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Yuba-Donner Scenic Byway

New Hwy 49 bridge over the South Yuba River – Linda Chaplin

ADA Accessibility Notes

Some sites along Hwy 20 and I-80 have wheelchair-friendly trails. Easy access to Independence Trail on Hwy 49 near the South Yuba Bridge, approximately 5 miles north of Nevada City.

This Scenic Byway makes a 160-mile driving loop route through the Sierra foothills and mountains west and east of the Sierra Crest, highlighting small communities located north of I-80, including Nevada City, Downieville, Sierra City, Sierraville and Truckee.

Driving Directions

The loop follows portions of State Highways 20, 49 and 89, historic U.S. 40, and Interstate 80. It is located in Nevada, Yuba, Sierra and Placer counties. It crosses historic Donner Pass and Yuba Pass. Much of the byway is over curving, 2-lane highways. Expect winter driving conditions along higher elevation stretches.

Eco-Friendly Notes

Nice fall colors throughout route.

Highlights and Key Points Along the Route

Route travels through small towns in rural areas, many with mining-era history. Highway 49 crosses the three forks of the Yuba River on the west slope of the Sierra Range.

Historic U.S. 40 over Donner Summit was a portion of the transcontinental Lincoln Highway.

Tracks of the transcontinental railroad are visible from I-80 over Donner Summit, too, as this is a significant all-weather pass over the Sierra.

Many museums and several nearby State Parks highlight the historic, cultural, and natural resources of areas along this byway.

Access to recreation areas in some locations along the loop.

Length of Byway or Route

160 mile loop