Just over an hour from Truckee lies one of the best mountain bike rides in all of North America. Downieville is nothing short of a mountain bikers dream. Once you arrive, there’s an amazing amount of high quality mountain biking to get into set amongst a picteresque Northern Sierra backdrop, with the classic Downieville Downhill holding it down as the centerpiece ride in the region.
As of this past weekend the trail was riding incredibly smooth. The dirt was moist and grippy, and really your only major concern was bringing heat into a few sections of trail where the rock gardens were pretty slick. It’s been some time since I last rode this major classic, but during the fall months, when the dust is at a minimum and the trail’s in as good of condition as it currently is, the Downieville Downhill stands out as one of the most fun rides you can possibly get into before the snow flies.
To get to Downieville head north on Highway 89 out of Truckee, through Sierraville, and link up with Route 49 heading west. Along the way you’ll pass the spectacular Sierra Buttes home to great backcountry skiing, camping and hiking, as well as fabulous rock climbing.
Once you get to town you have three main options for getting the ride done:
–Head up solo and either spend a ton of time riding back uphill to your car (not recommended), or hope to meet some other riders that’ll give you a lift back to your car
–Run a Shuttle yourself, with your partner for the day, which will involve you both driving up to Downieville and staging one car in town and one at the top of the ride
–Make a shuttle reservation with Downieville Outfitters for $20 bucks, leave your car in town, and have them give you a lift up to the top
Once you’re at the starting gate it’s almost 15 miles of downhill that drops over 4,000 vertical feet! There is one mini-uphill section, and several areas where you’ll want to pedal, but it’s mostly one huge rush pointing it straight downhill. There are many off-shoot trails that you can peel off of, or include in your ride, but the classic Downieville Downhill starts with a newer 1.3 mile singletrack called “The Sunrise Trail”, which then feeds into the most technical portion of the ride in “The Butcher Ranch Trail”. Here’s a look at one of the more difficult sections to pass, showcasing several riders eating it, with the biggest digger right at the beginning.
But here’s a quickie from a pro to show you how it’s really done.
After all that technical riding it’s really nice to open it up on the next section of trail known as the “Third Divide”, which is really fast and smooth, before finishing up on the upper and lower sections of “First Divide” that eventually brings you back to town.
As I mentioned there are a ton of other trails in the area, and a bunch of alternate ways to do the Downiville Downhill. What’s more is right now the fall foliage is prime, the trail is riding exceptionally well, and the goal to ride in Downieville is a great excuse to check out this quaint, unique town that makes you feel like you traveled back in time. With only a hour+ drive from Truckee, if you like to mountain bike, you simply must give this ride and region a check. As chill as Truckee is once you leave town everything sort of slows down. Great swaths of USFS land, serene rivers, deep drainages, the Sierra Buttes, and old gold mining establishments all combine to create a very relaxing atmosphere en route before you drop in to one of the finer rides anywhere. It’s a perfect way to enjoy a pristine fall day in the Northern Sierra.