This narrow strip of the Wildlife Area receives very light use but covers pleasant hills and goes by the remains of an old homestead. The western aspect can be good for wildflowers in season.
...lopes through oaks and covered slopes while winding over a couple, gentle ridges...
...opens to a huge meadow that looks west over the last rim of nearly treeless hills dropping from the foothills into the Central Valley.
2.3 miles plus about 0.2 mile trek to reach the trailhead; full loop about 4.0 miles; Moderate; Elevations: 430’-550’; Time: 1 1/4 hour; shuttle or round-trip necessary; Tread: fire line and double track that is chewed up by cows using the route too – uneven footing most of trip with lots of cow pies to avoid; Equestrian and Hiking permitted.
The trail lopes through oaks and covered slopes while winding over a couple, gentle ridges with views west into the Central Valley. An old homestead foundation and rock work lies in about a mile. If you’re lucky you’ll catch the patch of daffodils in bloom and appreciate seeing the rancher’s tree that he planted to make it feel like home. A large, open, grassy meadow spans over the rancher’s valley. Cows like it too.
After the trail climbs over the next ridge and by a newish house built on the other side of the boundary fence, it opens to a huge meadow that looks west over the last rim of nearly treeless hills dropping from the foothills into the Central Valley. You can see Beale Air Force Base buildings in the distance, and if the valley is not hazy this is a picturesque, wide-open view that we seldom get from public lands.
This is a logical turnaround spot as the “trail” follows the fence line and cow paths for much of the way past here. Few views from there, more cow tracks and typical oak woodlands. But if you left a shuttle vehicle at the gate on the Smartsville Road or you’re like me and like to whittle another notch for a completed trail on my hiking stick, then continue. On the north side of huge hillside meadow, there’s a barbwire gate that is moderately tough to open.
After the gate and on the rise shortly past a small pond, the trail veers left (west). There is an equestrian trail sign on a metal post at the intersection, but facing the boundary fence, not the trail. From here the route follows an old road to a metal gate on the Spenceville Road that could be a shuttle spot.
It’s about 1 ½ mile back to the gate on the North Pittman Road used to access this trail. You can either walk the Road or follow the fence-boundary trail and cow path that parallels the fence along the blacktopped road. This trail rolls over broad ridges and small draws and is mostly moderately easy except for poor footing caused by cow tracks. Midish way there is a barbwire gate that was too tough for me to open with bare hands. We used a stump and crawled gingerly over the top of the fence. Two people could crawl through or under; riders would have to open the gate.
The trek couples nicely with the Four Ponds Trail. Continuing east along the North Pittman Road and near the bottom of the next swale is the trailhead for the Four Ponds Trail.
From the east and Grass Valley: Drive 12.5 miles via Highway 20 west of the Highway 49/Highway 20 intersection in Grass Valley. Continue to the black-topped Beale Air Force Base road (Hammonton Road). Turn left (south) and drive 3.8 miles to Smartville Road. Turn left again (south) on the blacktopped road for approximately 1.1 miles. There is no formal trailhead or signs other than a notice board covered with several Wildlife Area posters. Park alongside the road and access the trail by climbing over the metal gate and follow the graveled North Pittman Road east for about 0.2 miles. On a noticeable ridge, the trail intersects from the left (north) up an old roadbed.
From the west and Marysville: Follow Highway 20 towards Grass Valley and east as it climbs into the Sierra Foothills. After 15 miles turn right (south) onto the Beal Air Force Base road (Hammonton Road). After leaving the highway follow the directions above.
This is nice country to just lope along. Combine it with nearby trails and it makes a pleasant outing.
Pleasant. Makes a nice outing for exercise if combined with the Four Ponds Trail.