California Department of Transportation

Scenic Highway on Route 49 in Sierra County

Location - From the Yuba County Line to the Yuba Summit.

Highway Name - Yuba-Donner Scenic Byway

Length - 41 miles

Description - This U.S. Forest Service Scenic Byway and State Scenic Highway winds through the Yuba River canyon. It goes through several picturesque gold rush towns and climbs up to the Yuba Summit.

Special Note - None.

This 41-mile drive transects a kaleidoscope of California's geology and its native flora through ancient to recent history. The scenic route accords travelers a complete sensory experience ranging from expansive mountain vistas to sounds of the Yuba River rushing alongside the highway much of the way.

Vegetation in the lower elevation, western portions of the drive is characteristically chaparral with manzanita, buckbrush and chamise dominating roadside environs. As elevation increases, vegetation merges into foothill woodland with dense oak forests, madrone and dogwood, then climbs to mountain forestland and an array of coniferous species.

Before California's 1849 gold rush much of the area was home to Nisenan Native Americans. The Nisenan harvested acorns and fished waters abundant with trout, salmon and other species. The Yuba still favored by recreational anglers with excellent river access from Highway 49 and many day use camping areas.

The region was mined extensively for gold from 1849 to 1941. Riverbeds were reputedly lined with the precious metal but fortunes were produced for a lucky few. Recreational miners can be found today panning, sleucing and dredging gold from the bank and bottoms of the region's river.

Downieville, roughly midpoint along the route at the confluence of the Yuba and Downie Rivers, is the Sierra County seat and a popular tourism destination with ample overnight accommodations and restaurants. Sierra City, about 12-miles east of Downieville, is a restored mining camp-cum-recreation and tourism village featuring a quiet lifestyle, excellent scenery and hospitable residents.

The east end of the scenic drive terminates at the Yuba Summit (elevation 6,701') which overlooks rich agricultural valleys to the east. The westbound drive from Yuba Summit features equally dramatic panoramas of rugged peaks, meandering-to-cascading river waters, and a well-maintained roadway that make Sierra 49 one of California's outstanding scenic highways.