The weather may be cooling down, but it’s still beautiful in the Sierra Nevada foothills. If you have never taken a trip to the foothills, this is the best time of year to take your family for a day hike in Bridgeport. Bridgeport is located a little over an hour drive from Sacramento, at the South Yuba River Park in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Home to the famous Bridgeport Covered Bridge, it is the longest- span wooded covered bridge still surviving in America!
For hiking enthusiasts, the South Yuba River has several trails to choose from. Everything from easy strolls along the river, to more strenuous hikes that require a little more than just a good pair of shoes and a hiking stick. With younger children, we typically choose the “easy to moderate” trails and find that we enjoy stopping to skip rocks along the river as much fun as the hike itself.
Some of the more popular trails for those with kids include the Buttermilk Bend Trail, Kneebone Beach Trail and the Cemetery Loop Trail. Each of these trails is easily accessible and range from ¼ mile to a little hiking, you can step back into time and learn about the famous Gold Rush era in their visitor’s center and gift shop. On select weekends, they offer gold panning demonstrations and you can learn how to “strike it rich” in the river. My kids had a blast trying to pan for gold and even though we didn’t find our fortune, we did discover quite a bit of “fools gold”- which is just as much fun for a 7-year-old!
During the warmer months, you can swim in one of the many swimming holes along the river or just relax on the sandy beaches. During these colder months, I wouldn’t suggest a swim… but, the river is a great place to explore, skip rocks and enjoy the beauty of nature.
Along with the hiking trails, many visitors to the area will bring their mountain bikes and visit Malakoff Diggins State Park, as they have over 20 miles of trails (ranging from ½ mile to 3 miles each way), to choose from throughout the park. Trails also range from easy to steep elevation changes, so make sure you choose the proper trails for your fitness levels.
If hiking, biking and gold panning weren’t enough to enjoy in the park- you can always join in one of their free bird watching walks. These walks run on one Saturday, every other month (the next walk is on December 10). Enjoy a guided tour with a resident bird expert who will help you spot everything from Canyon Wren, Acorn Woodpeckers, Bald Eagles and more.
So if you want to get out and experience nature, take a day trip to the South Yuba River State Park. Pack a lunch, bring your camera and get ready for a fun-filled day outing with your family.
By Heather Crivellone