Sierra City (North California)


What? : Sierra City is a census place in Sierra County, California. The elevation of Sierra City is 4,147 feet, and the town is situated in the canyon of the North Yuba River on California State Route 49. The small-town location right below the Sierra Buttes and minutes away from the Lakes Basin make it as wonderful, year-around recreation, fishing, hiking, boating, rafting, mountain biking, skiing, kayaking, bird watching and lots of wildlife!


Where? :  Sierra City, located one hour northwest of Truckee on Highway 49 (at the North Yuba River canyon). From Grass Valley this is 60-miles drive east on highway 49 (around 1 hour and 30 minutes’ drive).

Google Map Link


When? : Year round. Although there are a lot of winter activities the preferred time to visit there is summer and Fall. The snow cleared and you can access all the lakes and enjoy hiking, biking, and all other outdoor activities.

My thoughts: This small town makes the perfect short stop on your road trip or as a base for outdoor activities at the nearby Gold Lakes Basin area. After my hike to Sierra Butte (one of the most enjoyable hikes I did) I only had short stop here, at the Kentucky Mine Museum and walking to the nearby Lovers Fall.


The visit:


A settlement was established in this area in 1850. In the winter of 1852, an avalanche of snow destroyed the settlement. After several mining claims near the Sierra Buttes evolved Sierra City was reestablished. Numerous hard-rock gold mines were developed on both sides of the North Yuba River Canyon near Sierra City. The Sierra Buttes Mine was active for 80 years and was the second largest gold producer in Sierra County.



Things to do:

Visit the small-town main buildings along highway 49.



The North Yuba River swimming holes:

Anywhere along this stretch, you’re likely to find a deep, clear pool where you can leap from a boulder into water. One hole is big enough to be considered the town’s swimming pool: From Main Street near Buttes Resort (see “Make It a Weekend,” below), hike a trail to the water, spread your towel on a warm rock, and splash in.

A cluster of sheer rock peaks known as the Sierra Buttes, is 4500 ft above the city towers over the town. Many trails cross the area, and the Pacific Crest Trail crosses near town.



Visit Kentucky Mine Museum:

100 Kentucky Mine Rd. Sierra City, CA 96125 (530-862-1310)

The Museum is open for the 2022 season, open 7 days a week until Labor Day.

Kentucky Mine and Museum located on Highway 49 near the town of Sierra City, CA, is a unique small place to step into the previous world of the gold-seeking miners in this area.

There is a small inside museum with many artifacts from the mining period and few things outside. When I visit here the large mining building was close to visits, but you can check in advance when it is open.

The largest gold nugget ever found in Sierra County, known as the “Monumental”, weighed 106 pounds and was discovered on the Sierra Buttes Mine property in 1869.

This is not a must stop but if you are here and have the time this is a short and relax visit, this will not consume a lot of your time and you can have your lunch break at the yard.



Lovers Fall and PCT bridge crossing North Yuba River:

Drive east of town to the location where the PCT cross the road (location link) a bit further and you will see a large area on the right side of the road to pull over and park. You will see two large trees with a chain running between them, pass it and you will find a trail to the left, follow it along the ridge down to the bridge. After  15 minutes’ walk you will reach the bridge crossing the river. The bridge over the falls is a part of the Pacific Crest Trail.

There is a way that get down to the lower section of the waterfall where you can reach the water. The pool below the falls is a great swimming hole later in the summer.

This is easy and simple hike and the river view in the gorge is nice, there is not much to do here except watching the waterfall and swim in the river.



Visit Gold Lakes Basin:

Sierra City is the gateway to legendarily beautiful Lakes Basin—an idyllic cluster of high-country lakes joined by hiking and biking trails through the hills and mountains.

This unique area in this Sierra Mountain has countless lakes, mountain buttes and endless miles of hiking and MTB trails crossing the national forest land. Here you can find year-around recreation activities, fishing, hiking, boating, rafting, mountain biking, skiing, kayaking, bird watching and lots of wildlife.



Hike to Sierra Butte:

This is one of the best hikes in the Sierra mountains with a rewording 360-degree view of the entire Gold Lakes Basin and north California area

For more information about this hike see my blog: Sierra Butte Hike (North California)