Falling for the season: autumn hikes abound | TheUnion.com

Falling for the season: autumn hikes abound

Laura Petersen
Special to The Union

For many, fall is the best time of year for a long walk in the foothills and mountains of the Sierra Nevada. Cooler temperatures, beautiful light and a dazzling final show of colors are hard to beat.

Local walkability advocate Ray Bryars who lives near the Cascade Canal Trail on Banner Mountain, east of Nevada City, often hikes "out to the pipe and back."

When he wants a more vigorous workout, he adds the forested spur with great views, Orene Wetherall Trail. When the dogwood and big leaf maple turn, the Orene Wetherall Trail is striking in reds, bronze and yellows.

"The colors are just coming in right now so it's a good time," he said.

He also enjoys the trails at Empire Mine State Park.

"If you take the perimeter trails, it's a nice long hike with some good elevation gain to get the heart pumping," he said.

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For those that want the best of both worlds, an urban stroll couldn't be nicer in downtown Nevada City and Grass Valley in the months of October and November. Bryars did just that recently with an out-of-town visitor.

They parked at the bottom of Broad Street in Nevada City, walked through town to Pine Street, then over the Pine Street Bridge where they caught the Environs Trail segment of the Tribute Trail.

The forested Environs Trail follows the old Rough and Ready ditch and remnants of the Providence Mine. With the completion of the new Nisenan Tribute Bridge or "Angkula Seo" spanning Deer Creek, the Environs Trail now connects with the Tribute Trail network on the north side of the creek.

Interpretive signs along the trail tell the story of the native Nisenan. From there, Bryars and friends followed Old Downieville Highway back to town for dinner.

"We'll often combine sections of the Tribute Trail with the Hirschman's Trail, usually ending back in town for a meal combined with an appropriate beverage," said Bryars.

Only a mile from the heart of downtown Nevada City, the Hirschman Trail, located at the foot of Cement Hill Road is wheelchair accessible for the first 0.4 miles and ideal for families with younger children.

"The Hirschman trail is a delight to hike any time of the year, but in the fall, after we have a few light rains, and the foliage begins to turn is a great time to hike the trail. A stop at Hirschman Pond provides an opportunity to see a variety of waterfowl that are migrating from their summer homes to winter habitat," said Bear Yuba Land Trust Trails Coordinator Bill Haire.

Nearby, the iconic landmark, Sugarloaf Mountain is a nice hike with 360-degree views of Nevada City's fall foliage and distant mountains.

Trails volunteer Greg Archbald who has mapped and described more than 25 local trails also enjoys accessing the newly opened up section of Deer Creek.

At Empire Mine, he takes the Hardrock Trail to the Osborne Loop Crosscut to Osborne Loop and up to and around Conlon Mine Trail.

He takes this route for "great exercise, lots of oaks and some views near the top."

Local trails author Hank Meals has been stuck in the office for the past few weeks but Wednesday made a point of getting outside.

"There is still some color hanging on in the Deer Lake — Pacific Crest Trail area (North Yuba) but the next rain will probably end that. Lower down, say between Sierra City and Indian Valley, there is still plenty color," Meals said.

Local hiking advocate Miriam Limov enjoys the Round Lake/Cub Lake loop near the Sierra Buttes in the Gold Lakes Basin and Mount Elwell (about four miles from the Long Lake Trailhead) for its 360-degree views, few people and alpine lakes.

Frank Hamlin, another local trails mapping volunteer, enjoys the South Yuba River these days, especially the route from the town of Washington to the State Park's Humbug Trail.

"This time of year the weather will start forcing us out of the high country so I look for fall colors. Anyplace along the South Yuba or the Pioneer Trail will not only have great color but fantastic weather right now," said Hamlin.

Local trails user Sebastian Roberts enjoys the Highway 20 corridor this time of year.

"My favorite fall hike is the Pioneer trail from Fuller Lake down to Bear Valley. The cool crisp air, low angle light, and fall colors make for a spectacular combo. You get to walk along several streams and past springs so things feel a bit lusher than other places this time of year. The yellow meadow in Bear Valley is beautiful in the fall light," Roberts said.

Contact freelance writer Laura Petersen at laurapetersen310@gmail.com or 530-913-3067.

Maps of local trails

http://gis.nevcounty.net/myneighborhood/ (Click on the boot for trails)

http://www.bylt.org (Click on the Trails Portal)