A couple days of hiking, swimming, and laying in the sun at the South Yuba Primitive Camp.
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We took the South Yuba Trail where it meets up with the South Yuba (car) Campsite. That’s the westernmost point on the map. From there, it’s a quick, relatively flat, but trending downward 5 miles on the trail to the primitive camp.
Max elevation: 2700 ft
Min elevation: 2077 ft
Total climbing: 2434 ft
the way in
The trail is clearly well maintained and marked. We were slightly delayed after only a mile or so by a friendly rattlesnake hanging out right on the trail. The way was blocked on either side by the ubiquitous poison oak, so we had no option but to wait until the snake decided to go on his way, which didn’t take too long, thankfully. Besides the snake, we encountered only 3 other folks along the trail. The mid-August sun was already warming up the late morning, but the trail is mostly covered, so it wasn’t unbearable. There are a few exposed bits that offer some pretty spectacular views of the river below. One of the best is about halfway between the parking lot and the trail camp where you emerge from the forest to see a sharp bend as the river bends back to the south. The only steep part of the trail is where it drops from the ridge down to the river itself just before you reach the camp. Also at this point, skirts the banks of the river, taking you over some of the rocks along the way.
The South Yuba Primitive Camp covers a bit of area along the river. The official campsite itself, we discovered, was actually a little way up the trail from where we decided to set up. All along the river bank in the area, there are some great spots to make camp, though. We saw one couple about 1/4 mile before the camp that had set up on the opposite bank, next to a huge swimming hole in the river and a little way up the river from us, there was an old fellow panning for gold. Apart from them, whom we saw only on our way in and out, the place was completely ours. We chose a flat, sandy, shaded area, dropped our packs, stripped down and jumped in the water to cool off. Throughout the rest of the day (which peaked around 105°F) and evening we cycled between swimming or lounging in the water and laying in the sun on the bank. It was warm enough all night that we kept the fly off the tent to be able to see the sky. The next day, we took our time packing up, went for another dip in the water and made our way out.
the way out
We hiked out the same way we came in. It took a little bit longer than the way in due to the upward trend of the trail. The sun was bearing down again, so the shady sections were very welcome. After arriving at the car, we drove down the dirt road (North Bloomfield Rd) back to Edwards Crossing. There, we parked, walked back to the river and got one last cooling dip in before heading back to Nevada City for lunch and eventually back home.
This area of the South Yuba River has pockets of land (which include this trail and campsite) managed by the BLM, but is within the greater South Yuba River State Park and borders the Tahoe National Forest.
When I called the BLM office (916) 941-3101, I was told there are no reservations to make or permits to acquire. Since we went in on a Sunday, we probably lucked out and missed the weekend warrior crowd.
I went in August. The river had plenty of great swimming holes and was fun to ride down on our backs/butts even through the small rapids. The river is an entirely different beast in the springtime/early summer at class IV and V!