Sierra Valley, Sierra County, California

Sierra Valley is part of the continental crust that was dropped by the same fault that raised the Sierra Nevada.

An overlook on Highway 49, east of Yuba Pass, provides a spectacular panoramic view of this beautiful sub-alpine valley where Sattley, Calpine, Sierraville and Loyalton lie surrounded by the granitic mountains of the Sierra Nevada.

The scenery in Sierra Valley varies from conifer and aspen forests, to drier woodland forests, to a large valley covered with crops, pastures, and wildflowers in the spring. Smaller valleys and meadows are laced with meandering streams. Old platy-barked ponderosa pine trees are a special feature in the landscape along the upper stretches of Highway 89 near Truckee. Cattle share the pastures with deer and other wildlife. If you’re lucky you might see a cattle drive.

Sierra Valley Farms is a 65-acre certified organic farm and native plant nursery situated on the Middle Fork of the Feather River in the majestic Sierra Valley. The farm is located at 5,000 feet in Beckwourth, California and has one of the most unique growing climates in the West. Sierra Valley Farms was first established as a native plant nursery in 1990 and broadened its diversity to grow certified organic produce in 1999.

Most places in the valley can be reached with a car, but the absolute best way to view wildlife is in a canoe or kayak, traversing the headwaters of the Feather River.

The adjacent Carman Valley north of Calpine has 30 to 40 acres of vernal habitat during spring and early summer. This area is an excellent place to view nesting waterfowl, including wood ducks and shorebirds. Carmen Valley had been de-watered by an old railroad grade, and its present condition is due to a forest service restoration.

The Steel Bridge, located over the headwaters of the Feather River on Marble Hot Springs Road off county road A-23, provides an opportunity to view Canadian geese, great blue heron, sandhill cranes, numerous ducks, and songbirds. This is private property, so please do not explore on foot.

The Smithneck Creek area off Smithneck Road travels through extensive aspen groves with scenes of beaver activity—dams, stick lodges, and beaver-logged timber. It continues on through Antelope Valley, which is an excellent place to observe deer fawning. If you see a lone fawn, please don’t touch it. Its mother is nearby. The Sierra Valley has more German brown trout, mile for mile, than anywhere else in California. Smithneck Creek is a favorite among fishermen seeking this elusive trout. This area is also home to Nevada mule deer, grouse, chucker, and California mountain quail.

Jackson Meadows Reservoir entertains broods of Canada geese, mergansers, mallards, and green-winged teal. Several meadows offer good evening views of mule deer and bald eagles visit in the late fall. Black bears, foxes, and raccoons are also present, but not so visible.

Kyburz Marsh off Hwy 89, 10 miles north of Truckee, is approximately 200 acres and provides
wildlife viewing for waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds, numerous species of hawks, osprey, and bald eagles. Several waterfowl nesting islands are located within the area. In the wintertime, visit on your cross country skis for a true natural experience.

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Latitude: 39.7240886 Longitude: -120.3868103 Elevation: 4954 ft

Best Time for Viewing

Year-round due to light snow. Migration periods are more intense.

Best Months and Seasons for Viewing


ADA Accessibility Notes

Sierra Valley is a network of roads and private property. Most viewing locations are reached by car, and some may require walking on uneven walking paths along dirt roads. But you can see birds and wildlife from the car in most places in the valley.

Pet Friendly Notes

Wildlife and pet dogs often do not get along well. Be very careful if you bring your dog, and keep them on a leash at all times. Sierra Valley is the home of abundant wildlife, birds and mammals. Please make sure you don't scare any animals.


Great photos, Darby!

Lynn Campbell, 12/22/2011

You can find more info at the East Sierra Valley Chamber of Commerce website at

Barbara Jaquez, 2/3/2012

Does anyone know where Smithneck Creek County Park is?

Lea Hansen, 9/17/2015

Isabelle- thanks for the info. I love the area. I've seen pictures of pronghorn antelope in the valley -- can you find out if there really are pronghorn antelope in the valley at times? thanks

Ted Pierce, 7/9/2016

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