1. Hirschman Trail
Named after the Hirschman brothers who were Nevada City-area gold miners and merchants, Hirschman Trail can be found just outside of downtown Nevada City, with a trailhead on Cement Hill Rd. at HWY 49. There are actually multiple trailheads, but for visitors, the Cement Hill one will be the easiest to find. The trail winds just under a half mile through tall trees and immense granite boulders to Hirschman Pond, which lies at the foot of tall, sharp cliffs carved by hydraulic mining. The 5 acre pond is home to fish, ducks, geese, and the occasional heron. From there, the trail continues roughly another two miles, with no more than 150’ in elevation change. Hirschman Trail is a great way to feel like you’re getting lost in nature without actually getting out of town.
2. Purdon Crossing to Edward’s Crossing, S. Yuba River
This trail follows along the shaded, south side of the Yuba River, starting (or ending) at Purdon Crossing, just 4 miles from the Nevada City Retreats property. It offers a unique opportunity to experience several different microclimates and types of terrain, from mossy and fern-covered areas rich with streams, to dry, almost desert-like rock outcroppings, to dense forest. Walking from Purdon to Edward’s goes against the flow of the river, and thus will be a casual incline; you can hike the trail the opposite direction for a leisurely downhill stroll. It will help to have a drop-off and a pick-up vehicle, one parked at each crossing, unless you want to turn it into a 10 mile hike.
3. Independence Trail
No list of hiking trails in Nevada City can be complete without Independence Trail. (We actually featured it briefly in our promo video.) As the nation’s first ADA-approved wheelchair nature trail, and being completely volunteer-built, it represents the community’s commitment to ensuring everyone has the opportunity to experience our great outdoors. Located 7 miles outside of downtown Nevada City off of HWY 49, the easy-going trail follows along the old Excelsior Mining Ditch, winding through forested hills, over bubbling streams, and across wooden flumes that once carried the lifeblood of hydraulic mining. The mining was incredibly destructive in its time, but the natural beauty of the area has long since returned, and Independence Trail offers an exceptional way to experience and appreciate it. The grand finale is the 500’ Flume 28, which passes over a waterfall, creating a spectacular view out across the hills and forest. If there is one outdoor adventure you get to while in Nevada City, make it this one!
And there you have it. There are plenty of other hikes and adventures in the area, but these three are some of our local favorites that we keep going back to. Just remember, even on these “easy” hikes, you should always be cautious—rain and wind can alter trail conditions; dirt can erode, rock can break away, and fallen limbs can block access. So be safe, fill up your water bottle, and have fun! It’s amazing how invigorating a breath of fresh air can be.