Drifting through the summertime with the Yuba River

Skylar Schoemig/Staff

Surrender your mind and body to the scorching hot rocks and chilling water of the Yuba River. The steady rapids along the river make for an exhilarating hiking trip. The calm components create a romantic, relaxing experience. Allow your imagination to fire up the spirits of those around you, just as the sunlight energizes yours. Embrace the cool breeze. Entitle yourself to a weekend full of leaping off of rocks and submerging your body into the depths of the pristine Yuba water.

From Berkeley, take Interstate 80 up to Edwards Crossing. The final three miles of the drive will take you down a winding dirt road that opens up into a parking lot and wooden bathroom. Because of the rancid aroma that wafts from the restroom, I highly recommend not going near it unless necessary. After parking, begin your escapade by strolling across this charming bridge. Hang a left toward the end and walk down to the well-maintained trail. It’s very important that you leave no trace and that you take out everything you bring in! This includes any food waste, trash and toilet paper.

There are many points along the main path where you can turn off of the trail and stride down to a cozy spot on the river. During the afternoon hours, locals lie basking in the warm rays, and dogs run free, fetching loose branches from the river and fighting the current to paddle back upstream.

If you hike for about 15 minutes along the rocky trail and cross a wide stream by springing from rock to rock, you’ll arrive at an empty beach surrounded with large, slick rocks. This area is a sublime spot to set up camp. Bring lots of water or a water filter, food, sunblock and shade. During the heat of the day, there’s very little shelter offered by this natural landscape!

The glacial temperature of the water restores the body, and the vibrant array of blues and greens keeps the mind alive. Jump off of the towering rocks and allow yourself to become one with the current carrying you downstream! Spend your day under the sun, accompanied only by the fresh air and the few other naked hippies who have ventured this far down the river.

Spend the dusk hours relishing in a world your favorite author has created, cooking pasta with a stovetop you rented from the Cal Hiking and Outdoors Society and playing cards with wonderful company. Take this time to relax as you nestle up in your cozy sleeping bag and exhale in awe as you gaze into the unpolluted sky above. The display of stars leaves you pondering extraterrestrial life as you fall asleep.

In the morning, hike along the many trails that meander alongside the Yuba River and off into the depths of the Sierra Nevada. If you follow the same path back out, cross over the bridge to the parking lot and turn right toward the footpath that runs alongside the opposite section of the river, you’ll find a trail map and a variety of remarkable hikes.

As you trek, listen to the animals moving swiftly through the forest, the whisk of the river as rocks create intermittent waterfalls and rapids, and giggles from the few hikers and backpackers you pass by. Appreciate the archways created by tree branches swaying in the wind and the voices of the birds, whose lyrics you’ll never understand.

Allow the trail to escort you to a stunning part of the Yuba River about 40 minutes from the parking lot. The river expands into a vast body of water bounded with rocks and blackberry plants. Dive 40 feet down and see if you can touch the bottom with the tips of your fingers. Try some of the fresh blackberries!

Upon returning to the parking lot, cross over the bridge, hop into the river and surf the rapids all the way back to the campsite! You’re guaranteed some gnarly bruises and countless memories. 

Take this time to escape the fast-paced life back in Berkeley. The liberty that defines Yuba River will allow you to make memories that’ll turn friends into family and refresh your morale with each breath. Embrace your family. Embrace Yuba River.

Contact Skylar Schoemig at [email protected].