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South Yuba River Scenic Trails

South Yuba River State Park has strolls along the river.

view of the Buttermilk Bend Trail in South Yuba River State Park, image
Photo caption
The Buttermilk Bend Trail parallels the Yuba River.

When spring arrives in the Sierra foothills, melting snow courses into rocky riverbeds while wildflowers paint the adjacent hillsides. Near Nevada City, Calif., blooms such as the delicate fairy lantern and the purple Chinese house erupt in a riot of color along the Buttermilk Bend Trail, which follows the dramatic river canyon in South Yuba River State Park.

Pick up a wildflower brochure at the visitor center and follow the placards or join a docent-led wildflower walk (weekends through mid-May) for background on the blooms.

For another scenic stroll, try Independence Trail, one of the nation’s first wheelchair-accessible wilderness trails. Here, Gold Rush–era flumes support wooden pathways that gently switchback down to a creek.

The Point Defiance Loop, also a prime flower walk, starts at the north end of the 1862 Bridgeport bridge—the longest single-span covered bridge in the world and a stunning backdrop for photos. The trail then follows the South Yuba to Englebright Lake.

Keep an eye out for feathers amid the flowers. Yellow-bearded Audubon’s warblers, violet-green swallows, and even bald eagles have been spotted here. (530) 432-2546,

Photography by Erin Thiem

This article was first published in May 2014. Some facts my have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.