South Yuba River State Park is a state park in the U.S. state of California, located along the South Yuba River and within Lake County. The park’s main entrance is on Highway 299 (Skyline Boulevard), about 10 miles (16km) east of Nevada City. It covers 3,872 acres (1,554ha).
The primary natural feature in the park is the South Yuba River, which flows down from its source high up in the mountains to the west through an agricultural valley where it runs swiftly over large rocks and boulders until it reaches the Sacramento Delta near the mouth of the American River. This stretch of the river has been designated a National Wild and Scenic River by the United States Department of the Interior, which means that the entire river is protected against development.
There are several hiking trails in the park, including one that follows the course of the river all the way to the headwaters. The South Yuba Trail starts at the campground and heads upstream 2.5 miles (4.0km) to Rainbow Falls. Another trailhead is found at Wye Bar Campground, with another 1.2 miles (1.9km) of trail extending downstream to Limekiln Falls. A short 0.3 mile (0.6km) walk leads from the Limekiln Falls parking area to Limekiln Falls itself. At the end of the Limekiln Falls Trail is a spur leading to Indian Grinding Rock, named for the grinding stones used by Native Americans to make acorns into meal or cornbread. Beyond this point the trail becomes much steeper and less obvious, but there are still plenty of good views of the river throughout.
The last major access point before reaching the headwaters is Fern Flat Parking Area, at approximately mile marker 19.7 on Highway 299. From here the hiker can take either the Skyline Blvd. route to the top of White Wolf Mountain, or the more difficult and exposed Ridge Route to the summit. The latter climbs steeply past creeks and small waterfalls to reach the peak. The best time to hike the river is during late spring after winter runoff; however, since most of the parks are in rural areas, hikers are usually seen no matter what time of year. Because of dangerous conditions created by snowmelt, most of the parks are closed between October and mid-May. When the parks do open, visitors must pay an admission fee.
The fees are $6 per vehicle for up to four people, or $10 per person for five or more. Fees are waived for honorably discharged veterans and their spouses and children. Passes good for three days or a week are also available; annual passes good at all 22 state parks charging fees are offered at a cost of $75 for out-of-state vehicles or $60 for those registered in any US state. Half of the 22 parks are open 24 hours per day, seven are open only in summer, and two close entirely for the season. All 22 parks have picnic facilities and 18 have camping grounds.
The park was established in 1975 to protect riparian forest habitat along the river which supports endangered tidewater goby. In 1980 it became part of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy’s ‘Save Our Selves’ initiative, then transitioned into full status as a state park in 1991.