WRITTEN BY Rachael Medina
Rachael Medina is the staff writer and content manager for California.com. She was born and raised just outside the Mojave Desert in Southern California and moved to the redwood forests of Humboldt C…See full bio
Float downstream along the Truckee River, cross-country ski along Donner Summit’s mountain pass—7,000 feet above sea level—and casually swim in the tepid turquoise waters of the South Yuba River State Park as wildflowers bloom alongside the banks. Consistently rated one of the most charming river towns and travel destinations, Nevada County features a multitude of bookstores, art galleries, farm-to-table bistros, and an abundance of outdoor recreational activities. Nevada County invites a host of climates, from blustery snow to arid heat, providing the perfect slate for year-round excursions as varied as bird watching, river rafting, skiing, and snowball fights.
Nevada County encompasses three incorporated areas: Nevada City, Grass Valley, and Truckee, though more than half of the county’s 100,000 residents live outside of these highly developed regions. The county stretches east to the California-Nevada border and encircles a portion of the 180,000-plus acres that make up the Tahoe National Forest. Nevada County combines the serenity of lakes in the southwest, the intensity of rivers in the northeast, and the thrill of the mountains in between—all within the county’s 978 square miles.
The county nestles in unexpected treasures, including opportunities for mountain biking along trails in the densely packed forests, fishing in the lakes of the Sierra Nevadas, and reliving California’s Gold Rush days by panning for gold among the banks of the Yuba River.
Centrally located between the more popular vacation destinations of Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, and Reno, the towns of Nevada County offer a reprieve from the tourist hot spots that abound. With downtowns reminiscent of the olden days and the Wild West, these quintessential Gold Rush–era towns provide modern amenities such as high-quality American, Thai, and vegan cuisines; luxurious bed and breakfasts; and rentals for skis, paddleboards, kayaks, and more.
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