Places to See Plants – Episode 2 – Hell’s Half Acre

Hell’s Half Acre

West of Grass Valley, Nevada County

Originally authored by Karen Callahan

Hell’s Half Acre’s distinctive landscape is former by an ancient volcanic mud flow. From April through May the bare ground between lichen-covered rocks, twisted manzanitas (Arctostaphylos), and Gray Pine trees (Pinus sabiniana) is covered with a dazzling display of wildflowers. Over 100 species have been identified on the 25+ acres that the Redbud Chapter is working to preserve as a special botanical area.

Early May brings White Meadowfoam (Limnanthes alba), Miniature Lupine (Lupinus bicolor) and Sky Lupine (Lupinus nanus), Ramm’s Madia (Jensia rammii), Johnny Tuck (Triphysaria eriantha), Pansy Monkeyflower (Diplacus angustatus), and Cowbag Clover (Trifolium depauperatum). In late May look for Graceful Clarkia (Clarkia gracilis), Hartweg’s Sidalcea (Sidalcea hartwegii), Paper Onion (Allium amplectans), White Brodiaea (Triteleia hyacinthina), Purple Milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia), and Pratton’s Buckwheat (Eriogonum prattenianum).

By mid July, most of the plants are drying in the heat, but Sanoborn’s Onion (Allium sanbornii) and a forest of Soap Plant (Chlorogalum pomeridianum) will be flowering. The paths are mostly level and easy.

The property owners of the former Kenny Ranch have cooperated with the Nevada County Land Trust and CNPS to allow several guided field trips to the site every year. Hell’s Half Acre is not open to the public without permission. The Wildflower Ridge trail, which begins across the street at the Twin Cities Church parking lot, is a publicly accessible trail with much of the same flora.

To Get There: Located about two miles west of Grass Valley, at the intersection of Rough & Ready Highway and Ridge Road.

Elevation: 2,600′

Habitats: Chaparral, Lower Conifer Forest

Land Manager: Private

Facilities: None

Quad: Grass Valley

GPS Coordinates: N39° 13.687′ W121° 5.201′


  1. The county has fostered the complete destruction of this world renowned site and is as responsible. It started with the church, then the school, now this. It is despicable. It was also once covered in little “spot” wetlands. Disgusting. The County also has refused to designate, create, ANY open space preserves, parks, trails, bike paths, ANYthing for the residents. They are greedy and corrupt. Unfortunately we don’t have a newspaper or any real fourth estate to keep an eye…and they know it. They have complete contempt for their citizenry. This is nothing less than a tragedy and pointless loss. Unless they are all voted out, this destruction and contempt for the citizens here will continue. Would love an investigation into each and every one of them as well if there is something else going on.

  2. This should not be allowed to happen.This space was to be preserved because that was the original plan.PGE again not considering what NEEDS to be done! STOP!!!

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