Trail Tune Ups
By Michel Fike
With spring on the way, it’s time to find places to tune up and tone up for summer hikes. Two of our family favorites for those first hikes are the North Yuba Trail near Downieville and the Smith Lake Trail in the Lakes Basin.
At about 2900 feet elevation, The North Yuba trail is dry earlier than many others in the area, and it provides gorgeous views of the river canyon and the spring flow. The trail runs 16 miles from the Rocky Rest Campground, through Indian Valley and Goodyear’s Bar, all the way into Downieville. Even for those who don’t hibernate or overindulge during the holidays, an initial 16 mile trek may be overwhelming, but you can take it in sections. Rocky Rest to Indian Valley is 5 miles. From there to the community of Goodyear’s Bar is 7 miles, and the leg from there to Downieville is 4 miles. As the trail is only accessible at these three points, less ambitious hikers (like us) may do shorter out-and-backs to build up for longer treks. The steepest part of the trail is a 500 foot rise from Goodyear’s Bar into Downieville. There are no facilities once on the trail, so be sure to carry water and anything else you may need. Be on the lookout for leafless poison oak along banks and in the river bed. In early spring it may be indistinguishable from other brush, so long sleeves and pants, along with extra care when washing your hiking gear can save you a lot of itching. This is a great mountain biking trail too.
Smith Lake located in the Lakes Basin near Graeagle is also a good spring opener. At a trailhead elevation of 5800 feet, rising 300 feet over 1 mile, this trail leads to a pristine mountain lake where most days you will have the place to yourself. Backpack camping is permitted at the lake starting in early June. Although it is a short out-and back, there are connections from the trailhead to five other Lakes as well as a trail to the Gray Eagle Lodge.
However you choose to start your New Year, one of the best and most achievable resolutions you can set for yourself is to get started and keep moving.