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Mary West: Exploring the Pioneer Trail

Primarily a mountain bike single track, Pioneer Trail above Nevada City in Nevada County is more than 10 miles of multi-use trail.
Photo by Mary West

Primarily a mountain bike single track, Pioneer Trail above Nevada City in Nevada County is more than 10 miles of multi-use trail.

The Bear River can be accessed from the Pioneer Trail.
Photo by Mary West

After a recent snow storm I parked just below Harmony Ridge Market on Highway 20, five miles north of Nevada City, and headed out on the trail. Regular thinning of the trees has made for nice open terrain. With fewer trees and very little underbrush, the sunlight streams through the canopy. A few thickets of blackberry mixed in small fir trees provide shelter for birds. The variety of bird songs was enough to give me pause to enjoy the chorus before continuing.

In the spring wildflowers bloom along the trail.
Photo by Mary West

The trail runs mostly parallel to Highway 20. Mild elevation changes make this an easy to moderate path. This trail is a nice change of pace anytime of year. In winter deep puddles mean wet feet or wide walk arounds. Beyond the 10 mile point of the signed trail is Upper Pioneer Trail. You could follow this out to Skillman Campground or even Washington Ridge, Rock Creek Nature Trail and 23 miles up at Bowman Lake Road.



The trail runs mostly parallel to Highway 20. Mild elevation changes make this an easy to moderate path. This trail is a nice change of pace anytime of year.
Photo by Mary West

The full 23 mile length of the trail may not be your idea of a day hike so consider enjoying different entry points off Highway 20. You don’t have to venture far to find the plaque dedicated to the trail near the bridge. Start at the Bowman Lake exit of Highway 20. We did this section of the hike in spring and the open meadow with wildflowers was truly a highpoint of the hike. The access is right off the roadside.

Mary West is author of the book series Day Hiker – Gold Country Trail Guide I, II and III (Available on Amazon). The books are a collection of the Day Hiker columns where West shares her longtime love of the outdoors, favorite hikes in Northern California’s Gold Country and beyond. West was the recipient of the 2017 and 2019 CRAFT Award for Best Outdoor Column and the 2020 Craft Award for her second book in the series-Day Hiker Gold Country Trail Guide by the Outdoor Writers of California. You can follow West on Facebook and Instagram.




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