Mary West: Exploring the Cascade Canal Trail
Temperatures cool. The leaves changed color and have fallen at our feet. We day hikers can come down out of the High Sierra and smell the earth closer to home. Nevada County has a few hidden gems for day hikers and one of them is the Cascade Canal Trail. This is actually several trails in one.
This 4.5 mile trail begins in Nevada City off Gracie Road near Banner Lava Cap Road. Parking is limited. From Interstate 80 east, take the exit for Hwy 49 towards Grass Valley.
Follow CA-49 N to Gold Flat Rd. Take exit 185A from CA-49 N. Turn Right onto Gracie. The trail head is maybe 700 feet from the intersection with Banner Lava Cap Rd.
Dogs on leash are welcome. I love how a trail keeps my memories, much like a song. When I return to a trail I am reminded of who I was with, and what I was thinking on my last visit. Maybe it’s just me, but winter hikes excite me as much as flowers in spring. Fall leaves, thick moss, tiny mushrooms and watch out for banana slugs under foot. It’s like a complete makeover of our outside world.
Back to the trail.
Much of the distance on this trail follows an NID canal, providing a level flat surface of native soil. You can extend this trek another 3/4 of a mile or so by adding the Orene Wetherall Trail. The sign is on the left of the canal trail. This side trail is a series of switchbacks down to a nice bench with a great spot for bird watching. The Noel Carter Loop Trail is located near the bench as well. Another nice diversion is Woodpecker Way Access Trail.
Orene Wetherall Trail is an easy trail headed down but I would call it moderate on the way up. I enjoy the many trail dedications, and other trail notes along the way. It tells me someone cares about these places as much as I do.
Returning back to the Canal Trail you can turn right to the trail head or you can make a left and enjoy a nice view of the Nevada City area through the pines. The variety of conifers is delightful. If I had anything critical to say about this trail it would be the noise of a nearby outdoor shooting range, and this trail must be in the flight path of the airport. If you can tune those out, this is a fine trail to stroll on a winter day.
Mary West is author of the book series Day Hiker – Gold Country Trail Guide. The books are a collection of the Day Hiker columns where West shares her longtime love of the outdoors, and favorite hikes in Northern California’s Gold Country and beyond (Available on Amazon). West was the recipient of the 2017 and 2019 CRAFT Award for Best Outdoor Column by the Outdoor Writers of California. You can follow West on Facebook and Instagram.
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