Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park is an intriguing look into the California Gold Rush days with plenty of activities for RVers and 30 campsites that are ideal for smaller motorhomes. Located 26 miles northeast of Nevada City, California, Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park is the site of the largest hydraulic mining area in California and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Created in 1965, the 3,143-acre Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park contains the gold mining town of North Bloomfield with several historical buildings and a museum dedicated to explaining the California Gold Rush.
The surrounding area of Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park was the traditional homelands of the Nisenan Indian Tribe. They first encountered Spaniards in 1808, and a large malaria epidemic in 1833 ravaged the tribe. The tribe was all but decimated by the California Gold Rush in 1848, and today only a few hundred members still exist.
The first environmental law in the country was enacted because of the hydraulic mining taking place in the area. The hydraulic mining caused problems with waterways by clogging rivers with debris that was washed away from the hillsides. Today, RVers can witness a man-made canyon that is 7,000 feet long and 600 feet deep in places.
Activities in Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park are numerous which include hiking, gold panning, wildlife watching, swimming, and fishing. In the winter time when the park is closed the area is a favorite for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. There are ranger-led talks and hikes which help interpret the gold mining days of the area too.
The weather at Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park brings summertime temperatures in the low 70s to mid-80s with minimal rainfall. Wintertime temperatures are in the 40s accompanied by up to 25 inches of snowfall per month.
Accessing Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park is located in a remote, mountainous region within Tahoe National Forest and is only accessible for smaller rigs. There is only one way available to the historic park on paved roads. High speeds are not recommended during the whole time you are driving. Roads near the park contain numerous hairpin curves and drivers should feel free to use the turnouts to allow a steady flow of traffic.
Once inside the historic park driving can be difficult too. The terrain is steep in areas, but the road is not too winding. You will find congestion in several areas within the park directly associated with day use areas like the historic North Bloomfield Town area, Diggins Overlook, West Point Overlook, and the Blair Lake area. You can also expect to share the road with numerous bikers on North Bloomfield Road. Off-road vehicles can take advantage of extreme terrain with their high clearance vehicles on Relief Hill Road, Back Bone Road, and the North Bloomfield-Graniteville Road. Drivers need to be careful driving in the park and can expect to share the roads with bicyclists and pedestrians throughout all roads within the historic park.
While driving in the Chute Hill campground, you should be cautious of three hairpins that will need to be navigated and the two loops are tricky for any vehicle near 24 feet in length. When you are driving in the campground be aware of bicyclists, pedestrians, and children playing.
Chute Hill Campground is situated along a narrow road that connects two loops and contains 30 back-in campsites. The campground offers plenty of shaded campsites within a forest of pines, cedars, and oak trees. There are no hookups available for motorhomes at the park. RVers should prepare with full water capacity and arrive with an empty holding tank.
Each campsite features a fire ring, picnic table, food storage locker, and a gravel parking pad which will require some type of leveling. RVs are restricted to 24 feet in length and not all campsites can accommodate vehicles of this size. The nearest dump station is found at Nevada City. Other facilities at the campground are minimal with flush toilets and drinking water stations. Generators may be used from 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. Pets must be restrained at all times by a six-foot leash. Bear activity at the campground occurs frequently and campers should stow food in their food locker or camper.
Bring your rod and reel because the fishing at Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park is excellent. You can try your luck at Blair Lake which is regularly stocked with black bass, bluegills, and plenty of rainbow trout. Other locations good for fishing are along Humbug Creek, where you will have a chance to catch a rainbow or brown trout. Before dipping your line into the water please check California state regulations for licensing procedures, size, and bag limits.
Every RVer should have a good pair of hiking shoes stowed away in their rig since the 20 plus miles of hiking trails in the park are fabulous for all types of hikers. The Humbug Creek Trail is less than a six-mile trail that takes you to Humbug Creek Falls. Families can try one of the many shorter trails including the Slaughter House Trail and the Upper Humbug Creek Trail. The three-mile Diggins Loop Trail is the perfect spot for great views of the man-made canyon and for wildlife viewing.
There are a plethora of interesting interpretive programs for you to experience including activities just for children. The museum has loads of interactive exhibits explaining hydraulic mining and its environmental impact on the ecosystem. While visiting you can go gold panning with a ranger, see a hydraulic water canon in action and walking through the historic buildings is a treat. The ranger-led talks around the Diggins Trail are packed with intriguing information and beautiful scenery.
Wildlife is plentiful at Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park and you should definitely bring your binoculars in your motorhome. You can expect to see a variety of animals including black-tailed deer, raccoons, and numerous nocturnal animals are like black bear, mountain lion, coyote, and an occasional bobcat. Birding is superb too with species such as mountain chickadee, California quail, dark-eyed junco, and black-throated gray warblers residing in the park. Please be aware of all rules and trail closures due to animal activity while visiting the park.
Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are superb in the winter time when the park is closed to camping. There are several trails including the Rim Trail, Diggins Loop Trail, and the Humbug Creek Trail which are ideal for snowshoeing with minimal gains in elevation. Cross-country skiing is best along the Rim Trail and the Upper Humbug Creek Trail. Don’t expect any groomed trails and breaking trail can be difficult after a deep snowfall.
Mountain biking is popular at Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park with several trails available for biking. Bike trails are shared with hikers and horses, so be prepared. The best trail for biking is the Rim Trail which is over three miles in length with an elevation gain of more than 350 feet. Two shorter trails of less than one mile each include the Slaughterhouse and the North Bloomfield Town Trail which are ideal for families. Other gravel roads available to bikers are Backbone Road, Relief Hill Road, and the North Bloomfield-Graniteville Road.