Skip to main content

Everything You Need to Know About Grass Valley

Everything You Need to Know About Grass Valley

If you're open to suggestions for your next weekend getaway, Grass Valley might just be the perfect destination.

Natasha Kouyoumjian


5 min read

November 20, 2022

If Nevada has a reputation for its gold mining, it is because of Grass Valley. This city was founded in the second half of the 1800s, unpretentiously sitting in the foothills of Sierra Nevada. Though Grass Valley is a natural work of art, it's mainly famous for its contribution to the Gold Rush era. With two of California’s richest mines, Grass Valley's history is a glimmering golden period. If you’re looking for those small-town vibes, where community and family are balanced on a razor blade, Grass Valley is definitely worth the visit.

Exploring the City

The Empire Mine State Historic Park in Grass Valley has an outdoor museum.

Empire Mine State Historic Park

Location: 10791 E Empire St, Grass Valley, CA 95945

Should you be on the lookout for unique places in California, then how about the state’s oldest gold mine? From the picturesque downtown area to the Empire State historic park, visiting this landmark will be a subtle and humbling infusion of Grass Valley history. Be sure to enjoy the outdoor museum and the best of the Grass Valley landmarks. 

White Quartz was also a product of the mines in North Star Powerhouse during their mining operations. James St. John, CC BY 2.0

North Star Powerhouse Mining Museum

Location: 933 Allison Ranch Rd, Grass Valley, CA 95949

One thing you won't run out of is Landmarks in Grass Valley. On your visit to this historic city, make time to visit this invaluable gallery of historic “gems”. The North Star Mining Museum de Pelton Wheel Exhibit is considered one of the gems of Nevada County. Get ready for a wonderfully joyous history lesson, and a gallery of mining props from the Gold Rush period. 

Downtown Grass Valley

Your trip to Grass Valley can not be completed without a proper visit to the downtown area. With a friendly, welcoming, and proud community, Grass Valley will feed you on the warmest smiles and the most vibrant country-town energy.  Regular events, farmer’s markets, parades, film festivals, and outdoor concerts are always available in the city. Make sure to check out the happenings beforehand, so you don't miss out. 

If you happen to be going during the festive season, be sure to get a load of Grass Valley’s unique Cornish Christmas, for an experience that will stick with you forever. Well-pleased with the syrupy vibes? Besides the right blend of urban vibes and charming amenities, what stands out about Grass Valley is its location. If you’re looking for a charming vacation with an approximately one-hour drive, you’ll be in the lively town of Sacramento.

There were only a few people who knew about the Bourne Cottage’s secret room while the mines were still in the works.

Bourne Cottage

Location: Empire Mine State Historic Park

Should you be seeking more things to do in Grass Valley, be sure to check out the Bourne Cottage. This quaint and antique cottage is located in the heart of the Empire Mine State Historic Park. Back in the 80s, this house served as a summer house for the Bourne family – owners of the Empire Mine at the time. You can also visit their primary home in Filoli State if you want to vacation near San Francisco. When you’re at Bourne Cottage, be sure to check out the props of the secret room featured in the visitor’s center.

Neither Art Deco nor Modern Architecture could wipe the loud history off of Del Oro Teatro.

Del Oro Teatro

Location: 165 Mill St, Grass Valley, CA 95945 

If landmarks in Grass Valley interest you,  be sure to check out this Art Deco theater. Whether it's the exterior architecture or the interior decor, this vintage piece of history represents a significant throwback in time. The theater was built in the 1940s as a single-screen movie house and was later renovated with two extra halls. With the gray stories, ghost myths, and secret underground passageways, get ready to get the creme-de-la-creme of the town vibes.  

Exploring the Outskirts

Grass Valley is named so for a reason. When the City was first found by the miners, the first thing spotted even before the gold was — you guessed it — grass. With the South Yuba River’s majestic views and refreshing summer swim, enclosing the city is a frame of boundless evergreen forests sitting tight and waiting to be explored. South Yuba River provides majestic views and a refreshing summer swim in a peaceful retreat — in addition to exploring Northern California’s prettiest mountain ranges whether by foot or by bike.

Loma Rica Trailhead to Madrone Forest, Grass Valley California

Location: Grass Valley Elementary, California
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 1 hour 23 minutes
Distance: 3.29 miles
Elevation: 423 feet 
Route type: Loop
Pets: Dogs on leash

Taking this trailhead to the Madrone Forest will guide you down the most classic, serene, and calming hiking route. Explore a green forest amid Grass Valley, and lounge in the emerald green forests on an hour-and-a-half hike. 

Hardrock, Osborne Hills, Empire Street, Loop Trail

Location: Hardrock Trail, Grass Valley, CA 95945
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Distance: 3.91 miles 
Elevation: 436 
Route type: Loop
Pets: Dogs on leash

Venture almost four miles around this loop trail and you’ll get the best of both worlds. The trail is open year-round, offering an alluring mystical experience. Get ready to have flashbacks of your childhood fairytales while encountering the supreme wilderness. Walking on the paved roads of this kid-friendly hiking forest, you’ll find a century’s worth of the region’s mining history.

Check out 4th of America’s tallest trees, the Sugar Pines.

Grass Valley Wolf Creek Trail, Grass Valley

Location: 10884 Allison Ranch Rd, Grass Valley, CA 95949
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 32 minutes
Distance: 1.18 miles
Elevation: 180 feet
Route type: Out-and-back
Pets: Dogs on leash

Out of the numerous California Valleys, Grass Valley CA is the outdoor wonderland. With paved roads and one of America’s tallest tree species, this trail feels like a backdoor to an alternate universe. Enjoy the evergreen forests of sugar pine — or as the scientists like to call it, Pinus Lambertiana. Providing a valuable food source with the longest pine cones rich in large seeds, this forest is home to many wild animals and woodland creatures. Watch the chipmunks and the squirrels in their natural habitat while forest bathing in the most calming bits of the woodland. Make sure you bring your furry friends so that they can have a little fun as well.

Osborne hill Loop Tail, Empire Mine State Historic Park

Location: Empire State Historic Park California 95949
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 1 hour 4 minutes
Distance: 2.42 miles
Elevation: 364 feet
Route type: Loop
Pets: Dogs on leash

Located in the fascinating Nevada County, Grass Valley's nature is a prevailing feature of the city. In precisely one hour and four minutes, you will have trekked one of California’s most challenging trails. If you’re hiking in the winter, be ready for a fogbound, misty trail. The Osborne Hill Loop is in the city’s historic state park, so be ready to encounter outdoor displays of the Historic Empire Mineyard.

Recomended businesses

Show me
Recommended Businesses near

Discover the best of California. Our recommended businesses are top-quality and are committed to their communities.

Need help with a home improvement project? Get a free quote today!

Enter Your Zip Code

Enter Your Zip Code

RELATED Articles

Discover More

fueled by the power of California love
We're committed to helping you discover the places, people and businesses that make our state Golden. Our online publication, updated daily, brings you all the content you need to live your California dreams. And that's just the beginning…
Purpose section
Purpose section