Trip Ideas

Truck driving on a scenic stretch of the South Yuba River

Exploring The Hidden Part Of Nevada County – Small Town Gems

As part of your journey to Nevada County’s charming Gold Rush towns, make it a point to explore the hidden side of Nevada County on your next visit. Here’s some of the hidden gems you may not even know about… and should.

Tips & Resources

For more ideas on what to do, where to stay and what to eat on Donner Summit visit the Donner Summit Association’s website

Sip Your Way To Fun On The Sierra Vintners California Wine Trail

By Alex Silgalis

Nevada County invites you to savor the essence of every season. Take pleasure in the crisp aroma of pine lingering in the air. Wander through the storied streets of our Gold Rush towns like Nevada City, Grass Valley, and Truckee. Discover unique treasures within our one-of-a-kind stores. Rather than simply heading straight to our renowned attractions, infuse your journey with the spirit of adventure by exploring our charming small-town gems along the way. Prepare to be amazed by the hidden gems you’ll uncover. Here’s a glimpse into a few extraordinary finds that don’t typically make it onto an ordinary itinerary.

Go For A Stroll On The Black Swan Trail

Image appears courtesy: Bear Yuba Land Trust

On your way east from the California coast, take a refreshing break at the Black Swan Trail. It’s one of Bear Yuba Land Trust’s newest protected areas. This delightful two-mile loop trail, completed in the summer of 2014, is a haven for bird enthusiasts all year round. Situated on a hydraulic cliff escarpment, it offers breathtaking vistas of the picturesque Black Swan Pond.

Afterward, pay a visit to Gray Pine Winery, celebrated for its Bordeaux varietals and a proud member of Nevada County’s esteemed Sierra Vintners Trail. Given their limited annual production of just 350 cases, seizing a few bottles is a must. Not a fan of wine? Swing by Bullmastiff, a micro-brewery in Penn Valley, offering a range of brews from easy-drinking to hop-forward options, including a sugar-free hard seltzer. And make sure not to overlook the iconic Bridgeport Covered Bridge, a lasting symbol and one of the country’s longest remaining covered bridges.

Grab a Drink In The Hotel At The Town Of Washington

Image appears courtesy: The Washington Hotel

Nestled along a serene stretch of the South Yuba River lies the peaceful town of Washington. Despite now hosting only 137 permanent residents, in the late 19th century, it bustled as a booming hub teeming with thousands of miners in pursuit of their fortunes. At the heart of this quaint town stands the historic Washington Hotel which housed many of these miners. Erected in 1857, it faced destruction by fire in both 1867 and 1896. You can 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. Afterwards, pull up to the very same bar inside the hotel frequented by esteemed guests like Wyatt Earp and President Grover Cleveland for a sip of whiskey.

Go Back In Time With A Stay At The Historic Clair Tappaan Lodge

Exterior of the Clair Tappaan Lodge in the summer
Image appears courtesy: Clair Tappaan Lodge

Built more than 90 years ago by the hands of a dedicated group of Sierra Club volunteers, this historic rustic mountain hotel isn’t your typical luxury retreat. Rather it’s a time capsule back to a different era. Step into a world where family-style meals are shared in the cafeteria, melodious tunes drift from the piano in the main room, and laughter echoes from the library where guests engage in lively board games. It serves as the quintessential basecamp for outdoor enthusiasts who prioritize immersing themselves in the wonders of Donner Summit, whether in the summer or winter.

Scenic Drive Alert! Take the Lincoln Highway “Old 40” Down Donner Summit

rock climbing on Donner Summit
Image appears courtesy: Visit Truckee-Tahoe – Donner Summit School

Many speeding along I-80 overlook the outdoor haven that Donner Summit offers. Despite being just minutes off the interstate, the renowned ‘Lincoln Highway‘ feels like an escape from the rapid pace of daily life. Here, a multitude of hiking trails awaits, including the vibrant wildflower trails of Van Norden Meadow and Donner Summit Canyon. Explore the  20 mile outdoor museum where hiking merges with local history. Discover world-class granite walls ideal for climbing enthusiasts. In winter, it transforms into a skier’s paradise with four ski resorts and expansive backcountry ski terrain. For more details on what to explore, visit the Donner Summit Association’s website.

Truckee’s Hidden Sapphire To The Outdoors

As you descend towards Truckee, start your day first at the iconic Donner Lake Kitchen. This beloved breakfast spot is mere footsteps from the shore of Donner Lake. Known as one of Truckee’s finest family-friendly restaurants, it serves generous portions to fuel you for a day packed with adventures. Once energized, make your way to Donner Memorial State Park. Located on the other side of the lake, this park encapsulates Wild West history, showcases breathtaking scenery, and boasts numerous must-see attractions. In any other location, Donner Memorial State Park might easily qualify as a national park. Welcome to one of the Truckee-Tahoe region’s best-kept hidden gems.


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.

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