Nevada city attractions and information

 Nevada City , the Queen of the Northern Mines, one of the friendliest, liveliest and most colorful of all California Gold Rush towns! Nevada City's award-winning historic district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is considered to be among the best-preserved towns of the West.

But Nevada City is more than a historical site to see. It is a vibrant, thriving community and entertainment capital of the Sierra Nevada foothills. Visitors enjoy fine restaurants and lodgings, live theatre and music, specialty shopping, antiques, art galleries and museums.

Ringed by deep green hillsides and bordering the Tahoe National Forest, Nevada City is located just minutes from sparkling Sierra lakes and rivers and forested trail systems perfect for hiking and biking.

In recent years, the Nevada City lifestyle has attracted artists, writers, musicians and retirees as well as small business people and high-tech entrepreneurs who are able to locate their enterprises away from the pressures of big city life.

A Brief History of Nevada City

Today, Nevada City has a population of just 2,800 but it wasn't always so peaceful. In 1850, there were 10,000 boisterous souls living here, and in the general election of 1856, the 2,082 ballots cast in Nevada City were exceeded in the state only by Sacramento and San Francisco.

"People visiting here for the first time are struck by the old mining town appearance," says Edwin Tyson, curator of the Nevada County Historical Society's Searls Library, located near the County Courthouse.

"Preservation of the town's historic appearance is important to the people of Nevada City," Tyson said. The town's off-the-beaten-path location, on state highways 49 and 20, but away from the busy interstate highway system, has allowed Nevada City to retain its homespun charm.

Realizing the value of preserving city history for future generations, Tyson and other citizens were successful in 1985 in having the entire downtown area registered as a national historic landmark.

The historic district, including 93 buildings, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, eight individual buildings are listed on the register and the town also contains 18 state and local landmarks.

There is even a plaque in the National Hotel parking lot which is dedicated to the ladies of the evening and their unique contributions to the Gold Rush. The plaque was placed by the fun-loving fraternity of E Clampus Vitus.

As the county seat, Nevada City served for many years as the commercial, governmental and professional center of Nevada County. Since the turn of the century, however, it has gradually relinquished its domination of the retail trade to nearby Grass Valley and has in recent decades actively developed its tourism industry.

Nevada City developed along the banks of Deer Creek in 1849. Early reports told of miners who pulled a pound of paydirt a day from gold deposits along the creek. The town was first known as Deer Creek Dry Diggins and later as Caldwell's Upper Store. Several major fires in the 1850s and early 1860s convinced the townspeople to use more brick in rebuilding their structures.

Civic leaders named the town Nevada, Spanish for "snow-covered," in 1850 and the next year the newly-incorporated city became the Nevada County seat. The town's name was later changed to Nevada City after its title was borrowed by the state to the east.

Nevada City has had its share of firsts and famous people. Former U.S. President Herbert Hoover lived and worked here as a gold miner in his younger days. Three former U.S. senators, George Hearst, A. A. Sargent and William Morris Stewart, lived in Nevada City.

The consolidation of water companies that formed the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. occurred here and PG&E's first general office was located in the National Hotel. The area boasts several inventions in the fields of mining, water and electricity.

It was in May, 1853, that Professor Henry Durant, formerly of Yale University, met with a committee in Nevada City to formulate plans for an academy that was incorporated two years later as the College of California. It would later become the University of California, Berkeley.

While many California gold rush towns have disappeared into the pages of history, Nevada City has rebounded time and again to emerge as a unique blend of yesterday and today. Nevada City's current cultural and economic renaissance is again proof of the town's indomitable spirit.

"After more than a century of pioneer heritage," says Edwin Tyson, "Nevada City remains the most complete gold town in California. It is a genuine small town and a living museum."

Outdoor Recreation

Nevada City plays host to some of the most spectacular and diverse recreational opportunities in the country. Known for its world class mountain biking, kayaking and winter sports offerings, visitors from around the globe travel to Nevada and Sierra Counties to participate in their sports of choice at all athletic levels from beginner to professional.

Gold Panning

If you know where to look, it's not hard to find gold in Nevada County rivers.

Some of the most accessible gold panning locations
are on the South Yuba River at Bridgeport, Edwards Crossing and Washington, and on the Middle Yuba River at Oregon Creek. These are public stretches of river so you don't have to worry about claimjumping.

You'll need a 12-inch or 18-inch gold pan (available at local shops), a small shovel, bucket, spoon, pocketknife and a small vial for your gold flakes.

Kayaking & Rafting

Nevada City is considered the central hub of the West Coast for water sports enthusiasts of all types. Known as a world-class white water destination with an abundance of class-1 through class-5 offerings, downtown Nevada City is a short drive from the South Yuba, American, Bear and the south and middle sections of the North Fork of the Yuba river. Nevada City is in close proximity to the Sierra Nevada range which also offers an unlimited supply of pristine mountain lakes for recreational calm-water kayaking and canoeing.

Tributary Whitewater Tours
Guided white water rafting in the Gold Country & Lake Tahoe on the American River, Truckee River, Yuba River and many more. From mild to wild (kids form 4 yrs to Class 5 expert only). Half-day to 4 days.
Phone: (530) 346-6812
Phone: (800) 672-3846

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.

Hitting the trail....

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.

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.
- Mike Smittle, park ranger

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:
- Larry Clark, park ranger, John McKeehan, Sequoya Challenge.

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.
- Ken Surface, asst. trails mgr., Tahoe National Forest

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 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.
Jeff Jones, park ranger

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.
- Jeff Jones, park ranger

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.
- Jeff Jones, park ranger

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.
- Jim Eicher, Asst. Field Manager, Bureau of Land Management

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.

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.

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.

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.
Malakoff trails, Ken Huie, park ranger

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.
- Ken Surface, asst. trails manager, Tahoe National Forest

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










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