Steephollow Grand Traverse


Summary

Difficulty 3 Intermediate
Length 6.5 miles one-way
Starting
Elevation
5150 feet
Cumulative
Elevation
Change
+650, -550 one-way
Navigation Road, marked trail and map
Time Most of a day
Season Late December through March
Snowmobiles Not permitted [Please report illegal use of snowmobiles in this area.]
USGS Topo 7.5' series, Washington, Blue Canyon
Start Omega Rest Stop on Highway 20, 17.0 miles east of the junction of highways 49 and 20 in Nevada City and 10.1 miles west of the junction of highways 80 and 20 (Yuba Gap).
End Trail junction 25 on Highway 20, 2.9 miles east of the Omega Rest Stop.


Description

Many marked trails make up the Steephollow Trail System and the Grand Traverse tour combines trails that traverse the entire area without retracing any part. This tour is the best way to see the area for the first time. Along the way you will be treated to many excellent views; this includes an opportunity to take a side trip to the best vantage point in the entire area.

A slightly shorter route, that does not require a shuttle vehicle, is described in the Steephollow Upper Loop tour.

Image of snow-covered road
Most of the marked trails are easy to follow roads. Courtesy of A. Clark.

This area is conveniently located on Highway 20 not far from Nevada City, but off the beaten path. Historically this area is important because it is the location of the Nevada City Road and Washington Ridge Emigrant Trail of 1850.

The only drawback to the Steephollow area is that it is located entirely between 5150 and 5800 feet elevation. This low elevation means that snow-cover can be iffy early and late in the season in anything but a good year. But snow permitting, this is a wonderful place to spend the day skiing. Locals rave about the area when it is hit by a very cold storm. Consider stopping here on your way to or from the Lake Tahoe area.

The Steephollow Trail System is maintained by volunteers from the Nordic Skiers of Nevada County.

Mileage Log
Numbers in parentheses
correspond to mileage points on map

Two types of location points are referred to in this tour. "Trail junction" refers to a marked trail junction. These junctions are denoted by numbers in the range of 1 through 25 and the numbers are posted at the junctions. "Mileage point" refers to other points similar to those used throughout this guide. These points are denoted by numbers in the range of 30 through 39.

All trail segments are on roads unless otherwise stated.

Be aware that there are many roads and road junctions in the area that are not described in this log. Refer to the tour description and the map to navigate at these points.

Miles: 0.0 - 0.1
Elevation change: Nil

From the trailhead (1) ski northeast on the marked trail for 0.1 mile until you reach a trail junction (3).

Miles: 0.1 - 0.9
Elevation change: +100, -50 feet

Ski northeast on the southern-most (right) fork for 0.8 mile until you reach a trail junction (5). After the first 0.3 mile you will be skiing on a snow-covered road.

As an alternative you can ski from trail junction 3 to 5 on a more northern route (left fork at trail junction 3) that is located on the north side of a low ridge and is more wooded. Most of this route is not on roads and there are two "Y" intersections at which you take the southern-most (right) forks. This alternative adds 0.3 mile and +50, -50 feet of elevation change.

Miles: 0.9 - 2.1
Elevation change: +250 feet

Ski east and then southeast on a snow-covered road for 1.2 miles until you reach a trail junction (9).

At mileage point 30, 1.0 mile east of trail junction 5 and 100 yards east of a small clearing on the north (left) side of the road, you can leave the road and ski 75 yards north (left) to mileage point 31 and an outstanding vista to the north. Most striking is Sierra Buttes peaking beyond a ridge but Grouse Ridge is also distinctive.

You may see blue diamonds to the south of the road starting at the small clearing described above and running east for about 0.2 mile where they intersect the road again. It is not clear why these markers were installed because the road is the best route.

A very short distance to the west of trail junction 9 is a marker on the north side of the road that marks the location of the Nevada City Road and Washington Ridge Emigrant Trail.

Miles: 2.1 - 2.1
Elevation change: Nil

Ski east on the southern-most (right) trail (a snow-covered road) for 50 yards until you reach a trail junction (11).

Miles: 2.1 - 2.4
Elevation change: Nil

Ski east on the northern-most (left) trail (a snow-covered road) for 0.3 mile until you reach trail junction (13).

As an alternative, you can ski directly from trail junction 9 to trail junction 13 via a lesser trail (not a road). To do this, at trail junction 9 ski east on the northern-most trail. The distance and elevation change are the same by the two routes.

Miles: 2.4 - 3.0
Elevation change: +50 feet

Ski east on the northern-most (left) trail (a snow-covered road) for 0.6 mile until you reach a trail junction (15). Trail junction 15 is not a road junction and is easily missed if you are not looking closely for the marker and trail number on a tree. Here a trail heads southwest and the Grand Traverse continues to the east.

In this section at mileage point 32, 0.3 mile east of trail junction 13 and 100 yards east of a small clearing on the north (left) side of the road, you can leave the road and ski 75 yards north (left) to mileage point 33 (you will descend a little) and an outstanding vista to the north. Here you can see Sierra Buttes peaking beyond a ridge and Grouse Ridge is also distinctive.

Miles: 3.0 - 3.9
Elevation change: +250 feet

Ski east and then northeast on the trail (a snow-covered road) for 0.9 mile until you reach a trail junction (17). There is a prominent road junction 0.5 mile east and northeast of trail junction 15 at mileage point 34. Take the fork to the northeast (straight), not the road to the north (left). At trail junction 17 the road ahead begins to descend gradually.

Image of trail junction 17
Trail junctions are marked with numbers. Courtesy of A. Clark.

Miles: 3.9 - 4.0
Elevation change: Nil

Ski east on the marked trail (not a road), at first through trees and then through a large clearing, for a total of 0.1 mile until you reach the point where the trail intersects a snow-covered road (35).

Side trip to overlook

Before continuing south on the road and the Grand Traverse, make a short excursion to the best vista point in the area. From mileage point 35, ski east on the marked trail (not a road) for 0.3 mile with an elevation change of +50, -50 feet until you reach the obvious overlook point (37).


The trail to the overlook is marked and appears to follow an old logging skid road. Courtesy of A. Clark.

Be aware that the trail veers to the north (left) at mileage point 36. Here there is a blue diamond with an arrow on it, but you may miss it and continue straight if you are not looking carefully.

There is a bench at the overlook and the lake to the east is Lake Spaulding. Signal Peak is the mountain directly beyond the dam that creates the lake. To the north (left) of Signal Peak is steeper Old Man Mountain. Also to the east, but not obvious, are Cisco Butte and Devils Peak.

Image from overlook in springtime
Springtime view from overlook. You can see Signal Peak and Old Man Mountain. Courtesy of A. Clark.

Image from overlook in winter
Winter view from overlook. Signal Peak is at far left, Devils Peak is very small on the horizon at about the 1/4 point from the right, and Cisco Butte is the dark blob to the left of Devils Peak. Courtesy of A. Clark.

Continuing on the main route

Miles: 4.0 - 5.5
Elevation change: -300 feet

Ski south and southwest on the trail (a snow-covered road) for a total of 1.5 miles until you reach a trail junction (19). The fork to the west (right) eventually turns north and heads back to the main part of the trail system. This tour continues on the fork to the south (left).

Miles: 5.5 - 6.1
Elevation change: -150 feet

Turn south (left) and ski south and then southwest for a total of 0.6 mile until you reach a tee intersection (38).

Miles: 6.1 - 6.5
Elevation change: -50 feet

Turn north (right) and ski on the trail (a snow-covered road) for 0.4 mile until you reach a trail junction (25).

Elevation Profile
Elevation profile
Link to elevation profile
Link to waypoint data
Link to full page map
Link to see and submit reviews and corrections about tour