Sierra Discovery Trail

IMG_4529PG&E’s Sierra Discovery Trail is an interpretive loop trail that is full of educational signs describing the local plants, geology and wildlife of the area. This 0.8-mile trail is located off of Highway 20 and Bowman Lake Road near Alta, CA. Sarah’s family was camping in the Tahoe National Forest at White Cloud Campground along Highway 20 and checked out this trail during the day.

Why we love it: The Sierra Discovery Trail is a fun and easy trail for kids and dogs alike.  This trail begins at a gazebo that provides interpretive information about the area, including hydropower operations and local history.  The trail ventures through a marsh over a wooden boardwalk and continues over a bridge and through a mixed pine and fir forest along the Bear River to a scenic waterfall overlook. This trail offers an easier option by veering to the right after the bridge.

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For the Young Ones (0-10): The younger kiddos will enjoy stopping along the trail at the various river access points and checking out the signs with pictures of plants and wildlife. There are benches along the way to hang out and enjoy the scenery.

For the Big Kids (10+): Big kids will enjoy reading the interpretive signs and stopping along the river.  There are various points along the river to enjoy fishing as well.

Keep in Mind:

  • Be mindful of the changing river flows. Multiple signs are posted along the river warning of the possible rising flows.
  • There are restrooms (vault toilets) near the parking lot but not many other facilities nearby. Plan ahead and bring snacks or lunch and plenty of water.
  • This trail is at a higher elevation so it is typically covered in snow during the late fall and winter months.

Around the Area: There are many great local food options in the Nevada City and Grwaterfallass Valley area. One of our favorite eateries is Summer Thyme’s Bakery and Deli in Grass Valley. This local café has yummy sandwiches and pastries as well as a play kitchen area to keep kiddos busy.

Difficulty Level: Beginner

Guest contributor Sarah Perrin is a wife, mother of one boy and two dogs, wildlife biologist, home baker, and outdoor enthusiast who enjoys exploring the California foothills and Sierras with her family and friends.

 

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Independence Trail

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The Independence Trail (West trail), in the Nevada City area, was a delightfully well-shaded trail for our family. However, unlike many of the hikes we take in NorCal, this one had lots of mosquitos! There are several turnouts to park at, so find the closest one and carefully make your way to the trail head.

IMG_1296Why we love it: Our medically fragile 2 year-old is too heavy to (and no longer cares to) be worn,
so when we read that (part of) this trail is touted as the first wheelchair accessible trail in the country, we had to see it for ourselves. We took the West trail to the dilapidated handicap picnic area just past the ramp that goes down to the water.

For the Young Ones (0-10): Our walking little guy loved alternating between the “high” and “low” paths on the trail. (See top photo.)

For the Big Kids (10+): While not a difficult hike, this one is interesting for all ages. I really enjoyed the many wooden footbridges. In years with more rain, it looks like there are probably several small waterfalls along the way.

Keep in Mind:

  • What I was most looking forward to on the West trail was the ramp down to the water. Unfortunately, it’s blocked right now, so proceed at your own risk. (See photos below.)
  • Bring insect repellent! We usually stop for a snack at a halfway point and if we stopped that long on this trail, we would have been the snack ourselves!
  • There is a good amount of poison oak along the trail, so make sure everyone stays on the path.

Around the Area: If you have the energy and the stamina, also check out the East trail. I’ve read there are great views and opportunities to enjoy getting into the water.

Difficulty Level: Beginner.

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Don’t be alarmed when you see this near the start of the west trail – just duck and continue!