Highway 20

Area Status: Open

HISTORY:   Highway 20 between Bear Valley and Nevada City largely follows the trace of the 1850 cutoff of the Emigrant Trail.  Although it later became a toll road, and later a public turnpike, it was still referred to as the Old Emigrant Road.  You can see signs of this road on either side of Highway 20 as it winds along Washington Ridge.  Pioneer Trail sections follow the trace of the old Emigrant road.  There are many historic sites along the way.

Lone Grave is the burial site of two-year old Julius Apperson who died in 1858.  The Apperson’s were some of the first settlers along the Old Emigrant Road.  In 1859, the family left the area, leaving the grave unmarked.  A Nevada City resident erected a permanent marker and fence in 1863.  Since then, volunteers have cared for the grave as a memorial to the many pioneers who lie 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 stagecoach stop.

White Cloud was named for the clouds of dust kicked up by wagon teams during the dry season.  In 1890 Deer Creek Sawmill was constructed here.  In 1895 it was one of the largest mills on the west coast.                                                             

Skillman Flat is the site of a lumber mill that burned down in 1858.  The trail here follows the Ridge Ditch, constructed in 1857-58.  It is one of many ditches built by the South Yuba Canal Company to carry water to Nevada County gold mines.

Omega Overlook.  From the overlook one can see the Alpha and Omega Diggins, one of the largest hydraulic mine operations in the Sierra.  Yuba River water was diverted to the Omega Ditch and into wood flumes hung from granite cliffs above the Yuba River.

Fifty yards beyond the historic marker you’ll find the trace of the Old Emigrant Road.  The Pioneer Trail follows it to the Diamond Creek Road, one and one half miles east.

Bear Valley was a welcome site to emigrants in the 1850s.  After crossing Donner Pass and the steep granite slopes, this flat, grass covered valley must have looked like heaven. 

Lang Crossing has been used as a river crossing since the 1850s.  The 1867 General Land Office plat shows the Culbertson's House immediately southeast of the crossing. 

Spaulding Powerhouse #3 was completed in 1929.    Lake Spaulding’s dams were under construction from 1907 to 1912.  Powerhouse #1 was completed in 1917 and Powerhouse #2 in 1920.

For More Information: Tahoe National Forest

Yuba River Ranger District - South

631 Coyote Street

Nevada City, CA 95959

530-265-4531 (voice)

530-478-6118 (TDD)



Campground Camping

Areas for Campground Camping at Highway 20

Group Camping

Areas for Group Camping at Highway 20

Viewing Scenery

OHV Trail Riding

Areas for OHV Trail Riding at Highway 20

Interpretive Areas


Areas for Picnicking at Highway 20

Boating - Non-Motorized


Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities