Nevada County California

Nevada County’s young history is rich in anecdotes, a geographical space of 974sq mi, mapped by its gold mining past. Tourism is the new gold, with walking trails and downtown tours commemorating mining days. In historic mining downtowns, nostalgia, pop festivals, and vegetable markets give flavor and color.

Nevada County’s Paiute, Washoe, and tribal pasts lie silent as the dust of the Californian gold rush settles. Less than 180 years ago, one of the world’s biggest migrations led to the rise of County Nevada. The City of Nevada, Grass Valley, and Truckee are about gold, railroads, and movie stars.

Sierra Nevada California

What Is Nevada County California Known For?

Historic Nevada and Grass Valley owe their origins, like County Nevada, to California’s gold rush (1848 – 1855). Nevada County saw first-time inventions in mining – the world’s long-distance telephone line and the energy-saving Pelton wheel. Nevada City and Grass Valley streets were the first to be electrified in California! Nevada County pioneered the narrow-gauge railway line.

  • Ridge Telephone Company
  • Pelton Wheel
  • Nevada City And Grass Valley Electrified
  • Grass Valley Innovation
  • Narrow Gauge Railroad
  • Truckee Winter Carnivals
  • Hollywood In Truckee

Ridge Telephone Company.

In 1877 the Ridge Telephone Company invented the first long-distance telephone to connect two mining areas, French Corral and French Lake. It was installed for the Milton Mining Company operating in the area. The telephone worked over a distance of 58 miles.

Pelton Wheel.

American inventor Lester Allan Pelton during the Californian gold rush in Nevada in the 1870s, came up with an innovative design to boost mining operations. He invented the Pelton wheel or Pelton Turbine, a water-driven turbine instead of a steam engine. His invention was to save wood and use flowing water. The Pelton wheel is still used throughout the world for generating power.

Nevada City And Grass Valley Electrified.

Nevada City and Grass Valley, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, were among the first Californian towns to be electrified.

Grass Valley Innovations.

Grass Valley designs and manufactures video and broadcasting equipment that is used worldwide. From the Olympics to NASA stations and television stations worldwide, the video and broadcasting equipment used is designed and made at the Grass Valley Group’s headquarters in Grass Valley.

Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Nevada County pioneered the Narrow-Gauge Railroad (NCNGRR) – nicknamed the Never Come, Never Go. This rail linked to the Central Pacific Railroad – from Colfax to Nevada City. A commercial rail line opened in 1874 and operated until 1943. The highest railroad bridge in California is over the Bear River Bridge, built for the NCNGRR, in 1908.

See also  Los Angeles County California

Truckee Winter Carnivals

Truckee was a winter sports destination between 1890 and 1920 when gold mining peaked. Nothing was spared as the people of Truckee built an ice palace – three feet thick chicken wire walls to form icicles and a shimmering palace!

Truckee was a mecca for tourists tobogganing down from a seventy-five-foot tower and sliding hundred plus feet to the street level! The winter carnivals featured skiing, skating, sledding, and dog races and attracted around 2,000 visitors.

Hollywood In Truckee

Between 1910 and 1940, the motion picture industry came to Truckee for its ‘mountain charm.’ Hollywood studios made 82 films in Truckee between 1910 and 1940! Stars that were on set are; Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Tom Mix, Mary Pickford, George Bancroft, Buster Keaton, Greta Garbo, Wallace Beery, John Barrymore, Will Rogers, John Wayne, and Henry Fonda.

Sierra Nevada river California

What’s In Nevada County?

Tourism and hospitality industries capitalize on Nevada County’s Gold Rush days reinventing these for commemoration. Nevada County has natural assets, lakes, trails, and forests. In Nevada City, Grass Valley, and Truckee, community events, markets, and festivals attract tourists.

Tahoe National Forest

County Nevada is partly accessible to the Tahoe National Forest, northwest of Lake Tahoe. The majestic 8,587-foot peak of Sierra Buttes can be seen. The forest covers over 84 000acres of virgin forest and its headquarters are in Nevada City.

Toiyabe National Forest

The Humboldt–Toiyabe National Forest (HTNF) is the largest forest outside Alaska. It has a small portion that falls into County Nevada.

Boreal Mountain Skiing

Boreal Mountain skiing is done in Soda Springs, near Lake Tahoe, there are chairlifts and surface lifts, and you can snowboard. There are many different terrains for skiers and snowboarders and even a family snow play area with snow tubing lanes.

Overland Commemorative Emigrant Trail

This 15-mile trail is north of Truckee and goes through desert scenery, sagebrush and Jeffrey Pine forests, meadows, and woodlands. The Emigrant Trail commemorates the journeys of thousands of prospectors from 1846 to 1848 – journeying westwards, through Stampede and Prosser Valleys, passed Truckee, and into the Coldstream Valley.  

Truckee River Legacy Trail

This hike is along the Truckee River in downtown Truckee and Glenshire. The trail is paved. You can picnic, kayak, and float on rafters downriver.

See also  San Diego County California

Donner Memorial State Park

The Donner Memorial State Park and the Pioneer Monument commemorate people who came to California during the Gold Rush. The Donner Party, or Donner-Reed Party, was a group of American pioneers who went by wagon. In the winter of 1846–1847, they were snowbound on top of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. Some say the pioneers became cannibals to survive starvation and cold.  

Disc Golf

Disc Golf is a popular outing, and there are courses in and around Truckee and at Lake Tahoe. Played with a Frisbee-like disk that’s thrown into baskets on a marked course is popular at the Tahoe Vista Regional Disc Golf Course, with views of the Lake, and the Truckee Regional Park in downtown Truckee.  

Mountain Road Sierra Nevada

Things To Do In Nevada County

Join in and find out more about the early history of Nevada County through events in Truckee, the City of Nevada, and Grass Valley.

  • Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad & Transportation Museum
  • Truckee
  • City of Nevada
  • Grass Valley
  • Eat Cornish Pies

Nevada County Narrow-Gauge Railroad & Transportation Museum

The Nevada County Narrow-Gauge Railroad & Transportation Museum (NCGRR) is the story of the County of Nevada. The museum has railroad artifacts, photographs, and documents, and the ‘Engine 5’ that is featured in many movies is on exhibit alongside County Nevada’s first steam automobile!


Truckee is the largest City in County Nevada, and its name is in honor of a Paiute Chief who guided the emigrants to the goldfields. They couldn’t pronounce his name and said it sounded like ‘Truckee’! Truckee started out as a logging center with the first lumber mill built in 1866.

City Of Nevada

The downtown Nevada City farmers’ market is a gathering place of locals and visitors to boost agriculture and sustainable local businesses.

Grass Valley

At Grass Valley, the Empire Mine and North Star Mine were two of California’s richest mines. Now Grass Valley holds the Strawberry Music Festival. For the past 40 years the five-day, family-centered campout with live music promotes an ethos of ‘kindness and cooperation’, The Strawberry Way! 

Eat Cornish Pies

Grass Valley’s Cornish heritage becomes alive with the Cornish Christmas and St Piran’s Day celebrations. The Cornish pie, as much as a Cornish Christmas, holds a memory of early migrations to County Nevara. Locals dress in Cornish attire at special celebrations in Grass Valley’s historic downtown.

See also  Santa Barbara County California

Grass Valley is twinned with Bodmin in Cornwall (U.K.) and Limana in Italy!

Famous People From Nevada County

Famous in County Nevada means actresses, singers, filmmakers, an early woman railroad pioneer, a diplomat, and the Countess of Landsfeld – courtesan and mistress of the King of Bavaria!

Sarah Kidder

Sarah Kidder was the first woman to run a railroad, the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad (NCRR). She took over from her husband when he died and turned the 22-mile rail line into an economic asset and popular means of transportation in Nevada County.

Lola Montez

The 19th-century Irish dancer and actress Lola Montez lived in Grass Valley from 1851 to 1853. She was Eliza Rosanna Gilbert, the Countess of Landsfeld. Montez, a famous Spanish dancer, was a courtesan and the mistress of King Ludwig I of Bavaria. King Ludwig made her Countess von Landsfeld. Her house in Grass Valley is a historical landmark.

Joanna Newsom

American singer-songwriter Joanna Newsom was born in Grass Valley and grew up in Nevada City. She is a classically trained harpist and a keyboardist in the San Francisco–based indie band called Pleased.

J. Christopher Stevens

The assassinated American ambassador to Libya, J Christopher Stevens, was born in Grass Valley. He died in 2012 on a U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi, Libya.

Nevada County FAQ

Interesting Facts About Nevada County?

Approximately 300 000 people joined the Gold Rush and came to California between 1848 and 1855. The influx of wealth allowed California to grow to statehood! The wealth was centered in County Nevada and the NCNGRR transported $200million in gold out of the County. Curiously there was never an attempted robbery!

Did you know Cornish pastries are a local favorite in Grass Valley? More than 75percent of the people in Grass Valley are from Cornwell (Britain) and came to County Nevada in the gold-mining heyday.

Is Nevada County A Good Place To Live? (H3)

The economies of Gras Valley and Nevada City are diversified and depend on tourism. Many people commute for work to the Sacramento Valley.  

Opportunities in Nevada County are agriculture as the soil is fertile – vineyards, orchards, vegetables, and ranchers for cattle, sheep, and other livestock are boosting the economy. The wine industry is growing too. In Nevada City, small-town living matters as much as doing business with a smile and handshake!

Is It Expensive In Nevada County?

Well, suppose you decide to live in Truckee. In that case, the cost of living here is 41% higher than the national average in California.



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