Places to Visit: Nevada City California

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Nevada City CA

Enjoy the gorgeous Sierra views on Scenic Highway 20 as you head west from Lake Tahoe to charming Nevada City, an authentically preserved Old West town with much to offer. Read More

  • Nevada City's entire downtown is a registered historic district, preserved to demonstrate what California's richest gold mining towns looked like during the gold rush heydays.
  • Nestled among pine forests at 2500 feet elevation, this Northern Sierra Nevada town lies just 70 miles west of Lake Tahoe.
  • This charming town, with its historic Old West flavor, offers cafes, inns and boutiques that will enchant you.
  • With its location in the Sierra foothills and its thriving community, there is a nearly endless list of activities to keep you busy either in town or in the woods.
  • Head west on Interstate 80 for about 25 miles then take highway 20 west toward Nevada City/Grass Valley.


Nevada City exists as a slice of living history with its entire downtown district designated as historic and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This thriving community values its great gold rush history and preserves it like no other small California town does, providing tourist with the opportunity to visit and experience an Old West Town in the 21st century.

At the turn of the last century, Nevada City was the state's richest mining town thanks to the mines in neighboring Grass Valley. With the demise of the mining industry, as the century progressed, the town was revitialized in the 1960s and 1970s by an influx of "hippies and back to landers" who made preservation a priority and fostered a vibrant community for artists, musicians, poets and writers, as well as nature lovers.


Nevada City, located halfway between Lake Tahoe and Sacramento, sits on the western slope of Northern Sierra Nevada, in the foothills of the range. The historic mining town turned artist enclave is an easy drive from San Francisco, Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, as its off Interstate 80 on Highways 49 and 20, both scenic routes. The hillsides surrounding town border Tahoe National Forest.


Known for its small town charm and appeal, you will not find a chain store or restaurant on any of the street corners. What you will find, however, are opportunities for one-of-a-kind dining and lodging experiences. With a focus on fresh and local, eateries bring the best ingredients from local farms to your table at their restaurants. As for lodging, stay at a local Victorian-era bed and breakfast or an inn on the creek or deep in a wooded forest. More than one hotel has been up and running since before the turn of the 20th century. Shoppers will find much to do as Nevada City is known for intriguing antique dealers and charming mom and pop shops. Book lovers will rejoice as this town has been named to a prestigious "Booktown USA" list.


As for things to do? Well, here's the short list!

  • Arts & Culture: Visit galleries, boutiques or visit Miners Foundry Cultural Center, site of musical events, comedy shows and film festivals. For those with an appetite for history, visit the Firehouse Museum, with its Native American, mining and pioneer relics as well as artifacts from the infamous Donner Party. Call (530) 265-5468 for more information.
  • Hiking & Biking:
    South Yuba River State Park: Located on Highway 49 north of town and open throughout the year for hiking, biking, swimming as well as for gold panning demonstrations. Call (530) 432-2546 for more information.
    Empire Mine State Historic Park: Located in nearby Grass Valley and open from sunrise to sunset throughout the year. With 12 miles of trails on 845 acres of land there's lots to do, including guided tours of original mine buildings. Call (530) 273-8522 for more information. 
  • Fishing: Paradise awaits you at Wild & Scenic South Yuba River with its 20 mile long river corridor park, the first of its kind in California. Known for small mouth bass and brown trout, stretches of the river are open year-round for anglers. Check local fishing regulations regarding licensing and season dates.

Getting Here

Getting from Tahoe City to Nevada City is easy. Located less than 80 miles west of Lake Tahoe, its hardly a 90 minute drive from town center to town center. Hop on Interstate 80 heading west, then exit onto scenic highway 20 toward Nevada City.