When it comes to Northern California hikes that combine scenery, history and wildflowers, not much can trump South Yuba River State Park near the town of Penn Valley in Nevada County.
This patchwork of public lands hugs a 20-mile corridor along the South Yuba River and encompasses 16 hiking trails ranging up to 14 miles in length. Its signature landmark is the 150-year old Bridgeport Covered Bridge, one of only 10 covered bridges remaining in California. At 251 feet, it’s also the longest single-span covered bridge known to exist and makes a great backdrop for photos of you and Fido. Beneath it rushes the South Yuba River, which runs white and foamy in spring before settling into a languid necklace of turquoise pools in summer.
Great views of the river canyon can be had from the Buttermilk Bend or Point Defiance trails, both of which are easy, bluff-top paths known for sporting colorful patches of wild iris, poppies and lupine at this time of year. Fido will have to stay leashed and might not appreciate the views, but he’ll enjoy splashing at water’s edge and going for a swim come summer. Pack a picnic to make a day of it, and don’t forget your camera. At this time of year you’ll also want to pack a spare pair of shoes (for mud) and a towel (for muddy paws).
Editor's note: The park's iconic covered bridge was closed to pedestrians in October 2011 due to "structural deficiencies." Both ends are now blocked off with unsightly chain-link fencing.
Photo: @Janet Fullwood