Independence Trail Professional Reviews and Guides
"This region’s South Yuba River Project is a California state park in the making, slowly taking shape out of independently owned public and private lands. The wide trails remain nearly flat, despite the steepness of the surrounding mountains —making this hike perfectly wheelchair accessible. The Independence Trail follows the course of the defunct Excelsior Canal, built in 1859 to carry water to a gold-mining operation 25 miles away. Old mine artifacts have been impressively rebuilt into trail structures, including several wooden flumes that now serve as pedestrian bridges. Possibilities exist for longer hikes. Terrain: Dirt path and wooden walkway through mixed conifer-oak woodlands and a deep river valley."
--Dan Brett, Hike America: Northern California (The Globe Pequot Press).
"This short hike follows a dry mining ditch high above the South Yuba River, the most exhilarating stretches clinging to the canyon wall on rebuilt flumes. The Independence Trail is the first path through a roadless area in the United States built expressly for wheelchairs. Of all the works left by the miners, few are more dramatic than the ditches and flumes built to transport water to power hydraulic mining operations or stamp mills. Hung precipitously from canyon walls, the most magnificent of these waterworks rounded mountainsides like reckless juggernauts, rushing in and out of steep ravines, leaping over gorges on wooden flumes, bearing river waters hundreds of feet above their natural channels. The Independence Trail follows just such a canal, the Excelsior Ditch, built in 1856 to transport South Yuba River water 25 miles to the hydraulic monitors at Smartsville."
--Barry Parr, Hiking The Sierra Nevada (Falcon Guides).
"This classic Gold Country hike combines an exciting crossing of a boardwalk, suspended on cliffs and elevated on tall trestles, with a deep gorge, plunging waterfalls, and one of the largest rivers in the northern Sierra Nevada. South Yuba River State Park’s Independence Trail is billed as the nation’s first wheelchair-accessible wilderness trail. Both the state park and the trail were made possible by years of tireless effort by noted naturalist John Olmsted, who was responsible for numerous state parks around California. The Independence Trail has eastern and western sections, divided by CA 49. Both offer wheelchair- accessible sections, fascinating history, impressive trail engineering, and beautiful scenery. However, the western half can also be combined with other trails to form a great loop."
--Bubba Suess, Hiking Northern California (Falcon Guides).
"From the trailhead to a perch overlooking Hoyt Crossing in 2.3 canyon miles, including 11 flumes, this short trail in the former Excelsior Ditch offers a glimpse into the engineering methods and challenges of 19th-century gold miners. The beautiful canyon views in a foothill-woodland habitat zone are worth the trip as well."
--Jordan Summers, 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Sacramento (Menasha Ridge Press).
"Just 10 minutes from Nevada City, this pleasant hike makes use of the first wheelchairaccessible wilderness trail in the United States. The builders created the path from the remains of an abandoned mining and irrigation canal originally built in 1854. The level grade makes it ideal for hikers of all ages and abilities. Interpretive and identifying signs highlight the diversity of flora along the trail. A sharp eye will spot a California newt among the trail duff (and the sharp hiker won’t touch it—the amphibian’s slimy coating is toxic). The cascades at Rush Creek, which has a superior ramp-access system, is the glamour spot on this route."
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