IMPORTANT NOTICE (April 16, 2020) Independence Trail is closed to the public due to safety concerns caused by recent landslides and tree failures. A District Superintendent Order enacting the closures is currently in effect.
Trail Manager: South Yuba River State Park | Contact Sierra District Office at (530) 273-3884
Length: 2.2 miles (each way) to the end of East trail. Last 0.2 miles unmaintained. For a longer option, this trail can be combined with the Independence Trail West.
Altitude change: Independence Trail East on ditch nearly level (60′). Side trails to the river descend about 200 vertical feet.
Trail Surface: Natural Earth
Rules: Dogs on leash; no bicycles or motorized vehicles; no smoking or fires; no camping
Trailhead: From the north end of Nevada City where Highway 49 turns west toward Downieville, go 6.25 miles on Highway 49 north. A highway sign tells northbound travelers the Independence Trailhead is coming up. There is a parking area along the east side of Highway 49 at the trailhead, and overflow parking just around the next curve down Highway 49. In the main parking area look for a “Trail Entrance” sign, kiosk and restrooms (N39.29164 W121.09734). For the Independence Trail East, go left (northeast) at the trailhead kiosk. If you park in the overflow/secondary parking area, take the wooden steps that lead up the bank, follow the connecting trail a short way, and turn left when you reach the main ditch trail.
Trail Facts: Like the Independence Trail West, the East trail follows the gentle gradient of an old mining ditch and is wheelchair accessible for one mile. It offers occasional views of the South Yuba River canyon and passes seasonal side streams and bogs. Along the trail are two picnic tables, several benches, and several wooden bridges that have replaced the historic flumes. At 2 miles the trail ends at Excelsior Ditch Camp Road. At that point it connects to more rugged trails that lead to swimming holes along the river.
The Independence Trail was the first identified wheelchair accessible wilderness trail in the country. It utilizes the old Excelsior Ditch, built around 1859 to carry water for hydraulic mining. The ditch tapped the South Yuba River more than two miles upstream from here and it ran all the way to what is now the dam at Lake Wildwood, then by the China Ditch to the Smartsville mining district, 15 miles west of Grass Valley, CA. The trail includes views of another mining artifact: the Miners Tunnel. It was blasted through 800 feet of bedrock in the late 1870’s to divert the flow of the South Yuba during summer months so miners could work the main river channel.