Explore Nevada County’s parks
California’s state parks system is a rich collection of natural treasures, fascinating historic sites, and one-of-a-kind destinations.
That includes western Nevada County’s three state parks — Empire Mine State Historic Park, Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park and South Yuba River State Park — all within a short drive of Grass Valley and Nevada City. From miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails, to historic sites that provide a bridge from our past to the present and future, each park offers recreation and educational opportunities.
South Youth River State Park
17660 Pleasant Valley Road, Penn Valley; 530-432-2546
Hours: Seven days a week — 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Parking Fees: High Season — Thursday to Sunday from Memorial Day to Labor Day, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., $10/per vehicle; off season — Thursday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., $5/per vehicle
This 20-mile portion of the South Yuba River canyon stretches from Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park to Bridgeport covered bridge. The area includes the longest single-span covered bridge in the world (currently closed for restoration), the steep rugged canyon of the South Yuba River, and the Independence Trail — the first identified wheelchair-accessible wilderness trail in the country. South Yuba River State Park offers many scenic vistas. Visitors can view swift moving water carving the canyon peppered with seasonal native blooms in springtime, and experience refreshing swimming holes that dot the 20-mile length of the Yuba River. Along the length of the park, visitors can see several unique bridges (Bridgeport, Jones Bar, Highway 49 Crossing, Purdon Crossing and Edwards Crossing) spanning from the Gold Rush era to the mid-20th century.
Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park
23579 North Bloomfield Road, Nevada City; 530-265-2740
Hours: Seven days a week – 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Parking Fees: $10 per vehicle, self-serve station
Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park is nestled amongst the pine-studded chaparral forest of the Sierra Nevada Foothills and is home to California’s largest hydraulic gold mine. The 3,000-acre park encompasses the now ghost-town of North Bloomfield and the historic Diggins site, which allows visitors to step back in time and experience the boom and bust of the California Gold Rush.
Empire Mine State Historic Park
10791 Empire Street, Grass Valley; 530-273-8522
$7 ages 17 and over
$3 ages 6-16, Children under 6 admitted free. Free parking
Hours 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Trails open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Empire Mine State Historic Park preserves one of the oldest, largest, deepest, longest and richest gold mines in California. The mine was owned by William Bourn, Jr. who was possibly the richest man in the country in the early 1900s. Dedicated restoration and care have resulted in the houses, gardens, reflection pool, fountains and greenhouses. The park also encompasses 856 acres of forested backcountry and 14 miles of trails perfect for hiking, biking and horseback riding.
Between 1850 and its closure in 1956, the Empire Mine produced 5.8 million ounces of gold, extracted from 367 miles of underground passages. Visitors can explore the park with tours of the estate, mine yard, grounds and gardens.
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