Past Meetup

INDEPENDENCE TRAIL Nevada City, California

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4 people went

Location image of event venue



To Start
Take Hwy. 49 and go 5.5 miles north of Nevada City.

You can park in turnouts near the trailhead which is located about a half a mile south
of the Yuba River. Warning - Be careful with the traffic on Hwy 49.

There is Wheelchair Accessibility for 1.5 miles in each direction of the trailhead.
This trail follows the path of the Excelsior Canal which was built during the Gold Rush.
You'll enjoy lots of wildflowers in the Spring.

The East Trail is an out and back 1-mile each way. The West Trail is an out and back 2.5-miles each way. Altogether it will be 7-miles of beautiful, ultra-easy, flatness.

Information from Sequoya Challenge, a non-profit corporation in partnership with California State Parks and Recreation

The very first wilderness trail in the country with wheelchair accessibility is found in the Gold Country in California. Six miles north of Nevada City on State Highway 49, the Trail is truly a unique natural and historic jewel. Today, the Trail demonstrates another sign of independence because it is managed and maintained by both private and public sectors.

The main entrance to the Trail is on Highway 49, near the South Yuba River bridge. Parking is available beside the road, with several marked disabled spaces. Highlighting the West Trail is a waterfall one mile from the entrance. Also featured on the west side is an overlook of the Yuba River, surrounded by canyon flora. The East Trail features cliff-hanging flumes, more views of the river and foothill landscapes, with a total of two and a half miles of maintained trail. There are picnic areas, outhouses, and scenic vistas all around.

The origin of the Independence Trail was an old, abandoned miner's ditch, previously known as the Excelsior Canal. It was built to carry water from the South Yuba river to hydraulic mining sites in Smartsville, 25 miles downstream. When California outlawed hydraulic mining in 1884, the ditch was used for irrigation until 1967, when it was abandoned. In 1975, a docent of the Oakland Museum, John Olmsted, re-discovered the whole water system consisting of the ditch, the berm, where the ditch-tender walked, and the wooden flumes which bridged the ravines. He had the vision to recognize that this could be the answer to a friend's lifelong dream: "Please find me a level wilderness trail where I can reach out and touch the wildflowers from my wheel chair."

We’ll start out on the west trail, going under the road and down the old Excelsior Canal – walking in the canal, on the berm alongside it, and on wooden flumes which once carried water across ravines and along the steeper canyon walls. We’ll pause at an observation deck and perhaps at the outhouse as we make our way to the Rush Creek overlook. Here we’ll take a break for snacks, to relax and enjoy the waterfall, and to go down the ramp to play around by the creek.

Then it’s on to Jones Bar Road, the end of the west branch of the Independence Trail. From here we can return the way we came or take the Jones Bar Trail back, completing a loop and cutting a significant distance from the return trip. We might want to consider this option if we’ve dallied too long at the creek and want to add the east branch of the Independence Trail to our hike.

However many miles we cover, I expect we’ll be on the trails for three or more hours – until 1:30 or 2:00, maybe 2:30. You’ll want to bring plenty of water and lunch or snacks.

This is a very easy hike with negligible elevation change.
There are bathrooms at the trailhead, outhouses along the west branch.
Dogs on leash, please pick up after.

Directions from Sacramento: Take Highway 80 to Auburn. Exit onto Route 49 heading north (exit right then turn left at the stoplight to go under the freeway). Stay on 49, making the left-hand turnoff just after Nevada City. Continue on approximately 5.5 miles to the trailhead, which is on the right-hand side of the road, with roadside parking along both sides of Highway 49.

More information:
South Yuba River State Park - (
Independence Trail Map - (
Pictures - http://www.nevadacoun... (http://www.nevadacoun..).

Attendees (4)