This page's location shows the usual parking area. Here are driving directions there:
From I-80, exit onto Highway 20 and drive four miles toward Nevada City.
After 3.5 miles, turn north onto Bowman Lake Road (forest service road 18) and drive for 1.3 miles. Have no fear, this section of the road is all paved.
Just before the bridge that crosses the Yuba River, there is a dirt access road. It is now gated and locked, so park across the bridge, then continue on foot.
For an overview map of walking directions to the climbing areas, with GPS coordinates, see the Emeralds Guide page one thru 4 below. Don't use the photo at the top right of this page as it has been updated and the current one appears below (revised 6/2014) I don't know how to get rid of the old one, maybe someone can help me?
If you are looking for an area where you can climb without crowds and be in a beautiful mountain setting, this is the place. There is even a huge world class swimming hole that is emerald green (expect beautiful people here with little on in the hot days of summer). Most of the climbs in the Benches section are westerly to northerly facing so you can chase shade all day in the hotter months. When the temperature is 110F in Sacramento, head for the gorge where you will need a sweater.
WARNING! (This Warning only applies to the Gorge Section and not the Benches Section). As the sign posted at the parking lot reminds you, this area is subject to sudden and severe flooding, especially in run off times (spring and winter). Most of the climbing routes in the gorge are in the potential flooding areas, as walls of the gorge sit below several LARGE floodgates from Spaulding Lake. These gates may open at any time, and as the sign in the parking area states, there may or may not be warning. Being in the gorge when the gates open would probably mean death, and being in the other climbing areas will mean that your exit is blocked until flood waters reside. Read all posted signs in the parking area, and also beware that these may not be updated.
The Emeralds are on a mix of PG&E (Pacfic Gas and Electric) and Tahoe National Forest land. The exact boundaries aren't easy to see on the ground. Dispersed or primitive camping is permitted in many areas of the national forests, but since specifics change frequently, contact Tahoe NF for more information before setting up camp, and as always, make an effort to leave no trace. Established campgrounds are also available in the national forest along Bowman Lake Road, and just upstream at PG&E's Lake Spaulding campground.
(Before accepting the following comments regarding the flooding potential of the Emeralds, please read the Emeralds "Description")
There are several climbing locations in and around the emeralds area. The (sort of sketchy/often flooded area (upper gorge etc)) is more easily approached via lake spalding (i.e. park on HWY20 and ride bike down and over the lake spalding dam...better for end of the summer/when it's been dry for a long time.
Some other (more safe/non-flooded) climbing is more easily appraoched via bowman lake road. This area includes a climb called "Steel Monkey" '12a' epic 4/5 star sport climb on a slightly overhanging wall.
Great new climbs by Brad Johnson and John Robinson at the Kudos/Fast Food cliff. Walk another 15 minutes northeast and you'll find the old Emeralds' Gorge. A new Tahoe Guide book from Josh Horniak will have all the routes in the Emeralds/Bowman Area (fall 2013).
There are now 27 newly bolted lines in the Gorge ranging from .10-.13. The greatest concentration of routes is in the .11 range. Some of these routes require a 70 meter rope. Dam Release/high water in spring is a very dangerous issue here. Other than that the Gorge climbing is great and the Wishing Well remains cool even in July/August when the rest of the Emeralds is hot.
Went to the Emeralds area for the first time over the weekend. One note on the approach - we were trying to follow the hand-drawn maps posted in the photos sections and ended up on a mystery trail that goes up the ridge above the benches area. The primary reason for getting lost was seeing a trail break right into the woods that was Cairn-laden (as well as the map comment that says "trail starts uphill"). Maybe this trail is to help guide people to the top of the cliff for TRing or maybe it's leading to new areas in the gorge on the other side of the benches? In any case, do not follow this first trail if you are looking for the "high trail" to the benches area. You'll be looking for a very large pile of Cairns a bit past that. You'll know you're on the right track if you walk through a campsite in the woods with a makeshift bench made from a few logs and a long piece of steel.