after a long, cold winter of social distancing? Looking to get out and explore the watershed? We put together a list of local destinations in our watershed and indicated which are well suited for keeping your distancing and which ones tend to be more crowded. Each of these locations are between a 20 and 40 minute drive from Nevada City. We ask that you please continue to follow the rules set forth by Nevada County when venturing out. We hope you have a chance to enjoy nature and explore a new destination in our watershed.

South Yuba State Park at Bridgeport

Bridgeport Crossing is probably the most popular location for river goers and those searching for great wildflower viewing. The  Buttermilk Trail can be crowded, so we recommend going at off-times. 

Black Swan Trail

Image Credit: GoNevadaCounty.org
Image Credit: Bear Yuba Land Trust

The Black Swan trailhead is located off of Mooney Flat Road in Smartsville and maintained by the Bear Yuba Land Trust. This beautiful two-mile loop trail is great for wildflower viewing as well as birdwatching. Hikers will catch a beautiful glimpse of Black Swan Lake from above. 

Fairy Falls

Image: John Van Atta (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Image: Christopher Bruno (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Fairy Falls Trail is a five mile loop that starts at an old mine and leads hikers through varied terrain before arriving at Beale/Shingle Falls, a stunning 100-foot waterfall.

Bear River Campground

Images: Gary Moon

Bear River Campground is an ideal hiking spot where one can still maintain social distancing. While the full parking lot may give the impression that this place is crowded, the 1.5-mile trail to the day-use area is a wide service road, which can offer plenty of space between hikers.

Tahoe National Forest

This adventure will take a bit more time in the car (about 1.25 hours). If you head up Highway 20, just past Harmony Ridge you’ll enter the Tahoe National Forest (TNF). Look for the Rock Creek Nature Study Area or other pullouts on TNF land that exist all the way to Conservation Camp Road. There’s plenty of flat space to stretch your legs and find solitude in the forest. Be mindful of staying on TNF land and respecting private property.

Highway 49 from Nevada City to Sierra City

Heading toward Sierra City on Highway 49, you will cross the south fork of the Yuba and the middle fork at Oregon Creek. As Highway 49 catches up to the north fork of the Yuba River, you’ll find plenty of small parks and pull-offs along the highway with breathtaking views of the river canyon where you will likely not run into crowds of people. 

Sycamore Ranch & Hammon Grove Park - Lower Yuba

Images: Mark Anthony

Head down the hill and visit the lower Yuba River at these two quiet little riverside parks.  Sycamore Ranch and Hammon Bar Park are both located 20 miles from Grass Valley and offer a great place to take a stroll by the river and catch a glimpse of river otters playing in the grass or turtles sunning on a log.

* Road construction is currently happening on Hwy 20 west of Parks Bar. Expect delays.

Explore New Trails

With three Yuba tributaries and 1,500 square miles in our watershed social distancing is easier than you think.  Check out these resources to find new trails near you.

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