Completed in the summer of 2014, the trail is located in far Western Nevada County on BYLT’s Black Swan Preserve near the town of Smartsville. Built by BYLT’s trail team and volunteers, the community-supported trail weaves through blue oak and gray pine woodlands. On a hydraulic cliff escarpment, hikers will catch spectacular views of the Black Swan Pond. At the pond look for waterfowl such as the American Dipper and Belted Kingfisher, otters, Western pond turtles and other aquatic life. In coming years, the new trail at Black Swan will become part of a much larger conservation project encompassing access to Deer Creek and the “The Narrows,” a three-mile stretch of the Lower Yuba River.
Place: Near the town of Smartsville
Season: Year around
Land: Part of the Black Swan Preserve owned by Bear Yuba Land Trust
Trail signs: Bear Yuba Land Trust signs and way finder arrows.
Length: 2 mile loop trail
Altitude change: 200 feet
Trail surface: Predominately native soil. Gravel and rock along the road.
Environment: Pristine oak woodlands, grey pine, ponds and wetland habitat. Some sections follow an irrigation ditch.
Rules: Foot and bike only. Dogs on leash. No motorized vehicles. Stay on trails. No smoking, No littering.
Trailhead: The trailhead is located off of Mooney Flat road in Smartsville, CA. From the intersection of Hwy 49 and Hwy 20 near Grass Valley, drive 13 miles toward Smartsville, turn right (North) on Mooney Flat Road. If you see the Yuba County sign on Highway 20, you have gone too far. Once you are on Mooney Flat Road, drive approximately ¼ mile. Turn left into small, unmarked parking lot area. Park and walk to trailhead on the left side of the dirt road (before the gate).
Head down the two track ranch road toward the gate and you will see the trail leaving the parking lot to the left.
If coming from Yuba City/ Marysville area, head East on Highway 20. Be on the lookout after passing the California Department of Forestry (CDF) Fire station on the left. Soon after you enter Nevada County, turn left onto Mooney Flat road. Head down Mooney Flat approximately a 1/4 mile and look for the dirt parking lot on the left. Turn down into the lot and park. There is a trail head sign leading visitors from the parking lot onto the trail. If you don’t see it, head down the two track road towards the gate. You can’t miss it.
Trail tips: There is a road that is part of the trail. If you head downhill from the parking lot on the road you will get to a gate. That gate is to keep cattle in and vehicles out. This area is open to public access and you will need to climb through the gate to continue along the road. There is also a gate near the parking lot heading in the other direction. Once you leave the parking lot and head up the hill into the woods you will come to it very shortly. This is also a gate to keep cattle in. Please keep this gate closed.
This is a short, beautiful two-mile loop with nice views of a pond and the rolling hills that make up much of western Nevada County. Once a large 1800s era ranch, curious visitors who know where to look will find relics of that earlier time: a home site, lichen-covered stone walls and a date orchard.
Black Swan’s grassland pastures, rolling hills and meadows provide habitat for bears, bald eagles, mountain lions and deer. Endangered, threatened and rare and/ or declining species in the area include: Valley elderberry, longhorn beetle, Western burrowing owl and black rail.
Black Swan Trail tells the story of the Gold Rush. Once a noisy hydraulic mining site, both sides of the ridge the trail now sits on was altered by high powered water cannons in the search for gold. Without the 1884 Sawyer Decision, the ridge that the trail sits on would be gone.
Today, the Black Swan Trail is ideal for observing wildflowers and birds. There is an intact wetland that is a critical habitat for the Western pond turtle, as well as bass, an array of waterfowl including the American Dipper and Belted Kingfisher. This landscape near the confluence of Deer Creek and the Lower Yuba River holds riparian habitat, blue oak woodland, wetlands, and great groundwater-fed ponds.
BYLT is working with California Department of Fish and Wildlife to expand the trail system in the future. Archeological features abound such as: Traditional Native American salmon fishing pools, Gold Rush-era town sites, great hard rock tunnels and towering bluffs of Blue Point Mine which yielded a fortune in gold. These hidden gems are all nearby the Black Swan Trail and will be incorporated into the future trail expansion.