Nevada City, a historic gold mining town just off Highway 49, is one of my favorite close destinations when I need a change of pace. It’s only about an hour from Truckee and, but it’s at ~2,400 feet elevation, so it’s cooler than the valley in the summer and warmer than the mountains in the winter. There are a ton of things to do in Nevada City year round and activities for everyone, indoors and outside.
Nevada City has a strong and growing mountain bike scene, with awesome trail building and improvement done by BONC. My favorite trail in the area is Hoot (read my trail report here) and I also like Scott’s Flat Trail.
For non mountain bikers, there’s tons of great hiking in the area. I like Hirschman Trail, an easy, out and back trail that’s about 5 miles round trip. Another great trail is the Deer Creek Tribute Trail, an easy trail that’s about 3.6 miles one way, depending on the route taken. If you’re interested in the history of the area, this trail is a great choice as it honors Chinese and Nisean history of this area, with informational stations along the way.
If you’re looking for a trail along the river, Hoyt’s Trail in the South Yuba River State Park starts by the 49 Crossing area and travels 1.2 miles to a beach called Hoyt’s. Branching off from that trail are numerous steep and narrow trails that access the South Yuba River. If you’re visiting the South Yuba River in the summer, I have to recommend Gnarbuckling, a unique form of river travel that can only be done in the Yuba River.
The South Yuba River is one of the best rivers in California. In 1983, local activists formed the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) in order to protect it from dams. These activists were successful, and 39 miles of the South Yuba is permanently protected as one of California’s Wild & Scenic Rivers. The legacy of environmental activism lives on in Nevada City, and there are many local environmental non profits headquartered in town and in nearby Grass Valley. If you’re looking for a different way to spend time outside in this area, the environmental groups are often hosting volunteer events, ranging from litter pick ups to scotch broom removal to citizen science water monitoring. Check out volunteer opportunities at SYRCL, Bear Yuba Land Trust, and Sierra Streams Institute, just a few of my favorite organizations.
Nevada City is affectionately and accurately known as the place “where hippies go to retire”, and, because of that, there are way more arts and cultural activities than you’d expect in a town of around 3,000 people. My favorite of these is the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, hosted by SYRCL each year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend in January.
“The Wild & Scenic Film Festival is the largest film festival of its kind, showcasing the best and brightest in environmental and adventure films. Our 5-day flagship festival is held annually in the historic small towns of Nevada City and Grass Valley, California. Featuring more than 150 films in 10+ venues, workshops, visiting filmmaker and activist talks, family-friendly programs, art exhibitions, parties, and more–you won’t want to miss this festival!”
Nevada City also hosts the Nevada City Film Festival, which features independent films and filmmakers, and also hosts movies, concerts and live theater at several venues around town. During the summer, there are Art Walks on the first Friday of June, July, and August. No matter when you visit, there will be something going on.
Nevada City also has excellent farm to table restaurants, wineries with locally grown grapes and awesome local breweries. For tasting, stop by the Nevada City Winery, Szabo Vineyards Tasting Room or the Ol’ Republic Brewery Tasting Room.
If you’re looking for a place to eat, my favorites are Three Forks Brewery (the wood fired pizza is worth the wait and whatever the seasonal salad is), Roadhouse (biscuits and vegetarian gravy), Mi Pueblo Taqueria (chile relleno burrito) and Lefty’s Grill (another pizza recommendation, specifically the Napa pizza).
Nevada City is a great weekend getaway that I highly recommend!