From the margins, Grass Valley is the ugly utilitarian sister to Nevada City, a place to stock up on supplies and get an oil change, not necessarily vacation, but there are treasures if you dig. Historic Mill and W Main Sts mark the town center. E Main St leads north to modern shopping centers and mini-malls and into Nevada City.
North Yuba River
The northernmost segment of Hwy 49 follows the North Yuba River through some stunning, remote parts of the Sierra Nevada, known for a tough, short season of white water and great fly-fishing. An entire lifetime outdoors could hardly cover the trail network that hikers, mountain-bikers and skiers blaze every season.
Downieville, the biggest town in remote Sierra County, is located at the junction of the North Yuba and Downie Rivers. With a reputation that quietly rivals Moab, Utah (before it got big), the town is one of the premiere places for mountain-bike riding in the US, and a staging area for true wilderness adventures.
Auburn State Recreation Area
This is a park of deep gorges cut by the rushing waters of the North and Middle Forks of the American River that converge below a bridge on Hwy 49, about 4 miles south of Auburn. In the early spring, when waters are high, this is immensely popular for white-water rafting, as the rivers are class II to V runs.
Sierra City & The Lakes Basin
Sierra City is the primary supply station for people headed to the Sierra Buttes, a rugged, rocky shock of mountains that are probably the closest thing to the Alps you’ll find in California without foisting a backpack. It’s also the last supply point for people headed into the fishing paradise of the Lakes Basin. There’s information about lodging and area activities at www.
South Yuba River State Park
Brisk swimming holes are fed by rushing rapids in this 11,000-acre plot along the South Yuba River, a combination of state and federal lands. This area has a growing network of trails, including the wheelchair-accessible Independence Trail, which starts from the south side of the South Yuba River bridge on Hwy 49 and continues for a couple miles with canyon overlooks.
Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park
An otherworldly testament to the mechanical determination of the gold hunt, Malakoff Diggins is a place to get lost on fern-lined trails and take in the raw beauty of a recovering landscape. The gold and crimson stratified cliffs and small mountains of tailings are curiously beautiful, and all part of the legacy of hydraulic mining.