California Trip Report: World Class Single Track & Totaled Cars | The Downieville Downhill

Jesse Cassidy | CycleCycle | Conditions ReportConditions Report
Pauly Creek Bridge
Pauly Creek Bridge

Lets start by getting straight to the point, if you like riding bikes, and you have never been to Downieville, California, stop everything you’re doing and head there immediately. I had never been to Downieville before, but had always heard good things, so when the opportunity arose I jumped on it. A few days ago my friends Jordan, Andrew, and myself headed north out of Truckee to go ride some World Class single track about an hour and a half northwest of Tahoe.

However before we got there, just outside Sierra City, Andrew managed to tag a deer with the front of his Xterra that came out of nowhere. Unfortunately the deer won and the car is possibly totaled with a cracked radiator and transmission box, and one of the worst deer hits a Sierra County Sheriff has ever seen. After about a two hour delay consisting of making phone calls in an area without cell service, and waiting for tow trucks, Jordan and I continued on our way to Downieville as Andrew rode back to Truckee with a totaled car.

Deer 1 - Andrew 0
Deer 1 – Andrew 0

Downieville is a quaint and quirky little town located in the foothills of the Sierra close to the base of the Sierra Buttes North. Once one of the largest cities in California during the gold rush, it has since seen a population decline, however one look at town and it is still stuck in the 1800’s. Now it is popular for its outdoor recreational activities, namely mountain biking on the Downieville Downhill.

There are a few different shuttle services that will take you up the 5,000 so odd feet to start your biking adventure that ends right in town. We went with Yuba Expeditions right there in Downieville, and I must say I would recommend it to anyone, competitive pricing, friendly, and very knowledgeable staff. The shuttle ride takes about 45 minutes where they drop you off right next to the Sierra Butte to start your downhill adventure.

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Once at the top there are endless options to take, however the classic downhill starts with Sunrise trail to Butcher Ranch and on from there to third and first divide trails. There are many variations of the downhill, including treks out to Pauly Creek and Big Boulder trails. The first quarter of the downhill is some twisty single track with a bit of peddling involved, from there your downhill tech skills are put to the test with long descents through rock gardens and slick granite.

About halfway through you end up at Pauly Creek, a nice spot to take a break and jump in the river. There is a good slug uphill after you cross Pauly Creek and get onto third divide trail, however you are rewarded with long open single track that you can just let open on. After that you travel between Pauly and Downie Creeks, a bit of peddling and a bit of downhill before you end up back in town.

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About a third of the way down Jordan took a gnarly crash, tree to the hip and slashed a 3″ gouge in the sidewall of his tire. Luckily he had wrapped about a foot of gorilla tape around his seat post that he used to tape up the tire. Amazingly it held the rest of the way down, preventing a long 9 mile hike out. preparedness is key.

Gorilla tape trailside repair
Gorilla tape trailside repair

Downieville is a hell of a ride, and a must do for anyone who even kind of likes bikes. A good trail/freeride bike is optimal, something that you can get going on and still has a good amount of travel. A full Downhill bike is fun, but less than ideal when you get to the benchy uphill sections, however there are some spots where you can just let it open.

Downieville and the surrounding area is awesome, so even if bikes aren’t your thing, check it out and spend a weekend hiking and camping, you won’t be disappointed. 

Yuba Expeditions
Yuba Expeditions
Less than ideal day
Less than ideal day
Jordan at the top of Butcher Ranch
Jordan at the top of Butcher Ranch
Jesse before Butcher Ranch
Jesse before Butcher Ranch

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Post Pauly Creek swim
Post Pauly Creek swim
Pauly Creek head dip
Pauly Creek head dip
Trailside repair still holding
Trailside repair still holding
Lower section of First Divide trail
Lower section of First Divide trail
Pauly Creek Bridge, perfect spot for beers and creek swims
Pauly Creek Bridge, perfect spot for beers and creek swims

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