Take a Hike through History in Nevada County, CA

Nevada County is one of the most beautiful places in the world to explore by foot. You can hike beside tranquil alpine lakes, admire sparkling waterfalls and granite outcrops, and follow in the footsteps of those miners of ’49.

If you hit the trails through the Empire Mine State Park, you can investigate the old gold mining sites and ruins left behind. Alternatively, you could head over to the remains of the largest hydraulic mine in the Union by following the trails through Malakoff Diggins Historic State Park. That’s where you’ll find the abandoned gold rush town known as “Humbug”.

Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

The gorgeous cliffs of Malakoff Diggins stand as testimony to the environmental damage caused by the reckless greed for gold. While destroying the mountain here, the North Bloomfield Gravel Mining Company released tons of gravel and mud that clogged major rivers and turned productive farms downstream into desolate wastelands.

For a really cool guided hike that honors local art, history, and nature, check out the Deer Creek Tribute Trail. The Historic Downtown section of the Deer Creek Tribute Trail System begins at Pioneer Park, on the Little Deer Creek Trail. This trail follows the creek to the bottom of Broad Street, where it continues on the city sidewalk. The trail connects to the Nisenan Bridge section via the Jordan Street and Miners Foundry trailheads. While exploring the Historic Downtown section, visit the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce in Robinson Plaza 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 around the intersection of York Street, then pay a visit to the beautifully landscaped little Chinese Memorial just 30 yards up Commercial Street past York Street on your right at the entrance to the municipal parking lot. There are public restrooms at Robinson Plaza and at the municipal parking lot by the Chinese Memorial. There are no restrooms, water fountains or trash cans in rural portions of the Tribute Trail.

Deer Creek Suspension Bridge. Photo by Allison Denton

The history of the Nisenan is told in a series of four interpretive signs positioned at intervals along the ditch trail. The Nisenan were devastated by the Gold Rush in 1849 and the subsequent boomtown development of Nevada City. Early placer mining in and around Deer Creek was quickly followed by hydraulic mining and hard rock mining in the 1850s and 1860s respectively. The Providence Mine, remnants of which can be seen from this trail, and the Champion Mine across Deer Creek, were the two largest producing gold mines of the Nevada City mining district. The Rough & Ready Ditch, which a part of this trail follows, was built in 1850. Sixteen miles long, the ditch brought water from Deer Creek about 5 miles east of Nevada City to the mining area of Rough & Ready.

Today, you and your beloved can relax as you meander past the majestic oaks, cedars, and pines that thrive in the Sierra Nevada foothills. For more ideas about hiking around Nevada County, check out the free maps of the trails around Nevada City on the Bear Yuba Land Trust website.