Casey’s Corner: A walk in high country
May 16, 2013
Last month, I shared some ideas for walking with your dog in the lower-elevation areas of our region. Now that the days are beginning to warm toward summer, let's take a look at some options for hikes in cooler, higher destinations.
One of our area's most well-loved trails is the one that runs along the Cascade Canal off Gracie Road, just outside Nevada City. Because of its slightly higher elevation and mostly shady terrain, this trail is especially popular during the hot summer months. It's also popular with water-loving dogs because the canal never runs dry, and it's perfect for a quick doggie-dip!
If you want to hike with your dog into the county's more remote mountain region, you couldn't ask for anything better than the Pioneer Trail. Beginning at the Harmony Ridge Market on Highway 20 across from the Five Mile House, the trail parallels the highway all the way to White Cloud, where it crosses the road and heads well into the back country, Bear Valley, and eventually Lake Spaulding. (A lesser-known route is the Harmony Trail, which takes off at the market and marches parallel to and below the Pioneer Trail for a few miles and then drops down into the Rock Creek watershed.) There are a number of spots further up Highway 20 where you can catch the trail, including the Conservation Camp turnoff, Lone Grave, White Cloud, and Omega Road. During most springs—although not this year, when winter lost its grip so early—there can still be snow once you pass the 4,500-foot elevation, so be prepared for the cold.
Rock Creek Nature Trail
This falls into the "short and sweet" category of walks, but it's well worth experiencing. Not even a mile long, the trail loops through deep shaded woods and along year-round Rock Creek. Here, your pup can enjoy the creek's cascading waterfalls and beautiful ponds, while you're stopped at one of the many interpretive markers which point to special points of interest. To reach the trail, take the Conservation Camp turnoff from Highway 20 and drive one mile to the gravel road on your left marked for the Nature Trail.
A little further up Highway 20 is the Skillman Horse Camp, the starting point for this trail that's part of an interconnected network that includes the Stanton, Big Tunnel, Omega, and Towle Mill trails. Be aware that this is a multi-use route, which means that you'll encounter everything from mountain bikers to horseback riders to joggers. The area includes more than 10 miles of trails, so bring along a picnic lunch!
Pacific Crest Trail
While you probably know that the Pacific Crest Trail runs from Mexico to the Canadian border, you may not know that it also traverses part of Nevada County. From Interstate 80 at Boreal, the trail crosses Donner Pass Road just east of Sugar Bowl and heads north-northeast into Sierra County, and south into Placer County. Since this trail traverses extremely wild and rugged country, much of it at elevations above 7,000 feet, be sure you're fully prepared and both you and your dog are in shape. Go to the Pacific Crest Trail Association website at http://www.pct.org for detailed information and maps.
Mt. Judah/Donner Peak Trail
If you're in the mood for another high-elevation hike that offers some of the most breathtaking views of Donner Lake you'll ever find, try this beautiful loop trail that takes you up to Donner Peak and Mt. Judah, just east of the Sugar Bowl ski resort. Despite the fact that it climbs two mountain peaks, the trail is nevertheless rated as "family-friendly," and gains only 1,700 feet in elevation from the trailhead to the top of Mt. Judah. It's easily accessible from Interstate 80, just four miles from the Soda Springs exit.
So, where can you learn more about these and other walking and hiking spots in our area? One resource is Hank Meals' wonderful handbook, Yuba Trails, which offers detailed information about hundreds of hiking trails in the Yuba River and surrounding watersheds; you can also find excellent trail maps at the Tahoe National Forest office on Coyote Street in Nevada City. For walking trails closer to home, check out the Bear-Yuba Land Trust website at http://www.bylt.org, Nevada County Gold at http://www.nevadacountygold.com, the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce (which has information on walking tours and trails in both Grass Valley and Nevada City), as well as dog-related sites such as DogTrekker.com and NatureDogs.com.
See you on the hiking trail!
Joan Merriam lives in Nevada County with her Golden Retriever Casey (hence, "Casey's Corner"). You can reach Joan at email@example.com. And if you're looking for a Golden, be sure to check out Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue.