Downieville has become the stuff of legends much as Mammoth and the Kamikaze was in the early ‘90s. This 17 mile downhill needs you to shuttle to the top and fly down to the bottom, a total descent of 4,170 fantastic feet! The standard downhill has it all, technical stuff, berms, switchbacks, swooping fast turns, edgey stuff, all out fast singletrack, water and even some mud. But the downhill is only part of the Downieville experience. There is a plethora of other trails defined as cross country but have some great technical challenges too. You could spend a week here and have not exhausted the possibilities.
The Downieville Classic Downhill, as it is called, needs a shuttle bus ride. This can be taken from Yuba Expeditions at a cost of $20 Mon – Fri and $22 for w/ends. The shuttle drops you off at Packer Saddle and you drop down the downhill through Sunrise Trail, Butcher Range Trail, Third divide, Lavezzola Road, Upper 1st Divide, Lower 1st Divide and the Lavezzola Road and back to base. This is pretty straight forward to follow as long as you keep your wits about you. The temptation with a downhill is to blaze a trail and then discover you are hopelessly lost. On the shuttle I was talking to a guy to whom such an incident had happened here at Downieville. What should have been a 2-3 hr downhill experience turned into a 6 hr nightmare. Running out of food water and the all important energy! Be warned.
There are numerous options which can be factored into your ride which take loops off the main Classic Downhill. Ones worth investigating are “Baby Heads” and the very technical and edgey “Second Divide Trail”.
Something else worth noting is that all the trails are multi-use and so you could come across others users going uphill!! Oh it’s gold country too so don’t forget your pan!
Bike Rental and Shuttle
Yuba Expeditions is the place where we rented bikes and got shuttled from. It is as well to phone up beforehand to get these booked. Especially the shuttle as it gets busy in the summer months. The guys at Yuba were brilliant. The bikes we hired we Santa Cruz Heckler and brand new at that, with quality bits on them. XT throughout and Fox Shox and Forxs. The lads in the bike rental workshop were top. They did a thorough check on the bikes before letting them go and set the shox up for rider weight. They were cheerful too. So many rental shops throw out un-trail worthy bikes with pads gone, poor shifting etc. Not these guys. At the end of the ride I said jokingly, “I could murder a cold beer. You got any?!!” Within 10 sec and bottle of a local brew appeared in front of me for nowt. Now that’s what I call service. The lads knew the trails as they were riders and were dead enthusiastic. Nice one lads!
As already stated the shuttle costs between $20 and £22. Check out the times it runs on the website. The shuttle took us about 45mins to get to the top. The bloke who loaded us on spent time directing us at the start of the ride, as he did with anyone who asked him questions. No, “Here you are lads. See you later.” They seemed to care about what they were doing. Maps were also provided free from the driver or higher quality ones could be bought in the shop.
The other place to rent and shuttle from seems to be Downieville Outfitters, but I have no experience of them.
Downieville is tucked away north of Lake Tahoe on the 49. From Tahoe City head north on the 89, bypassing Truckee on the I 80 for a couple of miles, and then pick up the 89 north again. After about 39 miles the road swings west and becomes the 49 to Downieville passing through Sierra City. Carry on the 49 for about 37 miles. Downieville is a quaint little town on the edge of the Yuba River. It is out in the sticks which is brilliant. There are places to eat and lodge here however!
When to Bike
Biking is in late spring, summer and early autumn. Take plenty of water and tubes!!