Trip Ideas

the sunset over the landscape outside of Washington CA

Things To Do In The Little Town Of Washington

Despite its small size, the little town of Washington is a must for history buffs, outdoor lovers, and anyone seeking a taste of the untamed beauty along the South Yuba River.

Tips & Resources

History buffs should check out our museums page and these four other spots in our article: Top 5 Must See Stops For History Buffs In Nevada County.

Especially in the early & mid season the snow melt can make the Yuba River Flow incredibly dangerous. Don’t be a statistic. If it looks dangerous instead hit up one of our pools or alpine lakes listed in our article Yuba River Swimming Holes Do’s & Don’ts.

By Alex Silgalis

Looking for a weekend summer getaway? Consider heading to the little town of Washington CA for a visit. It’s home to big history, beautiful scenery, and a world away from the hustle and bustle of civilization.

How “The Little Town Of Washington” Came To Be

In the fall of 1849, a company from Indiana arrived at a stretch of river and decided to remain through the winter to start a township. In July 1850, the name of Washington was adopted. Soon after, men stared working the gold rich South Yuba River making it one of the oldest mining towns in California. High amounts of gold were found in this area, molding these hills into “The Little Town of Washington.”

A Crucial Stage Route

The road leading down to Washington CA
Image taken by: Kial James

The Washington Mining District was always served by operators of small stage lines. A daily trip used to leave The National Hotel in Nevada City at 7 AM and arrive in Washington around noon. Located on Highway 20 between Washington and Nevada City was the Six Mile House. This was used to rest between trips or take shelter from the weather. Now it takes about a half hour via car.

Things To Do… Today

At its peak, thousands called this place home. Today, the once bustling town has dwindled to just under 200 residents. Despite its small size, this quaint village holds immense appeal for history buffs, outdoor lovers, and anyone seeking a taste of the untamed beauty along the South Yuba River. If mountain biking is your passion, don’t forget to bring your gear. You’ll want to explore the Parliament trail system en route to Washington.

Grab A Drink Or Stay At The Washington Hotel

Image appears courtesy: The Washington Hotel

Nestled in the heart of town stands the historic Washington Hotel. Constructed in 1857, the hotel still welcomes guests to this day. As one of California’s oldest hotels, it exudes charm and character. Enjoy a delightful lunch on the spacious deck, offering picturesque views overlooking the South Yuba River. On a sunny summer afternoon, it’s the perfect spot to soak in the beauty of the river and transport yourself back in time to its heyday more than a century ago. Or, slide up to the very same bar frequented by notable figures like Wyatt Earp and President Grover Cleveland.

Take In History

As you wander through town, you’ll encounter several historical plaques offering fascinating glimpses into its rich past. Notable landmarks such as the Kohler Building, Brimskill Building, and the recently shuttered one-room schoolhouse proudly display these plaques.

Like many bustling towns of its era, Washington boasted its own Chinatown, situated along the banks of the South Yuba River. By 1870, the Chinese miners and laborers outnumbered all other populations. But by 1890, their numbers had shrunk to just a few hundred. This famous settlement played a pivotal role in the mining heyday of the Washington District. Today, a tranquil campground occupies the site where this vibrant Chinatown once thrived.

Embrace The South Yuba

The rushing waters of the South Yuba River against the rocky landscape near Washington CA
The mighty Yuba just outside the little town of Washington – Image taken by: Kial James

Nestled within the steep and rugged walls of the river’s canyon, each season offers a distinct spectacle. In spring, native Dogwoods burst into bloom alongside a profusion of wildflowers, painting the landscape with vibrant colors. Autumn brings its own enchantment with the mesmerizing transformation of foliage into a tapestry of fall hues.

This Part Of The Yuba Is Especially Wild

If you want to immerse yourself in the beauty of the river, consider embarking on a hike or a bike ride along its banks. It’s important to exercise caution, especially during spring and early summer when the river swells from snowmelt, rendering it cold and potentially treacherous. This stretch of the river is renowned for its wildness, boasting rapids ranging from Class II to near-Class V, including a formidable 12-foot drop. Adventurers should approach with care and respect for the untamed power of nature.

Try Gold Panning

Last but not least you can still get a taste of the Gold Rush era by trying your own luck on gold panning at the Keleher or Quartz picnic areas just outside town.

For directions and more information, visit the Washington Hotel’s website here.


Alex Silgalis

Alex founded Local Freshies® in 2014 to be the #1 website providing the “local scoop” on where to eat, drink & play in mountain towns throughout North America. When he’s not writing and executing marketing strategies for small businesses & agencies, he’s in search of the deepest snow in the winter and tackiest dirt in the summer.

Related Posts