Buttermilk Bend Trail

The Buttermilk Bend Trail offers spectacular views of the river and is a showcase of color during Spring wildflower season (March through May).

  • Easy to Locate? Yes
  • Pet Friendly? Yes. Dogs MUST be on a leash.
  • Easy to Walk? Yes. The dirt trail is well-maintained. Zero to very little elevation gain.
  • Is there a Fee? Yes. You can get a day-pass at the kiosk by the front gate or get an annual pass from the State of California.
  • Are there Restrooms? Yes. At the trailhead.
  • Is there Accessible Parking? Yes.
  • Other Notes: This trail is best to see in the spring from March through May.

See my FLICKR account for more albums of photos taken at this location.

Information from the State of California:

This trail starts across the river from the Visitors Center just on the opposite side of the modern Pleasant Valley Road bridge and winds up river about 1.2 miles (one way).  You return down the same trail when you come to the end of this parcel of public property. 

The South Yuba River State Park supports an intricate web of plant and animal life, from the plants that line the shore, to the wildflowers that cover the hillsides, to the insects, fish, amphibians, birds, and mammals that call this place their home. Designated as “Wild and Scenic”, the South Yuba River has been saved from several proposed dams, preserving both the riparian ecosystem and its scenic beauty.

Rocks formed late in the Jurassic period, about 160 million years ago. The oldest rocks of the Smartville Complex are volcanic, although remnants of actual volcanoes are not preserved.

Legend has it that gray pines would sway and dance at night, but then freeze in position when the sun came up, resulting in their bent and wavy silhouettes. Other trees and shrubs in the river canyon include several varieties of oak trees, buckeye, ceanothus, redbud, spicebush, manzanita, and madrone. The California Department of Parks and Recreation takes an active role in protecting native plants from invasive species.

Parking is available along the road and in a lot at the trailhead.  The trail follows the route of the old 1877 Caleb Cooley water ditch, so is mildly sloped and has been made wide enough for wheelchair accessibility.  An upper trail from the parking lot with no severe climbs has been added recently by constructing two new bridges across river tributaries. 

How to Get to the Trail:

From Sacramento:

• Take Interstate 80 East
• Take EXIT 119B toward Highway 49 / Grass Valley
• Turn LEFT onto Highway 193 West/ 49 North (Grass Valley Highway)
• Stay on Highway 49 North for about 22 miles
• Turn LEFT onto Highway 20 West/ Eric W. Rood Memorial Expressway
• Turn RIGHT onto Pleasant Valley Road

You’ll pass by the Historic Barn and Bridge.
Parking on the RIGHT side of the street.
Pay at the kiosk.

17660 Pleasant Valley Rd, Penn Valley, CA 95946
530-432-2546

Travels of a Certified California Naturalist