Loyalton is located in the northeastern part of the Sierra Valley, the largest sub-alpine valley in the west. The Valley is part of the continental crust that was dropped by the same faulting that raised the Sierra Nevada. The scenery in Sierra Valley varies from conifer aspen forests to drier woodland forests. The large valley open areas are covered with crops, pastures, and wildflowers. Meadows are laced with meandering streams. Cattle share the pastures with deer and other wildlife. If you’re lucky, you might see a cattle drive.
Loyalton was originally known as Smith’s Neck. The sentiment of loyalty to the Union Cause during the Civil War led to changing the name to Loyalton in 1863. In 1901, Loyalton was incorporated as a dry town, the size was set at 50.6 square miles. At that time, it was California’s second largest city after Los Angeles. Today, Loyalton is the only incorporated city in Sierra County.
The Sierra Valley ranches were settled in the 1850s. The ranches provided dairy products, hay, and cattle for Truckee and the western Sierra County mines and also to the Comstock mines in the 1860s. By the 1880s it was one of the finest agricultural regions of California. Since 1853, much of the population has been devoted to cattle-raising and farming.
Many of the existing ranches and barns were built in the 19th century. The lumber industry was also part of this healthy agricultural economy. Sierra Valley timber supplied the Comstock mines, Central Pacific Railroad, and California fruit industry from the 1860s to the turn of the century. The early 1900s marked a decline in the timber demands with the closing of mines, but the Sierra Valley lumber industry continued to be an important aspect of Loyalton’s economy and culture until the late 20th century.
The Sierra Valley has more German brown trout mile for mile than anywhere else in California. Smithneck Creek that runs from the southeast into Loyalton is a favorite among fishermen seeking this elusive trout. Smithneck Creek runs along Smithneck Road and travels through extensive aspen groves with scenes of beaver activity—dams, stick lodges, and beaver-logged timber. The nature area surrounding Loyalton is also home to Nevada mule deer, grouse, chucker, and California mountain quail. It connects with Antelope Valley which is an excellent place to observe deer fawning areas. (If you see a lone fawn, please don’t touch it. Its mother is nearby.)
Eats, Provisions & Accommodations:
There are several options for good food and services, within easy walking distance, right in downtown Loyalton. Vicki's Blue Moon Bakery is a must visit according to this quote from a Facebook Post, "What's for breakfast? Come in and try the homemade Biscuits and Gravy special on Saturdays. Strawberry waffles w/whipped cream...Yum! Love good ole fashioned Apple Fritters? Try Vicki's - the best I've ever had! Oh, and did I mention the Asian Chicken salad for lunch? Divine! Stop in for great food, and lots of free 'comic relief' behind the counter! You won't leave hungry or sad."
Whites Sierra Station offers fresh deli sandwiches, take-n-bake pizza, hot dogs, nachos plus fuel and a full mechanic shop. Rhonda's Lil' Frosty is open seasonally and provides the traditional yummy made-to-order Frosty Food and soft serve ice cream. Golden West Saloon Hotel and Restaurant has a full bar, banquet room and game room. You might think you have stepped into an old western movie or the set of “Cheers” when you walk through the big swinging front door. Several of the rooms offer beautiful views of Sierra Valley off the old west style balconies. Leonard’s Market and meat counter is a full grocery store with an old fashioned butcher counter.
The Loyalton Museum is located at the city park. This historic building features displays on logging, agriculture, the Washoe Indians, and fraternal organizations including the Rebekah Lodge. Outdoor exhibits include logging wagons, a donkey engine, and farm equipment For more information, please call the museum at 530-993-6754.
The International Order of Odd Fellows' three story brick building in Loyalton was built around the turn of the 20th century. This building, along with the grocery store in Sierraville, are two of the few remaining buildings constructed of Sierra Valley brick. The Sierra Valley Lodge in Calpine, was built as a recreation hall for the once-thriving mill town.
The “Where’s the Fire House?” Ski Tour in February offers a 7- or 14-mile, mostly-downhill trip, from Yuba Pass to the town of Calpine (15 minutes from Loyalton). In June, the Old West is brought to life at the Sierraville Junior Rodeo (10 minutes from Loyalton) where young cowboys competing in Jackpot Team Roping and the wild Sierraville Rodeo. A country and western dance adds to the excitement. The Loyalton 4th of July Celebration features a parade, street dance, crafts, food, and games for all ages.