RICCI: Prime places to pedal in Nevada County
Special to The Union
Editor’s note: This is the first installment in a three-part series that takes a look at mountain biking trails in the area.
Nevada City has long been known as a popular mountain bike destination in California. The quaint city is part of a mountain bike utopia, bordering Tahoe and Auburn-Forest Hill, and home to several famous cross country and downhill racers, such as Mason Bond and Robin Farina.
Trail builders and bikers flock to the area, honing their skills and creating many amazing trails. While many of those trails are geared towards intermediate or advanced riders, there are a number of trails that are suited for beginners.
A good place for beginners to explore is Hirschman’s Pond. At 5 miles in and back, the fun, easy trail is located just outside of Nevada City along Highway 49. The smooth, winding paths are ideal for novices, with a few narrower trail sections and switchbacks allowing riders to get comfortable in technical uphill and downhill settings. A tree canopy covers most of the path, providing shade during warm weather. The trail passes around a small pond with benches and resting areas, perfect for stopping and eating lunch. The pond is a nature preserve and is great for spotting birds. Unfortunately, no swimming is allowed. Continuing on, riders meander down another two miles to the trail end. From there they can turn around and go back up the trail to the parking lot.
A short ways away from Hirschman’s Pond is the Tribute Trail. Completed in 2011, Tribute is a multi-use trail that is popular with bikers, runners, and hikers alike. It has similar smooth, nontechnical paths as Hirschman’s Pond, but with a bit more climbing included. The trail runs alongside Deer Creek in Nevada City with a few access points to the creek available along the way. During hot summer days, Deer Creek is perfect for taking a short swim. The path itself is mostly a mixture of gravel and dirt until it passes over the short suspension bridge. The bridge and the accompanying picnic spot are prime places to rest, have lunch, or take photos. At the suspension bridge, the Tribute Trail leads into a mild, dirt climb, allowing beginners to get comfortable with different types of biking challenges, such as steeper ascents, rocks, tighter switchbacks, and tree roots. Depending on the route a rider takes, the trail can range from 3.6 to 8.6 miles. It pops out into downtown Nevada City, allowing riders to have easy access to restaurants or parking. Throughout the trail there are markers that guide hikers or bikers in the right direction and provide historical information about the local Nisenan Native Americans.
Neither Hirschman’s Pond or the Tribute Trail offer restrooms or water stations, so remember to bring your own supplies.
“[Hirschman’s and Tribute] are good beginning trails,” said Chris McGovern, owner of Real Wheels bike shop in Nevada City. “There’s plenty of space to get comfortable with your new bike or beginning skills, and to share the trail with other trail users.”
Centered around Grass Valley proper are several easier trails, ideal for novice riders. One of the most popular beginner trails in Grass Valley is Empire Mine. Established in 1975 as a State Park from the ruins of an old mine, the park features many smooth, swooping trails that allow novices to get comfortable on their bikes. Two parking lots on East Empire Street allow easy access to an abundance of trails, ranging from 0.5 miles to 4 miles in length. The paths themselves are generally wide and easy to maneuver, with plenty of places to stop and rest. Empire Mine does feature a few more challenging trails, with some rocky and rooted ascents and descents. Its green forests keep the trails cool in the summer and it has many benches and alcoves to picnic in—but beware the poison oak in spring, summer, and fall. Empire Mine offers restrooms and water fountains at the main parking lot.
Real Wheels and Tour of Nevada City bike shops in Nevada City can help beginner riders set up their bikes, get gear, or find trails to ride. They sell local trail maps and can also provide suggestions for trails based on a rider’s ability.
For more information about trails or biking, visit bylt.org or bonc.org.
If you are a more advanced rider, stay tuned for the next parts of “Summertime Fun on the Trails” for intermediate and expert trails around Nevada City.
Mina Ricci is a member of the Nevada Union Mountain Bike Club and Nevada County resident. She is a regular contributor to The Union.
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