The South Yuba River Trail runs 20 miles, paralleling the South Fork of the Yuba River. The trail is in a beautiful area with limited road access between Poorman Creek and Purdon Crossing. This route description covers the final 5 miles starting at Edwards Crossing and ending at Purdon Crossing. This section of trail along the South Yuba River tends to receive less traffic than the more popular Highway 49 Crossing. Here, hikers hoping to find a private swimming hole in the river may be in luck.
If you are planning to shuttle between trailheads, it is slightly easier begin on the upriver trailhead at Edwards Crossing. Taking the trail in this direction gives the hike a general descent, but climbing is a necessity regardless of which way you take. The trail constantly varies between uphill climbs and downhill drops, and although the trail parallels the Yuba, the rolling terrain, with at times steep ascents, necessitates that hikers should be in good shape.
The parking along the steep gravel road leading to Edwards Crossing tends to fill up quickly during the warmer months, but most visitors stick to the first half mile of river in either direction. The trail generally proceeds high above the river level, with many well-worn paths that vary in steepness forking off from the trail and leading down to the water. Rocks alongside the river offer swimmers some nice jumping spots, varying from water level to 15 feet, especially toward the Purdon Crossing side.
During spring, a large variety of wildflowers abound along the trail. Yellow blooms of tufted poppies, sedum, western buttercup, and marsh marigolds mix with the red of scarlet fritillary and California Indian pink. The white pink petals of miner's lettuce line the trail and purple larkspur contrasts with the green grasses. The highest concentration of spring wildflowers are found on the portion of trial closer to Purdon Crossing.
Accessing both the Edwards Crossing and Purdon Crossing trailheads requires a steep descent on a gravel road that, although generally passable for any passenger vehicle, has a tendency to become very rutted. The entirety of the trail and parking areas are on South Yuba River State Park property, and the park is closed each night from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Backcountry camping is permitted in select areas, but are campers are responsible for knowing beforehand where camping is allowed and following all posted restrictions.
Local custom has it that any portion of the South Yuba River is clothing-optional. There are no amenities here except for a couple poorly-maintained outhouses at the Purdon Crossing trailhead and a vault toilet near the Edwards Crossing Trailhead.
Although the trail is for the most part well marked and easy to follow, there are a few unsigned forks. It is best to have an idea of the river's course and your bearings if you hiking the length of the trail between the crossings. This trail is also open to mountain biking.