Mountain Biking Road Trip: NorCal!

Our summer road trip was based around just two things: camping and biking. But we were not going to just find some random trails along the way–we had definite trails in our sights and we hit them all.

First up was the classic Downieville Downhill. Greg covered this one several weeks ago so I won’t rehash the same old same old, but I will add a few comments.

We used Downieville Outfitters for our shuttle since, after Labor Day, Yuba Expeditions only offers shuttles Thurs-Sun. We were there on a Tuesday. Greg, our shuttle driver, was great and gave us some good tips on alternate routes, places to eat (the cafe), etc.

Wow, there were some crazy sections on this ride! Rough and rocky sections, smooth sections overlooking the river, and sections with flies. Lots and lots of flies. The Third Divide trail had little black flies that were inescapable–I couldn’t go fast enough to get away! They almost ruined the ride for me, but hey, it’s Downieville. Nothing can ruin a ride here.

Bombing down a smooth section of trail

Crazy trees on the Butcher Ranch Trail

Dirt-covered and smiling at the end of Upper First Divide!

Next we headed down to Tahoe to bike the historic Flume trail and Tahoe Rim Trail. We completeted our route a little differently than Greg in that we did not do an epic all-day ride.

The first day we started from the Flume Trail Cycles shop and headed up the jeep road to Marlette Lake where we turned left and picked up the Flume Trail. WOW! What an amazing trail! The smooth singletrack overlooking Lake Tahoe is still not for the faint of heart, but man, everyone who can should do that ride. We stopped over at the new Tunnel Creek Cafe for apres’ bike snacks and drinks and waited on the shuttle to take us back to the bike shop.

Looking back at a section of the Flume Trail

Stormy views of Lake Tahoe

One thing we learned at the bike shop was that these trails are way better after it rains. That was lucky for us because it rained on us all the way from Downieville to Tahoe! We started our ride in rain coats and ski socks but ended it in short sleeves.

The next day, on the advice of our shuttle driver, we headed back up the jeep road on the Marlette-Flume trail to the lake. This time, instead of following the Flume Trail left we headed right, up Hobart Road. This meant more climbing. We climbed and climbed and climbed and finally hit the Tahoe Rim Trail!

A very tired me after about 7 miles of climbing

We continued climbing, though not quite as steeply, to a vista point on the Rim trail. It was gorgeous! Still, all that climbing had better mean some fun downhill…

Vista view of Lake Tahoe on the Tahoe Rim Trail

Our advisor’s reasoning on riding the trail this direction was that the 4 miles of trail between us and the Tunnel Creek Cafe were more fun going down than up. In the end we agreed. The section of boulder strewn switchbacks was great fun to ride down, but I can imagine going up would be quite challenging. We turned left when we got to the Twin Lakes intersection and headed back down the last portion of the Flume Trail. A few more miles of super fast downhill is always great to end with! Still, four hours of riding is a lot and we definitely needed more beer and sandwiches at the cafe before the shuttle arrived.

Last view of Lake Tahoe before the end of our ride.

Tahoe has some great riding! Portions of the Rim Trail are only open to bikers on certain days, so make sure you check that out before you go. The guys at Flume Cycles can help you out with shuttles, ride suggestions, bike repairs, rentals, and even cabins!

Tahoe is definitely a place I’m looking forward to exploring on my bike again.

8 thoughts on “Mountain Biking Road Trip: NorCal!

  1. I was so glad to see your posts about this area too Greg! It definitely got me jazzed to head out there. I’d rate this as one of our best trips ever.

  2. Your description of the Rim Trail has me remembering my 50K (running) race there. All the time I was thinking ‘this would be awesome on a bike, and not nearly as tough!’ :-) I do plan on riding it some day, for sure.

  3. Awsome report. These big western rides are only a dream for now, but someday. It’s also good to know there’s some smouth trail. I love some climbing, and some rough stuff, but not all the time all at once.

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