Autumn in Grass Valley is a golden time: By day, late summer sunlight burnishes the South Yuba River canyon; by night, cooler temperatures trigger vibrant displays of foliage. Along the historic Main Street, restaurants and cafés showcase local end-of-season bounty.
Clydesdales, Percherons, and other sturdy breeds pull antique carriages and execute intricate maneuvers at the Draft Horse Classic, Sept. 19–22. The celebration also features a harvest fair and live bluegrass.
Water flumes were built all over gold country to power hydraulic mining and transport timber. You can follow one such waterway along the flat, wheelchair-accessible Independence Trail West. From the trailhead on Highway 49, walk west to cross Rush Creek on 500-foot-long Flume 28. It's also a great place for dramatic views of the leaf canopy in its seasonal glory.