Empire Mine State Historic Park

Quick Facts

Empire Mine State Historic Park

California

(530) 273-8522

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

Empire Mine State Historic Park is the site of one of the oldest, largest, deepest, longest and richest gold mines in California. The park is in Grass Valley at 10791 East Empire Street. In existence for more than 100 years, the mine produced 5.6 million ounces of gold before it closed in 1956. (5.6 million ounces of gold is equivalent to a box seven feet long, seven feet high, and seven feet deep filled with gold.) The park contains many of the mine's buildings, the owner's home and restored gardens, as well as the entrance to 367 miles (the distance, as the crow flies, from Grass Valley to Magic Mountain) of abandoned and flooded mine shafts. The park consists of forested backcountry and eight miles of trails - including easy hikes (for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding) - in the park.

Map of Empire Mine (CA)

Latitude, Longitude: 39.208049, -121.043758

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Activities

  • Bicycling

    There is a total of 12 miles of trails for biking. These trails are shared with horseback riders and hikers. The two main trails, Osborne and Union Hill, are both five mile loops and take riders right past historic mine sites. They are also relatively easy loops and beautiful rides.

  • Hiking

    After your history walk, hit the trail. The park has ten miles of pathways--above ground that is. Below the earth is honeycombed with some 367 miles of tunnels, some nearly a mile deep.

    Across the highway from the visitor center is the Union Hill section of the park. This part of the park is wooded (sugar pine, ponderosa pine, incense cedar and Douglas fir), along with some oaks and big leaf maple. A few fruit trees--apple, pear, cherry--are reminders of early settlers in the area.

    Three trails, one to three miles long, explore Union Hill. Along Pipeline Trail are remains of a waterpipe that carried water from a reservoir to the north and generated power to operate mining machinery. Indian Ridge Trail is a historic pathway used by the Nisenan tribe of Maidu. Union Hill Trail skirts the fringe of the fast-growing community of Grass Valley.

    Two mile long Hardrock Trail is a 20-stop interpretive trail that visits mines, machinery, a mule corral, a stamp mill and much more. Pick up the park's "Walking Trails of Empire Mine" brochure to get all the details of the complexities of hard-rock mining. Osborn Hill Loop Trail, a mile-long side trail splitting off from Hardrock Trail, ascends to a couple more mine sites and offers a great view of the Sacramento Valley.

  • Historic Sites

    Within two years of James W. Marshall's discovery of gold in 1848, great hordes of 49ers had panned out most of California's goldbearing streambeds. Only a few miners had any real idea of the quantities of gold still locked beneath the surface of the Sierra in sheet-like veins of quartz. But in June of 1850, George McKnight discovered a gold-bearing quartz outcropping about a mile from here, near St. Patrick's church in downtown Grass Valley.

    Then, in October of 1850, a lumberman named George Roberts found flecks of gold in a surface outcropping of quartz where the park's main parking lot is now located. Hearing the news, hundreds of miners flocked to this area to stake out the customary 40-foot by 30-foot placer claim. However, they soon found that they lacked the skills necessary to tunnel deep into the earth. Chipping and blasting rock was hard and dangerous work. Cave-ins were frequent, and tunnels were continually being flooded by underground springs. By 1851 the land was perforated with hundreds of "coyote holes"--vertical holes in the ground, 20 to 40 feet deep--that resembled water wells. Miners were lowered into these holes in buckets. Guided tours and audio-visual presentations are offered throughout the day at various times.

  • Horseback Riding

    There is a total of 12 miles of trails (mostly easy) for horseback riding that are shared with hikers and bikers. Osborne Hill Trail is a five mile loop that takes riders through a creek and forest. It winds through old mine sites with foundations. The Union Hill Trail takes riders past the old historic pipeline that brought water to the mines.

  • Picnicking

    Picnicking is available in the park.

Seasonality/Weather

Empire Mine SHP lies in an interior, Continental zone. Consequently, warmer, drier summer conditions often prevail (60's-low 90's F), with colder, precipitation-driven winter conditions (30's-50's F).

Park Partners

Empire Mine Park Association

The Empire Mine Park Association (EMPA) furthers the interpretive and educational goals of Empire Mine State Historic Park (EMSHP). Through public donations, visitor center sales, membership dues, and special events such as the annual Miners' Picnic, the association provides significant financial support to the park.

Directions

Driving

Drive 24 miles north of Auburn on Highway 49 to Empire Street exit in Grass Valley. The park is located in Grass Valley at 10791 East Empire Street.

Flying

The closest major airport to Empire Mine SHP is Sacramento International Airport, approximately 46 miles away. From there, myriad car rental services are available, ranging from Alamo to National and beyond.

Public Transportation

Gold Country Stage Transit offers reliable public transportation in Nevada County and adjacent areas.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(530) 273-8522

Links