Hardrock Trail

Location: Grass Valley, CA; Empire Mine State Historic Park

Distance: 3.5 miles

Type: Day-hike; Out-and-back

Rating: Easy

Permits & Fees: Parking is free. No permit required.

Driving Directions: There are two trailhead options. I parked at the Penn Gate Trail Entrance (directions can be found here). The second option is located at the Visitors’ Center (directions can be found here).

Preparation: Be sure to bring water, sunscreen and good hiking shoes. Arrive early to ensure a parking spot. The lot is very small and this hike is especially popular on weekends year-round.

Dog Friendly? Yes!

The Hike:

After parking at the Penn Gate Trail Entrance, locate the white gate and continue hiking past a series of signs (pictured below):

The trail begins shortly after the last sign- there is also a green gate that marks the start of the trail. To the left of the start of the trail are old, abandoned buildings (there will be more later on the trail):

Continue straight until the first fork in the trail is reached- stick to the left. NOTE: A helpful tip is to stay to the left at each of the forks in the trail and to follow signs that read “Visitors’ Center”:

Continue on the trail for another half mile. Another fork will be reached (stay left and continue straight). At the 1.2 mile mark this sign will be reached:

From this sign, it is a short 0.4 miles to the Visitor’s Center. NOTE: There is an option to go straight and stay on the main trail or to the left of this sign; either trail is OK. The trail to the left offers a small detour.

Before the Visitor’s Center, remnants of old mine tools and structures will come into view. The end of the trail is marked by a green metal gate and a parking lot:

After checking out the Visitor’s Center (if it is open), take the same trail back to the Penn Gate Entrance. Enjoy the views and the other friendly hikers on the trail!