MTB in Downieville

Downieville is an ancient gold rush town, that has fallen on hard times when the mines have closed. Tourism has saved Downieville from becoming a ghost town. There are better areas for skiing. Hiking, fishing and amateur panning for gold has been most  important, until the advent of  mountainbiking.  The mountains above Downieville are  perfect for big hit downhill riding. Local business has realized the economic significance of mountainbiking and is largely based on catering to mountain bikers. All hotels and motels are very bike friendly. Indeed most of their customers are cyclists.  We stayed in Downieville Inn, a funky motel in the centre of Downieville, and they have their own shuttle to bring bikers to the altitudes where the good runs begin. Downieville Inn also had a splendid workshop at their guests disposal, with all imaginable tools, foot pumps etc. There are two excellent bike shops in town.  Trail information is available from Yuba Expeditions.

Americans are  chronically short of  holidays, so most guests come  just for the week end.  Then it can get really buisy and hard to find a room. In the weeks it is rather quite.

The mountain biking is downhill oriented to the extent that the town could be called Downhillville. Most riding is done on a bunch of steep, gnarly trails that lead down to Downieville from Packer Saddle, losing some 1200 metres of altitude. The Butcher Ranch, Pauley Creek and Big Boulder trails merge  into a section known as the Divides, there are three divides, presumably because there are ridges dividing the valley. Here are some choices one can do all three or opt out to fire road. Coming down from the Chimney Rock Trail one  can only do the  third  divide.


Downieville Inn´s shuttle

Butcher Ranch

Switchback on Butcher Ranch

Gnarly bit

Pacific Crest Trail

The most interesting trail in Downieville is the Pacific Crest Trail.  It consists of beautiful singletrack that is winding along right on or close to the watershed. However, cycling is prohibited by law. If one is caught by the rangers one risks having ones front wheel confiscated and a five hundred dollar fine. Nevertheless, we could not refrain completely from biking it.

Above Deer Lake

Gold lake in the back ground

Sierra Buttes

Above Deer Lake

Pauley Creek

Pauley Creek is another trail that starts from Packer Saddle.  It winds down through some pretty steep terrain with baby heads, waterfalls and cool ponds.  It is a typical Downieville trail, gnarly, and steep, the more armoury one has the more fun.


Crossing Pauley Creek

Cooling off

Big Boulder

Big Boulder is least often ridden because to reach the trail one has to do an extra climb to a hill. Once one has reached the crest it is all down hill on a fine trail.

Lots of baby heads

Switchback under cool tree panoply

Gnarly trail through dense underbrush

Exposed section

The Divides

Approaching Downieville one comes into an are with a number of trails called the divides. The third divide is rather easy. The second and third divide are more demanding, as the path in some sections go on rather exposed ledges traversing the slopes.

First divide downhill

Second Divide

Passing a fallen giant tree on Second Divide

Exposed section

First Divide

The trail traverses the slopes high above the river

Chimney Rock Trail

The Chimney Rock Trail is a long ride, a true epic. The friendly staff of Downieville gave us a ride up, so we began riding close to Democrat peak. The trail winds along a watershed maintaining the altitude, passing one spur after another with stunning views, before it descends into the gorges on the Downieville side. The last bit down we followed the Third Divide Trail. It was a great outing, one of those rides one remembers.

We were fortunate to get  a ride up

Setting off towards

Along the watershed

Passing a spur

Chimney rock

Steep downhill

First Divide

First Divide

Fiddle Creek

Down the North Yuba Gorge we rode a loop that started with the Fiddle Creek Trail, an extremely steep and strenuous climb up the Halls Range Trail, followed by a pleasant ride along the ridge, until the trail descended so steeply that our rims were glowing to the North Yuba River. Then we crossed the river and returned to Downieville via the North Yuba Trail, riding on traverses high above the river.

Halls Range Trail

Finally the decent was over,
in the background Sierra Buttes

The Fiddle Creek Trail

Cooling the rims

North Yuba Trail

The trail goes on ledges high above the river


Bridge over tributary


Creek without bridge

Tamarck Trail

The Tamarack Loop is on the east side of the Sierra Buttes. It is an extremely rocky trail, some bits we had to push, on the other hand it was one of the most beautiful trails we rode.

Sweet downhill

Hard to concentrate on the trail with such views

East face of Sierra Buttes