Even though we’ve had a wave of hot weather lately, our summer days — especially mornings — remain the perfect time for getting-out-of-the-house walks with your dog. Whether it’s the foothills or mountains, Nevada County holds countless opportunities for everything from leisurely strolls to day-long hikes. (photo credit: The Union newspaper)
This month, we’ll highlight a few of our area’s lower-elevation hiking spots.
The trails that meander through Grass Valley’s beautiful Empire Mine State Historic Park are among the most popular in our area for locals as well as tourists. Weekends are the most crowded, but weekdays and early mornings will find much fewer people on the trails. The Hardrock Trail is an easy 2.4 miles, and the moderately-rated Hardrock-Osborn Hill Loop is a mile longer. Trails are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; remember that dogs must be leashed in the park.
Note: State parks remain under COVID restrictions. Face coverings are required of all visitors indoors, as well as outdoors for those who are not vaccinated. Face coverings are not required outdoors for those who are fully vaccinated.
This shaded, forested trail at 3,200 feet on Banner Mountain is a delightfully cool spot on a hot summer day, offering an almost level walk along a peaceful canal lined with Douglas fir and dogwood. You can pick up the 4.5 mile trail on either Gracie Road or Red Dog Road; about three-quarters of a mile from the Gracie Road trailhead is the Orene Wetherall trail, part of the Woodpecker Wildlife Preserve. A little over a mile long, this out-and-back trail zigzags down the hill through thick forests to its end point on Banner Lava Cap Road.
DEER CREEK TRIBUTE TRAIL
The Tribute Trail is actually a series of interconnected trails that meander through the Deer Creek watershed, eventually joining up with a footpath along the Newtown Canal. Hiking the total trail could easily consume half a day, but you can walk just portions of it depending upon how energetic you and your dog are. Hikers can pick up the trail at several places: Nimrod Street across from Pioneer Park, the Stonehouse parking lot, the Miners Foundry, along the Old Downieville Highway, or off Champion Road or Providence Mine Road. The Providence Mine Road section leads to the dizzying, awe-inspiring Angkula Seo suspension bridge across Deer Creek, erected as a tribute to the region’s native Nisenan people.
(For maps and more information on any of these trails, go to the Bear Yuba Land Trust website at http://www.bylt.org or to Mother Lode Trails http://www.MotherLodeTrails.org, click on LINKS tab)
The Hirschman Trail too has several trailheads: Cement Hill, Indian Flat, and Woods Ravine. The eastern 0.4 mile is fully wheelchair-accessible all the way to Hirschman’s Pond, the trail’s acknowledged crown jewel. Westward past the pond, the route becomes much narrower as it winds for another 2 miles though pine and oak woodlands on its way to a lovely, open meadow at the bottom of a shallow valley.
SPENCEVILLE WILDLIFE AREA
Spenceville is a little further away, about 16 miles west of Grass Valley off Highway 20. Sprawling over some 11,000 acres in both Nevada and Yuba counties, its rolling hills are dotted with huge, spreading oaks and countless trails that crisscross emerald meadows, that in the spring are alive with the colors of native poppy, lupine, Johnny jump-up, wild iris, and dozens of other wildflowers. Spenceville’s major stream, Dry Creek, feeds the spectacular but treacherous Fairy Falls, which cascades 90 feet to the deep pools below. Go to https://wildlife.ca.gov/Lands/Places-to-Visit/Spenceville-WA for maps and information.
Any time you’re out walking with dogs, be sure they’re leashed in areas where it’s required, and obviously on city sidewalks. Take along a supply of waste bags, and dispose of them in public trash bins.
Carry adequate water for both you and your dog, especially during the hot days of summer. Remember to never drink water from streams and lakes unless you’ve disinfected it. Your dogs will probably be OK, but it’s possible for them to pick up giardiasis or leptospirosis from contaminated water, so watch for signs of diarrhea in the days following your hike.
Obviously, dogs need to be vaccinated against rabies no matter what, but if you plan to hike anywhere other than in the city, they should probably also have a rattlesnake vaccination. Rattlesnake bites are about 25 times more fatal in dogs than in humans, and while the vaccine won’t prevent dogs from becoming ill, it can help them survive the snake bite and delay its effects until you reach your vet.
Joan Merriam lives in Nevada County with her Golden Retriever Joey, her Maine Coon cat Indy, and the abiding spirit of her beloved Golden Retriever Casey in whose memory this column is named. You can reach Joan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CLICK HERE to see the complete article and photos in The Union newspaper.