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Mary West: Hiking Hoyt’s Trail

Mary West
Columnist

River flows are slowing making it worth the drive to the Highway 49 bridge above Nevada City, to sit next to the raging Yuba River with its canyon views of white granite and evergreen trees.

Hoyt’s Crossing, Hoyt’s Trail and Hoyt’s extension all provide great views of the river with several opportunities to scurry down to the water’s edge. Pull up a boulder and take a seat. Feel the sun on the exposed North side of the river.

I know families often avoid Hoyt’s Beach because it’s considered a nude beach. In fact there are signs clearly stating Hoyt’s clothing optional status. Let me share some code enforcement from State Parks on the issue. This first sentence comes from the South Yuba River State Park comprehensive management plan “Nude Sunbathing… 15. Continue policy of enforcing public nudity laws at river crossings, developed sites, and where complaints are received.”

What are the public nudity laws? California Codes Section 314-318.6 (as of June 2016) in part says:

The powerful sights and sounds of the river, the many seasonal creeks, wild mushrooms in blankets of moss, the trees, and boulders make this area on the Yuba River a must to visit …

“Every person who willfully and lewdly, either: 1. Exposes his person, or the private parts thereof, in any public place, or in any place where there are present other persons to be offended or annoyed thereby; is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

Section 4322 of Title 14 of the California Administrative Code regarding nudity in the state parks says: “All sections are misdemeanors which carry a maximum punishment of 90 days in jail and/or $1,000 fine.”

State Park Rangers have operated for many years under a policy known as the “Cahill” policy, named after a former Parks Director:

“It shall be the policy of the Department that enforcement of nude sunbathing regulations within the State Park System shall be made only upon the complaint of a private citizen. Citations or arrests shall be made only after attempts are made to elicit voluntary compliance with the regulations.”

So you might see some human body parts you don’t normally see in town, so if you find it offensive then I would say this trail, in warm weather, is maybe not for you. If you think you can manage, then I invite you to enjoy a 3.2-mile in and out trail with gorgeous views of the Yuba River, it’s canyon walls, and impressive rock formations.

How to get there

From Interstate 80 east take the Highway 49 exit toward Grass Valley. Stay on Hwy 49 into Nevada City where Hwy 49 takes a left turn toward Downieville. Follow Hwy 49 to the bottom of the canyon to the bridge. Turn right just before the bridge. Ample parking and toilets are found at the south end of the foot bridge.

Enjoy the view as you make your way across the footbridge. Look up river on the north side and you will find the trail head. The easy to moderate trail is well maintained with much of the early going offering stair steps to ease the way.

Views of the river are just over your right shoulder as you make your way with many “volunteer trails” giving access to swimming holes. At the .65-mile point you come to a fork in the trail. Look to your right and you see the sign for Hoyt’s Crossing Nude Beach.

If you head straight up the hill you can enjoy the extension trial. This is an easy to moderate trail as you hike up following the hillside for 1.6 miles. This is a great spot to find a granite boulder, unfurl a blanket, and have a picnic. Don’t expect to have the place to yourself, this is a heavily trafficked trail, but I go when it’s cold and it improves my odds.

The powerful sights and sounds of the river, the many seasonal creeks, wild mushrooms in blankets of moss, the trees, and boulders make this area on the Yuba River a must to visit in winter when it is cold enough for people to keep their clothes on.

Mary West is author of the trail guide 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 is 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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