So much to do, so little time.
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Touting such esteemed ski locations as Sugar Bowl (one of Olympian Daron Rahlves’ first training grounds) and Boreal and events like the Amgen Tour (which Nevada City served as the 2010 stage one starting point while Truckee hosted stage two for the 2011 tour), Nevada County flies under the radar as one of the nation’s ultimate playgrounds, which is just the way we like it. And, while skiing and biking may be what attracts a good share of Nevada County visitors (and residents), gold panning, kayaking, rafting, golf, fishing and hiking round out a roster of year-round activities.
The Nevada City Bicycle Classic says it all. Endless mountain bike trails say even more. The Classic is the second-oldest race in the nation and in addition to die-hard local riders, the Father’s Day event attracts the likes of Lance Armstrong and Greg LeMond. Off-road riding is just as popular, making the area one of the most popular bicycling areas in the U.S. with trails crisscrossing the Yuba River and meandering through the Sierra Nevada foothills and peaks. Tour of Nevada City Bicycle Shop offers year-round rides and classes as well as rentals, gear and great advice and the Bicyclists of Nevada County keeps an updated guide of off-road trails.Cyclepaths in downtown Truckee provides High Sierra maps, shuttles and tours.
A wise man once said land was created to provide a place for boats to visit. This adage certainly applies to Nevada County where lakes, streams and reservoirs offer plenty of boating options. Boaters love exploring Rollins Lake near Colfax or Bullard’s Bar Reservoir and Scotts Flat Lake in Nevada City. In Penn Valley boaters can launch a day of fun at Englebright and Martis Creek lakes. High country boaters gravitate to Donner Lake, Bowman Lake and Stampede/Boca reservoir areas. For a different slant on the boating theme, try a day of white water rafting with one of the outfitters that operate on the nearby American, Yuba and Truckee rivers.
Sometimes the average slope or hike just won’t do. Pacific Crest Heli-Guides recently began taking guests up and out to provide access to some of the Sierra’s remote backcountry snow. Operating out of the Truckee Tahoe Airport, the guides also lead fishing, hiking, camping, and mountain biking treks. Die-hard winter enthusiasts can also include avalanche education and ice climbing to their repertoire at Alpine Skills International.
A climate moderated by a wide range of elevations makes fishing possible throughout the year. Depending on when and where you go, species range from rainbow or German trout (with some steelhead, brook and mackinaw), to bass, kokanee salmon, and pan fish. Popular spots in the higher elevation include Boca and Stampede Reservoirs and the Truckee River. Favorite foothill locales include the Yuba River, Scotts Flat, Bowman Lake, and the Grouse Lakes Area. Fly-fishing is popular and ice fishing is available. Mountain Hardware in Truckee offers current conditions, tips, maps and gear.
Geologists estimate that in spite of the enormous amount of gold that was discovered and extracted during the California Gold Rush days, there is as much as 80 percent of the 1849 mother load remaining underground. Modern day Nevada County gold panners range from those who are happy to find a flake or two while enjoying an afternoon on the river to a cache of experienced diehards intent on striking it rich. Ranger-lead gold panning tours are available at South Yuba River State Park, which features the longest single-span covered bridge in existence. The tiny town of Washington, East of Nevada City, is also a popular gold panning area (information sheets are available at Tahoe National Forest, 631 Coyote St., Nevada City, Ca. 95959, 530.426.3609. Additionally, the Penn Valley’s Lifetime Ranch offers “treasures in bag,” gold panning and gem hunting weekend programs for young and old. Serious miners should contact the Bureau of Land Management in El Dorado Hills for more detailed information, 916.941.3101.
When the snow melts in the Sierra, the courses come to life. While the Jack Nicklaus-Signature Old Greenwood lent prestige to the mountain greens, courses like Coyote Moon, with its secluded rolling hills, towering pines and wildflowers were already faring pretty well on their own. South County courses, Alta Sierra and Nevada County Country Club are open year-round.
Hiking is more than just a means of transportation and there’s no better way to explore Nevada County than by foot. Whether you’re passing through the peaks on the Pacific Crest or learning about the local flora and fauna on the wheelchair-friendly Independence Trail, there’s no shortage of discovery amongst the endless acres of terrain. In addition to pristine alpine lakes, granite outcroppings, waterfalls, streams, and meadows, guests can get a glimpse of history. The Emigrant Trail Museum has exhibits on the ill-fated pioneers of the 1800s and Empire Mine State Park’s trails meander through historic mining sites, old foundations, and equipment.
The Bear Yuba Land Trust is very happy to offer detailed maps, GPS coordinates and reviews of our exciting trails, for biking, hiking and horseback riding. A link to Grass Valley and Nevada City trails on the Bear Yuba Land Trust website is here, including a printable version of a trail map.
Kayaking and Rafting
The Yuba, American and Truckee Rivers are a paddler’s oasis for fast waters while alpine lakes and reservoirs beckon solace-seeking kayakers. Everything from three-hour tours to multi-day excursions are available for everyone from families to class-five thrill seekers. Rentals, classes and guides are available from Tributary Whitewater Tours.
Nevada County Fall Colors
Autumn may just be the best season for visitors to make their way to Nevada County. The crowds have died down and the weather is moderate and sunny with a slight morning chill – creating just the right conditions for refulgent fall colors. Hiking trails are framed with the golden hues of ambers, oak, and elm trees while the historic landscapes of Nevada City and Grass Valley are afire with intense maple reds.
Favorite strolls include meandering through the Victorian neighborhoods stemming from the historical hamlets near and around Pioneer and Memorial Parks. The Truckee River and Martis Valley also come alive with deep oranges, yellows and reds – you can pass through Martis Valley to get to the popular picturesque shack encompassed with aspens on Highway 267. Located on the South Yuba River in Penn Valley, Bridgeport offers up a dazzling display of colors. In addition to fall bird watching tours, guests can bask in the autumnal colors and learn more about the area’s history at the annual Fall Festival, which takes place the last Sunday of October.
Skiing and Snowboarding
It’s all about options and opportunity in the snow. Sugar Bowl may reign supreme in size, but Boreal boasts early season openings and an array of terrain parks for beginners to extreme skiers and riders. Small mountains, such as Soda Springs, Tahoe Donner and Donner Ski Ranch are oftentimes the perfect place for families, beginners and those looking to escape crowds. They also offer lift-accessible tubing and snow-play. Cross-country skiers and snowshoers can explore the backcountry (maps recommended and available at area ski shops and rental stores) or take to more than 180 kilometers of trails at Tahoe Donner Cross Country and Royal Gorge.
Nothing sheds the summer heat like a dip in one of Nevada County’s many swimming areas that include lakes, reservoirs and rivers. Enjoy a refreshing dunk at Rollins Lake near Colfax, Scotts Flat Lake in Nevada City and Penn Valley’s Lake Englebright and Bullards Bar Reservoir. Swimming pleasures abound at the South Yuba River and the Scenic Grouse Lakes Area near Donner Summit. Also consider cooling off in Truckee’s Donner Lake, Prosser Reservoir and Stampede/Boca reservoir areas.
Whether you’re here to play, perform or peruse, there’s always time for pampering. From upscale boutique day spas to spiritual yoga farms, Nevada County has a relaxation or revitalization escape for everyone. Day spas dot the main streets and reach back into forested enclaves, like Vela Massage Retreat, where services include outdoor hot tub and steam and sauna among the pines. Others include Wolf Mountain Day Spa and Spa by Courtyard, at Grass Valley Courtyard Suites, both in downtown Grass Valley. Bel Capelli Salon-Spa is in Nevada City.
For a deeper level of relaxation, the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm, offers instructor training, meditation retreats, courses in positive thinking, and even yoga vacations. To find listings and to add one click here.
Each spring, Nevada County partners up with Mother Nature to put on the most colorful wildflower show around. Depending on weather, this annual riot of vibrant color begins around March in lower elevations and continues into June and beyond in the high country. From March through April, wildflower peeping abounds in the Bridgeport area that skirts the South Yuba River. The Buttermilk Bend Trail features delicate Fairy Lanterns and Zig Zag Larkspur, among others. And don’t miss the wildflower-laden Independence Trail off Hwy. 49, 5.5 miles northwest of Nevada City. At the 6,000-foot elevation wildflower viewing gets started after the snow melts. The Loney Meadow Interpretive Trail in the Yuba River Ranger District and the Sagehen Creek Trail both offer spectacular wildflower viewing from mid-June to July; expect to see stunning Camas lilies, fawn lilies, and much more botanical bounty.