Be patient, this trail is worth it. I was a bit skeptical when I saw the sign for the Black Swan Preserve right off Mooney Flat Road near the Nevada and Yuba county line. How great could it be, so close to Highway 20? I was pleasantly surprised.
The Bear Yuba Land Trust opened this 50-acre preserve to the public in 2014. Building trails isn’t easy and it’s an ongoing effort by the many volunteers and trail staff to maintain new trails until they “take hold” and stand on their own. I appreciate the Bear Yuba Land Trust for opening so many new trails to the public. You can learn more at bylt.org.
From the small parking area just off the road you hike a series of switchbacks that take you past some nice rock formations to the top of the hill. Much of the trail is exposed so remember your sunblock and hat. Just past the half-mile marker you will see a short trail to the right. This is an excellent spot to take in the view of the pond and surrounding foothills. I thought this view alone would be the payoff for this short two-mile hike but this trail had more to offer.
Beyond the hilltop view, the trail heads back downhill. Keep an eye out for the remains of foundations and signs of an old homestead. It looked like they may have even had a fruit orchard of some kind, many years ago. The blackberries were nice and ripe during my July hike. Blackberries right off the vine are a perfect trail snack.
Once at the pond I just stood for a while taking in the view. Being patient and taking a closer look, I found a wealth of wildlife. The buzzing bees on wildflowers, dragon flies, turtles, butterflies and the geese all call this pond home. I wouldn’t suggest taking a dip in the pond, although my advice didn’t convince Stella. Even though we were geographically so close to a highway, the pond provided a solitude and peacefulness to transport us to a sanctuary only found deep in the wilderness.
To get there take Highway 49 from Auburn north toward Grass Valley. Take the Highway 20 exit toward Penn Valley. Continue on Highway 20 to Mooney Flat Road. It is also the road to Englebright Dam. Just a quarter mile up the road you will see the green sign on your left for the preserve.
Park, be patient, and enjoy.
Mary West is author of the book series Day Hiker – Gold Country Trail Guide I, II and III (2nd edition Available on Amazon). The books are a collection of the Day Hiker columns where West shares her longtime love of the outdoors, favorite hikes in Northern California’s Gold Country and beyond. West was the recipient of the 2017 and 2019 CRAFT Award for Best Outdoor Column and the 2020 Craft Award for her second book in the series-Day Hiker Gold Country Trail Guide by the Outdoor Writers of California. You can follow West on Facebook and Instagram
CLICK HERE to see the complete article and photos in The Union newspaper.