Mountain Biking the “B” Trails: 5 Routes You May Have Missed

Most mountain biking destinations have a marquee ride, that one “must ride” everyone will hit when they visit (think Slickrock in Moab or Trail 401 in Crested Butte).  But in each case there is always a “B” ride, a trail or route that’s just as rewarding despite a lack of big name recognition. Destination:  Downieville, …

Most mountain biking destinations have a marquee ride, that one “must ride” everyone will hit when they visit (think Slickrock in Moab or Trail 401 in Crested Butte).  But in each case there is always a “B” ride, a trail or route that’s just as rewarding despite a lack of big name recognition.

Chillin' at the top of the IMBA Epic Big Boulder Trail before the epic descent 

Destination:  Downieville, California

The Marquee Ride:  The Downieville Downhill

The “Other” Ride:  The Big Boulder Trail

If you look at the early choices for IMBA Epic Rides, you will see some that have entered the top tier of mountain biking lore (think Buffalo Creek, Levis Mounds, Tsali) and are either on your biking resume or your bucket list.  There are also a number of trails that, despite getting the IMBA push, have fallen from the must ride category.  The Big Boulder Trail is one of the latter, and it’s somewhat understandable as this is a partial deviation from the classic Downieville Downhill route.

However, this is a fantastic route and no less worthy than any other!  The good news is you need not choose, even if it’s your first and only day in Downieville.   By taking advantage of a shuttle service, you can hit both the classic and this alternate route, racking up over 9K verts of delicious descent in a single day!

Go here instead if . . .

  1. You want a slightly smoother and steeper alternative to the classic route
  2. You want to add another IMBA epic to your “been there, done that” list
  3. You want to do multiple shuttle runs on the Downieville Downhill, but with a little variety

Destination:  Truckee, California/Lake Tahoe North       

The Marquee Ride:  Flume Trail   

The “Other” Ride:  The Hole in the Ground Trail

One does not go to Tahoe without getting an eyeful of the Lake, and there’s no better place to check out Lake Tahoe than from the Flume Trail, just on the Nevada side of the border.  However, as gorgeous as the scenery may be, what’s under your knobbies isn’t always that interesting.

For a full-fledged fat tire fiesta, head over to the Hole in the Ground Trail.   You’ll get a little pavement, a little doubletrack, and a whole lot of wicked good singletrack. It all starts with a long and stiff but entertaining and doable climb, followed by some fantastic ridge top riding complete with epic high Sierra views (sans lake). There are also ultra-fun rock stunts, deep woods cruising, and an absolute hoot of a bomber descent at the end.  Who could ask for anything more?

Go here instead if . . .

  1. You don’t absolutely have to have Lake Tahoe as part of your view
  2. You want one ride that will throw a little bit of everything at you
  3. You want a classic loop rather than a shuttle or out-and-back
One of the slickrock spots on the seriously fun Little Creek Mountain route

Destination:  St. George/Hurricane, Utah     

The Marquee Ride:  Gooseberry Mesa      

The “Other” Ride:  Little Creek Mountain 

I have frequently raved about Gooseberry as my favorite fat tire playground and I still call it #1 of the 357 (at last count) trails I’ve ridden.  But nearby Little Creek Mountain is easily a Top 5 as well.  There are those who actually prefer Little Creek Mountain and it’s not hard to see why as it has no shortage of its own virtues.  These two trails would actually make the perfect subject for one of those “compare and contrast” essays you used to get in English class.

Both trails are desert and rock routes that sit atop broad, flat-topped mesas.  Both will take you right to the edge of the mesa, making for tense moments for those with a fear of heights.  From a distance, both mesas look relatively featureless on their tops, but once on top, you’ll find both have plenty of features of the most entertaining variety.

Yet there is great contrast in those features.  While Gooseberry is mostly rock, Little Creek intersperses rock with a largely singletrack route.  While the rocks on Gooseberry are mostly rounded and roller coaster like, requiring quick, decisive weight shifts, the rocks on Little Creek are more ledgy.  Gooseberry has great rollers, but Little Creek has better hucking opportunities.  Both are awesome–they are similar yet unique. Most importantly, any trip to Southwest Utah without hitting both would be a travesty.

Go here instead if . . .

  1. You want more singletrack with your slickrock
  2. You have some route-finding skills and want a less populated ride
  3. You’d rather huck than roll
The Lunch Loops are the perfect place to get your tech on during a Fruita run

Destination:  Fruita, Colorado     

The Marquee Ride:  18 Road Trails     

The “Other” Ride:  The Lunch Loops 

The 18 Road Trails were Fruita’s original destination ride.  Along with the Kokopelli Loops, they remain the primary destination for most Fuita tourists.  However, the Lunch Loops, which actually sit on the edge of Grand Junction, are rising in popularity and are a must stop if you are a tech monkey.  Even though they’re in Grand Junction, you can get to these trails quicker from Fruita than you can the 18 Road Trails.  Moreover, if you’re staying in Grand Junction, you may be able to ride directly to the trailhead without even getting in your car.

What makes these trails so enticing is the constancy and consistency of technical challenge in contrast to the mostly buffed out options at 18 Road.  The Ribbon is more Moab-like than anything, but still unique on the planet and a definite bucket list entry for adventurous riders.  Down in the Lunch Loops proper, you’ll find awesome climbs and trails that sometimes feel more like trials courses than cross-country routes, though with excellent flow throughout.  Fruita is fun, but Grand Junction will give you the greatest sense of satisfaction.

Go here instead . . .

  1. If you want a lot of chunk in your Fruita loops
  2. If you’ve got a shuttle (or not) and want to hit The Ribbon
  3. To be able to ride to the trailhead from your hotel in downtown Grand Junction
Alpine and Aspens make Kenosha south a nice alternative to the more popular Kenosha Pass route

Destination:  Kenosha Pass, Colorado  

The Marquee Ride:  Kenosha Pass to Georgia Pass      

The “Other” Ride:  Kenosha Pass South 

Kenosha pass is synonymous with classic Colorado epics.  Along with the Monarch Crest and the 401 Trail, this is one of the high alpine biggies in the Rocky Mountain State. But it’s also quite a commitment to ride and is usually quite crowded, especially on a weekend with good weather.  If you want to avoid the crowds or aren’t quite up to the full route, there’s a nice fallback option right across the highway  Starting from almost the same point, but going the opposite direction, the Kenosha South route serves up a less taxing out-and-back that still has those classic high alpine views and absolutely nobody to share them with.

Go here instead if . . .

  1. You’re in the mood for a quickie rather than an epic
  2. It’s a weekend during aspen season
  3. You want to ride an obvious, accessible trail that none of your buds have ridden

Your turn: What’s your favorite “B” trail?