Trails

Each area - Grass Valley/Nevada City or Auburn/Meadow Vista/Cool -
lists trails alphabetically.

Always check the link we provide for each trail to see what
the status of that trail is. Temporary trail closures may occur
due landslides and/or trail maintenance. 


Grass Valley/Nevada City Area

Cascade Canal Trail, Nevada City
Out-and-Back
9-10.2 miles Round Trip (RT)
You can park at either of the two trailheads (THs): Gracie Road TH or Red Dog Road TH. To park at Gracie Road TH, the parking area is on the east side of the road about 700' down from the intersection of Gracie Rd and Banner Lava Cap Rd. To park at Red Dog Road TH, take the Broad Street exit in Nevada City, turn left and continue on Broad Street until it becomes Red Dog Road. At Pasquale Rd, note your mileage and in 0.3 miles look to the right where you will see a canal and a gate with a "Public Parking Prohibited Sign." So don't park in front of the gate! Continue up the hill to find parking on your right along the shoulder. This is a flat dirt trail used by hikers, dog walkers, and mountain bikers as well as runners. Watch your step as rocks and roots tend to come up and grab your feet. You can extend your run by 1.2 miles by taking the Orene Wetherall Trail, which you pick up at 3/4 mile east on the Canal Trail from the Gracie Rd TH. Click on the links to read about interesting things you may see along the trail(s).

Loop or Out-and-Back
Various distances
Park at the equestrian parking area (Penn Gate) or at the park headquarters or at Gold Hill Drive parking area. Map out your own route with this trail map. A nice run would be parking at Penn Gate and taking the Hard Rock Trail to the Osborne Hill Loop Trail (when it's fully open again), then coming down the hill, make a right to cross Little Wolf Creek.  Run up the short hill and take the Orleans Trail to the right (across the mail trail). Continue to Highway 174. Cross 174 (looking both ways!) and continue on the other side running the Lower Union Hill Trail. When you get to the Gold Hill parking area, keep to the trail on the left (Upper Union Hill Trail) til it intersects with Indian Ridge Loop. Run the loop back to the Upper Union Hill Trail back to 174. Cross 174 again, and continue on Orleans Trail. Once you get to the Hardrock Trail, you can run back along the Hardrock Trail or come back by the Empire Mine HQ/Museum along 174 back to Penn Gate. The Gold Hill portion of the run is 4 miles. The Penn Gate portion is 3-5 miles depending on how you decide to come back.

Hirschman Trail, Nevada City
Out-and-Back
Approx 5 miles RT
Trailhead is off of Cement Hill Rd in Nevada County; google map to 115 Cement Hill Rd, Nevada City. The parking area is on your left. Starting at the TH, you walk/run past Hirschmann Pond on gently rolling hills on singletrack until you get to an uphill section to paved road. That's the end of the line. Turn around and come back 2.5 miles. Watch for mtn bikers.

Out-and-Back
5 miles RT

Out-and-Back
4 miles RT
For a longer run, combine Independence Trail West and East.

Pioneer Trail, Nevada City
Out-and-Back
0-50 miles RT
One option is to park at Harmony Ridge Market on Highway 20, across from Five Mile House. The trailhead is well marked; there are a few other trailheads going east along Highway 20: Lone Grave, White Cloud Picnic Area, Washington Overlook, Skillman Campground, Upper Burlington Trailhead, Chalk Bluff Trailhead, and Lang Crossing. Be aware of mtn bikers and equestrians along this slightly rolling dirt trail that runs along Highways 20 east. If you ran the entire length of the trail, you can get in 25 miles one way. Most of the trail is forested, though there are a few spots that you can see the valley below. The trail will afford views on meadows, flumes, and rocky bluffs. The Pioneer Trail is an old wagon trail that was used for pioneers back in the 1800's on their way to find gold. On the eastern end, the trail connects to the Grouse Ridge area, which will add another 41 miles of trails for your enjoyment.

Rock Creek Nature Trail to Horse Trail, Nevada City
Loop

Scotts Flat Lake Trail, Nevada City
Out-and-Back
~10 miles RT (but you can make it shorter if you turn around at Casci Ranch Road at 3.7 miles for a 7.4 mile out-and-back)
Park at Harmony Ridge Market. To find the trailhead, cross the street to the Five Mile House parking lot and look for the trail on the east side of the lot. The trail parallels Highway 20 for a short section then the trailhead directs you to turn right. The downhill is constant... Down, down, down. Cross Casci Ranch Road to end up along the shores of Scotts Flat Lake. The dam is the end of the line. Turn around and head back (up, up, up!) the same way you came to your car. Watch out for mtn bikers.

Auburn/Meadow Vista/Cool


11 miles
Don't be fooled by the 8.2 mile distance indicated on the link above. Plan on 11 miles over a total climb of 2100 feet. The loop is rolling hills that afford a few beautiful vistas. There are two parking areas: 1st parking lot - "West" (aka Grizzly Bear House turnout, where there used to roam grizzly bears in the 1800s til we shot them all) and 2nd parking lot - "East" (aka Driver's Flat). Both parking areas have porta-potties, and both are State-owned, so either pay the $10 parking fee or bring your Poppy Pass. The "West" TH is 4.5 miles from the intersection of Lincoln Way (where Raley's is) and Foresthill Rd. The second "East" TH is 8 miles from Lincoln Way/Forest Hill Rd. Although you can hike/run/bike it either direction, most people travel counter clockwise. From the West TH, you will take a left after walking up a short hill. Along this side of Foresthill Rd, you'll run under oaks, pass through a star thistle meadow, and be able to look over a valley east toward the American River. It's primarily single track, but there's some fire road to traverse. After getting up a fairly steep rutted single track, you'll meet up with Foresthill Rd and have to cross it at about Mile 5.5. Walk along Foresthill Rd for a short way, and on the other side is the parking area and the East TH. Take a potty break here if you need it because this will be the last porta potty you see until you reach your car (and pulling aside to pee in the wild is iffey because of the poison oak and heavy traffic). The last mile of this loop is tricky; once you are spit out onto Foresthill Rd again, you'll have to cross it and backtrack along the road to get on the trail again. Keep an eye open for your chance to jump up on the trail. It's less than a mile from this point back to your car. If possible, take someone who knows the Loop with you the first time because there are a few turns you might miss if you don't know the trail well. And this Loop is a mtn bikers paradise, so keep listening for bikers coming up on you from behind.

Loop or Out-and-Back
Various distances
Hidden Falls is one of my favorites. To get there, google map 7587 Mears Place in Auburn CA. There are many trails that can keep you seeing new things for many runs. The first 0.75 miles is downhill (which means uphill on the last leg of your run!). The spring brings oakworm larvae that hang from the trees, so wear a hat. And the summer brings hot temperatures so carry plenty of water. In winter, the Park may close due to muddy conditions, so check their Facebook page for up-to-date information. Porta-potties are scattered throughout the park. Deer, mountain lion, coyote, and even boar can be seen in the park, so keep an eye out. There are other things to be aware of such as limited parking, especially on weekends (and their FB page keeps people up-to-date on the status of the lot). The trails are plentiful, and please stay on them! Too many people blaze their own trails and it can become an erosion problem for the environment. Make sure you check out their website before you go. 

Meadow Vista Canal Trail
Out-and-Back
0 to 12+ miles RT
Park at the canal access area on the east side of Placer Hills Road across from Sugar Pine Rd (Winchester Estates). Cross over the canal using the metal bridge, and start on the singletrack trail that runs along the canal eastward, crossing local streets. The first street crossing will be Meadow Gate Road at a wee bit over 2 miles in. Then Crother Road at about 4.5 miles. The trail is well-used for the first 5 miles or so, then it can become overgrown and a little secluded. Crother Road is a great place to turn around to make it 9 miles RT. If you are running close to sunset, bring a flashlight or headlamp as it gets dark on this trail even before sunset.

Olmstead Loop (aka Knickerbocker Trail), Cool
Loop
8.6 miles
2966 State Highway 49 in Cool CA. Park behind the fire station. There's a parking fee of $10 or use a Poppy Pass. Mtn bikers galore here. And equestrians. And runners. Best times of year are Spring and Fall. There's not much shade in the summer and the trail gets hot. Take a trail map because it's easy to lose the main trail. This is a great place to use your map skills and branch off Olmstead (used to be known as Knickerbocker Trail til it renamed for Mr Olmstead) Trail to make a 10++ mile run.

Quarry Trail, Auburn State Recreation Area (Confluence)
Out-and-Back or Loop
Mileage varies
The parking lot is on Highway 49 on the south side of where the North and Middle Fork of the American River meet (Confluence Area); porta-potty at the TH & bring $10 or a Poppy Pass. If you follow the "gently" rolling trail to the end, it's a 5.5 mile run one way (11 miles RT) which follows the American River. However, you can create a loop by running to the Western States Trail (WST) by way of one of the three uphill side trails: WST at Murderer's Bar (2-mile mark), Brown's Bar Trail (3.3-mile mark), or Maine Bar Trail (5.5-mile mark). Starting at the Quarry Trailhead, at the 2-mile mark, look for a trail on your right. Follow the trail (which is WST) up to the WST (labeled "Wendell T Robie Trail" on the markers) and turn left. You can follow upper WST all the way to Maine Bar where you'll choose between going left (back down to the Quarry Trail) or right (to "3rd Gate" in Cool). Another trail you can take from the Quarry Trail to WST is Brown's Bar Trail. If you time it right, be prepared for stream crossings! The trail marker at the end of Quarry Trail

Quarry TH > Brown's Bar Trail > Upper WST > Maine Bar Trail > Quarry Trail > Quarry TH/parking lot = ~15 miles

Maine Bar Trail is steep, rutted, slick-rocked, and poison oakey. Fun. (Not really.) There are porta-potties along the first 1.3 miles of Quarry Trail, and after that you are on your own.  At the end of Quarry Trail at the 5.5 mile mark, there is no need to turn around. You can keep adventuring out to various places along the American Canyon Trail (see image on right). Note that mountain bikers are allowed on Quarry Trail but not on the side trails, upper WST, or American Canyon Trail.

Sugar Pine Trail, Meadow Vista 
Loop
6.4 miles
To park, take Placer Hills Road to Sugar Pine Road, the entrance to Winchester Estates. There's a large area at the corner of Placer Hills Rd and Sugar Pine Rd under some trees. Park there. To get to the trailhead, follow Sugar Pine Road west toward the entrance of Winchester Estates. Look for the trailhead about 2/10 of a mile from the parking area. The dirt trail is used by equestrians and mnt bikers as well as runners and walkers. Loop the trail in either direction. Be careful of poison oak and carry plenty of water as the trail can get hot and you'll be out in the sun for most of it. Most of the trial is rolling hills but some sections are steep on the west side of the loop. There's also a paved path looping in and around Winchester Estates.