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The Pioneer Trail is an easy 12 mile trail at an elevation of 3,500 feet. This trail parallels scenic Highway #20 from Lone Grave to Bear Valley. It follows the north side of the highway between Lone Grave and White Cloud Campground. Just west of the campground the trail crosses Highway #20 and goes deeper into the National Forest To Skillman Campground. It crosses back to the north side for Hwy. #20 0.25 miles east of Omega Rest Area. From here the trail follows an old pioneer road to the Diamond Creek Road at Steephollow.

The Pioneer Trail is suitable for equestrians, hikers, joggers, mountain bicyclists and cross-country skiers. It is closed to all motorized vehicles. The existing section of trail was constructed by the Gold Country Trails Council under supervision of the Forest Service. They plan to continue construction of the trail to intersect with the Pacific Crest Trail near Jackson Meadow.

The first wagon road between Nevada City and bear Valley was opened by emigrants and gold seekers in 1850. Although it later became a toll road, and soon thereafter a public turnpike, it was still referred to as the OLD EMIGRANT ROAD. You can still see signs of this road on either side of Highway #20 as it winds along Washington Ridge. The present Pioneer Trail has been constructed to avoid most of the highway crossings, but many sections of the trail follow the trace of the original road. This is a scenic trail with many historic points of interest along the way.

Lone Grave is the burial site of two-year-old Julius Apperson, who died in 1858. The Apperson family were among the first settlers along the Old Emigrant Road. The family moved elsewhere in 1859, leaving the grave unmarked. A Nevada City resident erected a permanent marker and fence in 1863. In 1921 and again in 1948 the marker and fence were replaced. The grave has since been cared for by volunteers as a memorial to the many pioneers who have been buried in solitary, unmarked graves.

Central House is an old, white house on Missouri Bar Road near Highway #20. Now a private residence, it was once a stage coach stop.

White Cloud became active with mining camps after the 1849 gold rush began. Extensive logging operations soon followed, and in 1890 Deer Creek Sawmill was constructed. In 1895 it was one of the largest mills on the west coast. By 1900 transportation improved and logs were taken into Nevada City. The mill was dismantled and moved to the Emigrant Gap area. White Cloud was named for the clouds of white dust kicked up by wagon teams during the dry season.

Skillman Flat is the site of an old lumber mill, which frequently burned down. It was never rebuilt after the 1850's. The ditch around the perimeter of the campground was one for many built in the 1800's by the South Yuba Canal Company to carry water to Nevada County gold mines.

The Alpha and Omega Diggins was one of the largest hydraulic mine operations in the Sierra. Yuba River water was diverted to the Omega Ditch and into wooden flumes hung from granite cliffs hundreds of feet above the Yuba River.

After enjoying the view from the overlook, take a walk beyond the restrooms east of the parking area. Fifty yards past the historic marker you will see the Old Emigrant Road running parallel to Highway #20. The Pioneer Trail follows this road to the Diamond Creek Road, one and one half mile east.

Directions: From Nevada City, Travel east on Hwy. #20 for 7 miles to the main trailhead across from Lone Grave. Additional parking and access at Skillman Flat, Upper Burlington Ridge, and Omega Overlook and Rest Area.

Elevation: 3,500 feet

Ending Elevation: 5,500 feet

Elevation Gain: 2,000 feet

Difficulty: Easy

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Tahoe National Forest, California

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The details, dates, and prices mentioned here were accurate at the time of publication.

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