Buttermilk Bend Trail: Penn Valley

LENGTH: Under 2 miles, out and back. A couple other loops optional.

DIFFICULTY: Very easy, gentle winding trail along the Yuba. If you want to get your cardio in though, there are a few offshoot trails that are steeper along the way. A couple miles in there’s a straight up path, switchback style, that leads back up to the Hwy, right past a gate. Beautiful sweeping view from the top if you go the extra distance.

DIST FROM SACRAMENTO: 1 hour & 15 minutes, via 70N and 20E.

DIST FROM GRASS VALLEY: About 20 minutes, follow 20W towards Marysville/Penn Valley.

LOCATION: South Yuba River State Park at Bridgeport (Visitor’s Center where paid parking is for the trail): 17660 Pleasant Valley Road Penn Valley, CA 95946.

The highlight (minus the Yuba’s glory) is definitely the wildflowers during peak-bloom time. Which, this year, happens to have begun in mid-February – wild. There are dozens of flower markers along the trail. If you want a proper tour, there are docent-lead walks on weekends.

You can read about the most common wildflowers found along the trail here. Or, if you’re a total plant nerd (as I’m becoming) you can find the whole Nevada County wildflower list on Calflora Plant Search – almost 2000 annual/perennial flowers listed just for this county! The wild hyacinth (below, purple), pretty face (below, yellow – the sweetest flower name ever?) were everywhere.

Dichelostemma capitatumTriteleia ixioides

Once you hit the end of the trail (the last portion had a closed sign blocking it when I walked there last, so finished by winding down to the water) you can easily scramble over the boulders to get to a beach. Leave a cairn behind 🙂

THUMBS UP: Flat trail, easy way to access the Yuba (swimming holes galore), wildflower heaven, great picnic spots, amazing river views.

THUMBS DOWN: Can get crowded on the weekends, especially when there are groups stopping at each flower marker. Need to pay to park in the lot (but not much).

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