This strenuous 20-mile shuttle hike through historic gold country on the South Yuba River National Recreation Trail is accessible year-round, but hike it in spring or early summer for the best wildflowers.
From Poorman Creek (2,600 feet) in the Tahoe National Forest, head west into the canyon of the South Yuba (a California Wild & Scenic River). Though the trail is technically downhill, you’ll climb up and down as you follow the river—savor outstanding views into the wild canyon on the ups. Greenery transitions from pine and fir forests to oak woodlands as the trail descends. You’ll find the best campsites—and swimming holes, as long as spring flows aren’t dangerously high—where the path drops to the river near Logan Creek (3 miles), Missouri Bar (7.7 miles), Humbug Creek (10 miles), and Illinois Bar (about 14 miles). Finish up at 1,600 feet at Purdon Crossing.
Tahoe National Forest: (530) 288-3231; www.fs.fed.us/r5/tahoe.
BLM Folsom Field Office: (916) 985-4474; www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/folsom.html
Hike provided by Steve Evans, author of Top Trails Sacramento (Wilderness Press)
Location: 39.3606452941894, -120.818023681641