Adorable a-frame cabin in the woods, hiking trails full of gold mining history, and two cute towns with amazing beer and wine? Yes please! Our weekend in the Sierra Foothills was full of beauty, good wine, beer and food, hiking during the day and nights spent playing cards in an adorable A-Frame cabin in the woods! Nevada City is tucked away at the base of the Sierras just a few hours in from the north bay allowing us to easily escape for a weekend of fun!
Arriving a little early to our destination in the Sierra Foothills and not having to set up camp we decided to check out downtown Nevada City. It is so quaint!! We walked through some of the shops and to our delight we found some art pieces for our art wall at home. The artist was even there to chat with us! So many cute shops in this old downtown. After all the shopping we stopped in at Three Forks Bakery and Brewing Company for a glass of beer and wine and an appetizer. Um, delicious! They had local wines for the bosslady and delicious beer for the hubs. We are still craving the farinata we had there! If you have the time, walking through downtown Nevada City is definitely worth it!
We found the a-frame cabin in woods on Hipcamp.com and fell in love with it! We planned our entire weekend in the Sierra Foothills around this spot. Stepping out of our comfort zone and exploring new places is what we tried to do this past summer. It was totally worth it! Camp Woolman at Sierra Friends Center was so adorable and peaceful. The history of the property being founded by Quakers and kept up through the years in the same way definitely shows. Everything is simple. Everything has a purpose. Everything there is tranquil.
Arriving at Camp Woolman we picked up our welcome packet and headed past the gardens, communal kitchen, and outbuildings to a row of 2 person a-frame cabins. We happened to have one on the end, right next to the forest and meadow. It was a warm August weekend so having a little breeze was key! We unloaded our gear and took a walk around the trails to explore the property. We had just been in downtown Nevada City enjoying some beer and wine and were ready to wind down from the workweek.
We took Meadow Trail to Fern Trail and around the meeting hall. It was a short walk with no one else around. Quiet and peaceful was just what we were looking for. Walking through the open grass field we found a tire swing hanging from a tree calling our names…of course, we had to get on and swing like kids! The evening was starting to come to an end so we went and grabbed our dinner and cooked up near the communal kitchen. Other people were there and we chatted a little bit turned in to our cabin early. We had a game of Uno and a bottle of wine waiting for us!
The cabin had 1 window and the door, lots of bugs flying around outside so we turned our fan on and opened the window. There is electricity in the cabins and a fireplace during the winter. These would be so great to stay in during the winter if you want a little solitude! After the hubs won the game of Uno and the bottle of rosé was gone we hopped into each of our twin size beds. It felt a little weird not sleeping next to each other but with the heat it was ok!
Up early the next morning we saw deer in the meadow as we quietly walked over to the bathroom and showers. They have a great set up. Bathroom stalls and a shower stall on each side of the building that you can choose to have all to yourself or allow others to enter. There’s a sign on the doors that state: women only, men only, only me, anyone and you can turn the arrow to your choice. This way everyone can feel comfortable.
The location of Camp Woolman is perfect for exploring the area. We were 10 minutes from Nevada City, 10 minutes from the South Yuba River, and 15 minutes from Grass Valley. All of these were on our list to check out!
Independence Trail West
We had a couple of hikes on our list in the Sierra Foothills to do and ended up choosing Independence Trail West. Starting from the trailhead along Highway 49 we walked through all the flying bugs and saw the trail to go down Jones Bar Trail which led us straight down to the South Yuba River. Since it was already 80 degrees and the bugs were thick we headed down to the river hoping for some relief from the heat and the bugs!
Jones Bar Trail is practically straight down. We saw a few people on their way up and they were sweating buckets! When we reached the South Yuba River there was a slight breeze and fewer flying bugs. The river was so refreshing! And mossy. The white rocks popping up and the trees surrounding it was beautiful. This was one of the perfect swimming holes this river is known for. There were fish swimming around and jumping up and eating the bugs hovering over the water. We spent about 20 minutes here with the place almost to ourselves. It was beautiful! More and more people started showing up and jumping in the water disturbing our peace and quiet so we headed on up Jones Bar Trail and hung a right to follow the South Yuba River and gently climb up to Independence Trail.
This part of Jones Bar was more of a fire road. We didn’t see too many people and were able to enjoy less flying bugs on this trail. The warmer it got the fewer bugs there were! We reached a turn in the trail that had a great view of the South Yuba River 450 feet below us.
Back on Independence Trail West, we saw remnants of the historic gold mining ditches and wooden flumes. The trail was the old path the water took as it left Malakoff Diggins’s hydraulic mines. Keeping an eye out for stray gold nuggets we followed the trail along until we reached Flume 28. This was definitely the highlight of the trail! Flume 28 is over 500′ long and crossed above the Rush Creek waterfall. Definitely an interesting part of mining history! Little did we know we would learn more about this spot later in the day at Malakoff Diggins State Park.
As we walked along the wooden Flume 28, some of the boards creaked and the bosslady tried to get across as fast as possible. Her fear of heights/falling and being on an old wooden structure above a large gorge caused her to walk really fast. So tempting to just run through it all but then so beautiful it was hard not to pause here and there to enjoy the full size of Flume 28!
Definitely would love to see this with the Rush Creek waterfall flowing bigger! Back at the truck, we decided to picnic along the river and then drive around and check out the town of Grass Valley.
We loved Nevada City so much we had high hopes for visiting Grass Valley. It is as cute as Nevada City! Love the large mural along with one of the buildings showcasing Grass Valley. The shopping wasn’t as quaint as Nevada City but we did enjoy stopping in at one of the wine tasting rooms! We spent most of our time in Lucchesi Vineyard and Tasting Room chatting with the tasting room associate and a couple of locals. Always great when you can get the lowdown from the locals!
After enjoying some delicious wine and buying some for our stash at home we headed back toward Woolman Camp…but we didn’t end up there! We wound our way around just exploring the roads and decided to take that right turn up to Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park. There were still hours of daylight left after all!
Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park
The entrance to Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park was about 40 minutes from the highway. The road climbed up and up almost above the treeline of the Sierra Foothills. As we were cruising along the bosslady noticed some odd layers of earth that looked other worldly. Water was trapped in the small canyons and trees were growing around the edges. It was definitely a sight to see! Heading further into the park we stopped at the visitor center located in the abandoned town of North Bloomfield (formerly known as Humbug). We always try and chat with the volunteers and rangers in the visitor centers, they know the most about the park!
The museum inside the visitor center is so great! They have actual items from the 1800s that were used in the mining operations and large scale photos of what it used to look like there before the gold rush and hydraulic mining changed the landscape forever. So crazy to learn about how they dug down to find the bedrock and how they came up with hydraulic mining. Thousands of gallons of water were used to wash gravel from the mountainside to capture gold that might be at the bedrock level. Over time the man-made pit grew to be 6,800 feet long and ranges from 1,000 to 3,800 feet wide per the Malakoff Diggins SHP brochure. It is definitely an incredible sight to experience. Mother nature is beginning to take back her land and trees are starting to grow in the barren landscape. The layers of the earth that are now exposed are rather beautiful to see but not at the expense of the environmental damage that happened.
One of the volunteers in the visitor center told us where to go to get the best views of the pit. We headed over to the Diggins Overlook after checking out the preserved buildings of the old town of North Bloomfield. There are a small parking lot and a short loop you can do to see the expanse of the pit. It is not a super well-known park but really should be! Malakoff Diggins SHP is a great example of history that should not be repeated and why. It is so clearly visible. The thousands of gallons of water that had mercury in it flowed through all of the rivers, flumes (like Flume 28) all the way to the San Francisco Bay! All that gravel, sediment, and chemicals that passed through all those towns destroying native vegetation along the way. Thankful for Judge Sawyer’s decision in 1884 to stop this! This was California’s first environmental lawsuit. Even though people lost jobs and no, not all the gold was found this sort of destruction is damaging for years.
If you have a chance to stop into this park, definitely hit the highlights! The visitor center and the town of North Bloomfield, Diggins Overlook to see the destruction and up through the campground to the vista point to see the length of the pit. We also saw a large bear poop on the trail there and a snake. Not sure which was worse to see! The sunset from this spot would be incredible!
We waited a little while to see the sun start to go down but then got hungry and headed back to Three Forks Bakery and Brewing Company in Nevada City to get some gluten-free pizza to go. Then headed back to the a-frame cabin and enjoyed it with a bottle of wine and another ruthless game of Uno!
South Yuba River
The south Yuba river was so packed on Saturday we weren’t able to enjoy any other swimming holes other than the one on our hike down Independence Trail West. So, we got up early Sunday morning and packed up our cabin, ate breakfast in quiet at the communal kitchen, and headed down to one of the swimming holes. Unfortunately, the bosslady’s back had been acting up so we just walked around and spent a little time down at the swimming hole. It was already hot and there were already several people there claiming their spots. Must get there early to get a decent parking spot and to claim your perfect spot along the river!
We had experienced so much on Saturday we felt ok hitting the road earlier than planned to head home. It was a good weekend. It was a peaceful and rejuvenating weekend. It was an enlightening weekend with regard to our past environmental mistakes. It was a great little microadventure!
Parking is free but get there early for a good spot! Easy 4.7-mile hike with 623 feet elevation gain. It does get hot during the summer. Going early you encounter bugs but less heat. Half shade, half sun.
Things We Love:
Hipcamp! We LOOOVE finding unique places to camp and there are so many great ones we want to check out! This is the second time we have used Hipcamp (check out our first time here) to find a place and it won’t be the last. While we love the state and national park campgrounds they are often booked up way in advance. Hipcamp allows us to find places just outside the state and national parks that are one of a kind experiences! The last time we stayed at a Hipcamp we made friends that we continue to keep in touch with. Looking for an experience that adds to your microadventure? Seriously, check out Hipcamp! If you click on this link, you get $10 off and we get $10. Win win! And add another win on there for being able to find a camp spot or a treehouse, or a yurt or….the possibilities are endless. We have so many places saved on our account when we are ready to take our next adventure.
Have you used Hipcamp? Let us know what you think!