Tahoe National Forest Best Kept Secret: The Emerald Pools
On an attempt escape the hustle and bustle of the city here in California, I took off north on I-80 and pulled off at an exit just outside the Truckee/North Lake Tahoe area. Desperately searching for a trail on my maps that will bring me back to my nature roots, I discovered the holy grail of all secret spots, the Emerald Pools.
Finding the Emerald Pools
In a parking area just over a small bridge, I find an obvious trailhead heading east with the Yuba River on our right. After a short half-mile trek on graveled ground, the trees open up to a rocky bank.
And this is what I came for!
The crystal-clear teal water is incredibly inviting in the summer heat. There was no doubt I was going to jump in for a cool down, except I didn’t take into consideration that this water is from snow run-off. Whew! What a shock it sends through your body.
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Exploring the Emerald Pools Further
Thinking this area will definitely fill up if more people come, I decide to continue on a little further to search for some serenity. Across the river to the east, I take notice at another trail. Here at the base of the Emerald Pools, there is a massively large rock on the right that extends out. With about a 2 foot gap of water in between, this is the route I take to access the other trail.
As always when hiking to natural areas, follow the Leave No Trace principles like packing out what you pack in and being considerate of others. Learn more about Leave No Trace here
Crossing the river and climbing up on the banks, a short walk through the trees brings me above the water.
The Mini-Gorge of the Emerald Pools
Are you all ready for the most epic part of this whole experience?!
The Emerald Pools are at the base of where the Yuba River flows down and, because of that, it creeps through this little creek. With a harsh flow of water over time, the most stunning mini-gorge has taken shape here.
Crossing The Gorge
One of the reasons I love the backcountry so much is because I thrive on privacy and quietness. To find a spot like that, crossing the mini-gorge in the opposite direction is the only option. With the small waterfall and the large boulder sticking out of the water, I make an easy jump over to the other side.
A Smaller Emerald Pool
Hiking up the river about a ¼ mile further, I find just what I’m looking for in a smaller, more secluded Emerald Pool. With no one else in sight, I spend some time sunbathing and swimming around in the incredibly stunning water.
Ispent hours here with the dragonflies and the sun rays and the only sound of the heavy flow of water. Absolute perfection!
Info for Hiking to the Emerald Pools
Location: Nevada City, CA
Nevada City, CA Type of Trail: Out & Back. Predominantly Foot Trail; Bikes have access but large rocks on the trail make it difficult
Out & Back. Predominantly Foot Trail; Bikes have access but large rocks on the trail make it difficult Rated: Easy
Easy Distance: 0.5 miles
0.5 miles Features: South Yuba River, Dry Creek Bed, Emerald Pools, Gorge
South Yuba River, Dry Creek Bed, Emerald Pools, Gorge More Info: If visiting in the springtime, beware of high water; the Emerald Pools may not be accessible during this time. The best time to visit for the full experience is late summer or early fall when the river has had time to dry up.
What to Bring:
Hiking Shoes, Water Shoes, Bathing Suit, Towel, Water, Sunscreen, Snacks
Before heading in to natural areas, it’s imperative that you’re familiar with the “Leave No Trace” principles.
Read More: Leave No Trace: The 7 Rules of the Backcountry
Learn more about Leave No Trace on their website here.
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One of the best hidden gems in all of the Tahoe National Forest is a local’s favorite, the naturally incredible Emerald Pools.