The Point Defiance Loop Trail is a pleasant 3-mile hiking trail that explores the confluence area of the South Yuba and Yuba Rivers. Located within the westernmost portion of South Yuba River State Park, the trail travels through at least three different ecological zones including oak savannah, a mix of woodland and lower montane pine forest, and a riparian zone. During the summer months, when the region can get quite hot, there are ample opportunities for swimming in the river along the trail. The fall is graced by beautiful foliage colors and significantly fewer people, making it an ideal time for a visit.
The Point Defiance Trail begins across the river from the South Yuba River State Park Visitor Center. The counterclockwise loop begins at the trailhead marked by a sign for Point Defiance (also marked "Englebright" in reference to the lake into which the two rivers). The hike begins with a 350-foot climb on switchbacks through open oak and grasslands. The trail flattens out for a half mile and then begins a gradual descent along a dirt access road into the Yuba River canyon. On the descent to the river, the spectacular Yuba River Canyon comes into view to the north. Here the river appears flat, calm, and essentially lake-like. Downstream from the confluence of the South Yuba and Yuba rivers is a dam forming Lake Englebright, a popular watersports, fishing, and boat-in camping area during the summer. The two rivers flow into the head of the lake. The trail passes by picnic tables for a couple of the boat-in campgrounds. Point Defiance proper is the point of land at the confluence of the two rivers.
Heading south from Point Defiance, continue on the loop trail following the northern bank of the South Yuba River. There are multiple access points along this section of the trail that put you on the South Yuba River's edge. After passing around the last bend, you'll see the historic Bridgeport Covered Bridge which is famous for being the longest intact single-span covered bridge. Follow the trail past the covered bridge back to the trailhead and parking area.