The area around South Yuba River State Park is full of gold rush history, and the park's Independence Trail near Highway 49 Crossing is no exception. The nation’s first ever ADA-accessible wilderness trail follows the historic Excelsior Ditch and Canal system built during the Gold Rush, leading through the foothill woodlands high above the South Yuba River.
The Independence Trail has both a west and east section that is split by the trailhead, and they are referred to as Independence Trail West and Independence Trail East. This trip report concerns the west portion, arguably the more interesting of the two.
Independence Trail West leads through some impressive wooden flumes that have been converted to support walking and wheelchair access. The route has plenty of viewpoints high above the South Yuba River. About a mile in from the trailhead is Flume 28, an elevated flume that wraps around Rush Creek Canyon. The lengthy Flume 28 is undoubtedly the highlight of the trail, providing access to Rush Creek and views of a cascading waterfall.
Wheelchair access ends shortly after Flume 28, and hiking trails continue on. Independence Trail East is also wheelchair accessible for a little over a mile. A longer but slightly strenuous 4.3-mile loop option leads down to the South Yuba River and Jones Bar Road.
Parking for the Independence Trail is located is alongside Highway 49 a half-mile south of Highway 49 Crossing. Dogs are permitted on trail with a leash.