Our county is green and wildflowers are springing up everywhere. Here are a few places you can go to enjoy the beauty.
- The trails at Bridgeport, in the South Yuba River State Park. There are wildflower tours Saturdays and Sundays at 11am, but you can go there anytime.
- Penn Valley’s Gateway Park. This is a great place to get together with friends and family with sports fields, playgrounds, picnic areas, an awesome disc golf course, and lovely little creek running through.
Driving Tours (from Grass Valley at the 49/20 intersection. Consider Dramamin or Bonine if you get carsick, these are winding roads.):
- Take Highway 20 west to Pleasant Valley Road. Pleasant Valley Road north to Bridgeport. Get out, walk around, have a picnic, then get back in the car and continue north up the winding road to French Corral. Stop at French Corral to read the historic marker, then continue up Pleasant Valley Road to Hwy 49. Take 49 South through the canyon. Consider stopping at the South Yuba River for more hiking, or just a nice view of the river. Halfway up the south side of the canyon is the awesome Independence Trail, if you’re still up for a hike. Otherwise, continue back to Nevada City where you can get back on the Freeway.
- Other options: Bitney Springs Road runs from just west of Grass Valley on the Rough & Ready Hwy to Pleasant Valley Rd. Whether you drive up from Pleasant Valley or down from Grass Valley this way, it shortens the loop described above, and is full of great scenery. Ready for a rough road? When you leave Bridgeport, there is a left turn onto a gravel road just a short distance up the hill—this leads to Rice’s Crossing. At the top of the hill, turn right and take the old Rice’s Crossing road up the hill. It comes out just below French Corral on Pleasant Valley Road. This is a great hike, too. Or take Mooney Flat Road west from Pleasant Valley Road (right after the Lake Wildwood Dam) down past Englebright Lake. Mooney Flat takes you right back to Hwy 20. This is a short loop.
- Take McCourtney Road past the Fairgrounds and continue all the way down to Wolf Road. Take Wolf Road back to Hwy 49. Along the way you’ll see lots of beautiful scenery. Once you’re back at 49, you can return to Grass Valley, or continue across 49 and follow Combie Road to Magnolia Rd. Keep on Magnolia to Dog Bar. A left on Dog Bar will take you all the way back to Grass Valley. If you turn right, you can take Dog Bar to Placer Hills Road. A left on Placer Hills will take you up to Colfax, or a right will take you down towards Auburn, through Meadow Vista, to the Freeway at Clipper Gap.
- Take Hwy 20 west to Marysville Road. Turn right and drive north. From here there a number of great routes:
- Take Marysville Road past Collins Lake. There is a right turn to Dobbins and Oregon House that is still Marysville Road. If you miss the turn you will suddenly be on Willow Glen until that merges with LaPorte road, but that’s another story (below). Consider making an appointment to tour the Renaissance Winery before you head this way. It is out Rice Crossing Road east of Oregon House, and worth a visit for its great wine and beautiful gardens. (Yes, this is the same Rice Crossing Road we mentioned above, but NO you can’t get there from here. There’s private property, and a missing bridge across the Yuba.) Continue northeast on Marysville Road past Bullards Bar Reservoir (a great place for boating, camping, picnicing and mountain biking). Continue up Marysville Road to Hwy 49. Turn right (south) and return to Nevada City by way of North San Juan. (Also consider taking Moonshine Road just east of Bullards Bar. It will return you to Hwy 49 at the middle fork of the Yuba River. There’s a little picnic area and a covered bridge just across 49 from this intersection, too.)
- After Browns Valley there is a left turn onto Loma Rica Road (Don’t take Fruitland Rd, which has a sign saying ‘Loma Rica’, wait until you see Loma Rica Road—actually, Fruitland Rd is pretty too, but I’m taking you through Bangor). Follow Loma Rica Road to Los Verjeles Rd and turn right. Follow Los Verjeles to Bangor and continue west on the Oroville-Bangor Hwy to Miners Ranch Road. Turn right on Miners Ranch and follow it to Hwy 162.
From here, there are two great options:
- Turn right and go east to Forbestown Rd and follow that to old Forbestown. From Forbestown take the Challenge Cutoff to Brownsville (NOT Browns Valley). From Brownsville you can return via Willow Glenn Road to Marysville Road to Hwy 20 and return to Grass Valley.
- Visit the famous Table Mountain wildflowers: turn left and drive toward Oroville on the Olive Hwy (162). Instead of turning when 162 does, continue on across the river on Washington Avenue. When you cross Montgomery, you’ll be on Table Mountain Blvd. Look for a right turn called Cherokee Rd. Follow Cherokee Rd. This will take you up over Table Mountain. From here you can either return, or continue via Derrick Rd. to historic Oregon City to see the little covered bridge and historic marker. There are two possible routes to follow from here: either return to Cherokee Rd, which will take you to Hwy 70 near Pence, if you turn right, or a left will take you back to Oroville the way you came. You can return to Grass Valley by taking 70 south (left) back to Marysville and pick up Hwy 20 there. You can also continue through Oregon City and loop back on Oregon Gulch Rd. to Cherokee and then return the way you came through Oroville or take 162 West to Hwy 70, and back by way of Marysville.
Take a map, some snacks, a camera, and an open mind. With the maps, trace your route and pick out alternatives to visit later. I’ve driven all these routes many times over the years, and I always find something new and wonderful by taking wrong turns (intentionally or not).
This post by Richard Webster