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Omega Rest Stop to the tree plantation 10/00

Pat DevereuxThe historic Alpha and Omega hydraulic mining sites are visible from the Omega Rest Stop.
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OMEGA REST STOP TO THE TREE PLANTATION

MILES: 8 miles R/T

DIFFICULTY: Moderate



MAP: Tahoe National Forest or “Tahoe National Forest and Lakes Basin Winter Recreation Guide” map (see map’s inset)




My black oaks’ leaves are falling, and the days are getting shorter, but many of us are still itchin’ to take a weekend hike. Run up Highway 20 to the Omega Rest Stop and put a few more miles on your dogs while enjoying a Yuba canyon view.

From Nevada City, take 20 for 17 miles to the Omega Rest Stop, stopping at the overlook just this side of Washington for a great view of Sierra Buttes. In the rest stop parking area, look down into the sheer-sided, heavily forested South Yuba Canyon and the Alpha and Omega diggins hydraulic mining sites. Past the luxurious outhouses, examine a wooden trail map designed for cross-country skiers.

The shallow depression paralleling the road is the Gold Rush-era Overland Emigrant Trail; on the TNF maps, it’s labeled the Pioneer Trail. Head over to the highway and read a trail monument made out of railroad track.

Back on the path, head left at the fork to dip down through conifers away from the road noise. Once, hiking here alone in the late afternoon, I saw an adolescent, skinny-legged, blond bear ambling along a log, unaware of my gawking. He caught on quickly, froze for a millisecond, then crashed off the log’s back.

After a half-mile or so, the trail forks again. You can take the lower one, but it drops rapidly into canyon parts unknown. Hang a right and come up through the back of a clearing as the path curves back toward the roadway and turn left.

In early spring, an icy creek must be negotiated on skis through this area mile or so of dense trees. The canopy opens up; look for a wooden sign high on a tree on the right describing how Nordic Skiers of Nevada County maintains this trail. The club also posts the blue diamonds you’ve seen high up on trees to guide skiers.

Take the left fork off the clearing’s back along a short stretch which comes out at an intersection. At the brown TNF road sign on the right, head downhill.

The trail makes a sharp right then goes uphill for about a half mile before veering left. Go left at the ridgeline and start peeking through clearings at the view above Highway 20’s gulch. A skiing pal once claimed to have seen Mount Diablo in Coast Ranges of the East Bay from here.

Follow the blue diamonds back into the woods. Take the many detours to peek over Bear Valley at I-80 and the railroad tracks above it. You’ll come to a broad manzanita thicket interspersed with trails. Follow any of them out to the edge above Bear Valley for a scenic lunch spot. Look northeast at the hanging valley of Lake Spaulding’s Dam.

The trails get a little dicey here, but keep going back toward the Yuba Canyon out of the clearing. Notice how the pines are all the same height? Soon you’ll see a wooden sign for a tree plantation, planted in 1955. The path heads left at the sign and begins to descend between Highway 20 and the canyon.

Several spurs take you to ooh-aah views of the canyon as the trail descends more sharply. It veers left – and you’re back out at the clearing with the ski club sign. Retrace your steps down to the first clearing; instead of going back along the canyon, head straight as the trail goes very near 20 and the Overland Emigrant Trail and the rest stop outhouses come into view.

Pat Devereux is a copy editor for The Union and a member of the Nevada County Hiking Club. Contact her c/o The Union, 464 Sutton Way, 95945, or at patd@theunion.com .


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