I cant believe this is not up here yet, 17 MILES OF DOWNHILL AND 5000 VERT. DROP!!! Its been in the MTB magazines. There is about 2 miles of climbing in the middle and end of the ride. Singletrack for 85% of ride. steep technical on top with creek crossings, faster high speed on lower area called 2nd divide, waterfalls, swimming holes, long suspension style bridges, and getting rockier each year, go soon! MTB magazines said possibly the best singletrack in the West! Check it out before it gets too tore up. (Its maintained 2 times a year-Thanks Coyote!)When you hit the dirt road, you can take it all the way to town, but 1-2 miles on the dirt road and look for the newly constructed 1st. devide singletrack whick takes you all the way to town.
from Downieville go Hwy 49 North East past Sierra City to Bassetts, turn left go 1 mile turn left over bridge take first right turn follow signs to Packer Saddle-Start. This about 20 or more miles from town, and during the summer season, Coyote Adventures offers shuttles a few times a day right to the start-call them. Do this because the loop is about 35 miles and the road is flat out dangerous to ride on! The views up on top of Packer Saddle are sweeeeeeet! Go down pavement, stay right turns to dirt quickly then look for drop in on left side of dirt road called Butcher Ranch, This trail needs GOOD working brakes and bring lots of the nessessary tools and extra tube, you are out in the boonies here. Lots of awesome camping everywhere!
Summary: I'll put it this way:
cross country riders and technical junkies will LOVE this place
downhillers and people who love jumps and berms will be wondering what all the hype is about
Essentially it's 16 miles of standard singletrack downhill with a lot of technical rock gardens and roots with a small sprinkling of flowy stuff. The longest, fastest flowy trail is 3rd divide and that lasts for 6 or 7 minutes of your whole 2.5 hour ride (it could be 1.5 to 2 hours, but someone in your group will get a pinch flat. our crew had 8 flats in 4 runs over 3 days and we're all intermediate to advanced). Don't get me wrong, I'd be stoked if this was in my backyard, but driving 3 hours and hearing all the hype about it for years... I was let down
If your favorite rides are places like Sawpit and Braille in Demo Forest, with all the jumps and berms and obstacles for you to choose, this won't top it, but if you're looking for a good time riding a loooong technical cross country style downhill with some friends, just hanging out barbecuing and checking out a cool little town, give it a whirl. It's fun if you know what to expect.
Recommended Route: Sunrise to Butcher Ranch to third divide to first divide
Summary: NOT for beginners, do not attempt unless you are "advanced". I've only been riding for about 4 months but I felt like I was a decent rider and did not have as much fun as I would have liked.
The trail is extremely technical, but surrounded by some amazing scenery. The last 1/4 of the trail is worthy of a beginner, but by the time I got there I was out of water and starting to get heat exhaustion, on top of being bashed around for the last 15 miles. Everything before that is mostly very technical and only suitable for advanced riders.
However, if you are an advanced rider and don't mind very technical, rocky areas, this is probably some of the best riding in CA.
Recommended Route: Start at the top.
Review Date September 8, 2012
Overall Rating 5 of 5
Aerobic Difficulty 3 of 5
Technical Difficulty 4 of 5
Ridden Trail: Ridden Once
Reviewed by: Lardog
Cross Country Rider
Summary: I came up to Downieville after hearing a lot about if. I live in the East Bay Area. It took about 4 hours to drive and spent a couple of nights camping there. The Downieville Downhill was great - catch the shuttle for $20 and you get 14.5 miles of single track with 6191' of down, 2004' of uphill. It includes rock gardens, streams, smooth fast berms, a few jumps and ideal intermediate XC conditions. Probably not the ideal ride for a 1st time mtn biker. I rode my XC bike ... downhill isn't needed, though it would be pretty sweet for some of the rock garden sections to plow through better.Seems like about 1/2 the riders were on all mtn or downhill rigs with lots of folks pretty padded up but I thought my 4" travel XC bike was fine, rear suspension needed not good place for hard tail. I'm about a year into my mtn biking "addiction" and have ridden amongst other places Moab and Demonstration Forest in Santa Cruz. I found Downieville superior to both. It's unbelievable to get so much killer downhill single track for miles on end with shuttle rides to the top. Downieville town pretty off the beaten path. Zero AT&T cell coverage, thats a bit lame in this day and age.
Summary: While the shuttle is more sane (if indeed there is any sanity in any of this), it is possible to ride the downhill as a loop from town, and it doesn't take a super-human effort, as you may have been lead to believe. Any reasonably fit cyclist who climbs can do it. We last did the full loop in 6 hours, but we climbed at a pace slow enough to have a conversation, and must have stopped at least 6 times. Climbing time was 4 hours, and the downhill was 2 (we stopped frequently on the downhill, as well). You climb on a forest service road, the condition of which is good enough to drive a car on, and isn't steep. It's an easy cruise, really, though it takes awhile.
For sustenance I'd recommend carrying a 3 liter hydration pack, a bunch of energy bars, a couple of bottles of energy drink, and a foot long sandwich for lunch.
Recommended Route: First of all, parking: drive into town, take your first right over the one-lane bridge, then take your second right following the "P" parking sign. Drive to the very end of the road, where it dead ends into a really nice parking lot, with tables, restrooms, and an outdoor faucet to rinse your dusty self.
Ride back into town center, and continue east on 49. 6 miles from town center you'll see a camping area called Union Flat on your right. Directly across the road, on your left, is the road up to Packer Saddle. Follow this road up 12 miles -- you'll encounter side roads with steep climbs along the way, but stay on the main route -- it'll be obvious. Once at the top, do Sunrise, Butcher, 3rd then 1st Divides, as others have said.
The downhill is absolutely fantastic, and a suitable reward for all that climbing. If you're a glutton for punishment, you'll want to ride Butcher over and over again! Total loop is 30 miles. There's a good pizza place in town, for afterwards.
Other recommended trails in the same area: I've done the Chimney Rock and South Yuba. Chimney Rock is a similar 5 hour loop with a long descent, and though you link 3 peaks at the top, the descent is not that interesting. South Yuba is much more interesting, though there's no significant sustained downhill. It includes a ghost town (North Bloomfield) and a hydraulic mining site (Malakoff Diggins), and makes a really fun day trip.
Summary: The trail is okay, it's not really as what everyone claims it to be as this almighty king of downhill trails. Frankly, all the trails there are easy. If you have a bike with 8" of travel, you are way over suspended. The hype of a promising advanced riding is a slap in the face because it's really just easy flow that you can sit down from start to finish (minus the first few jumps that give you the false impression that you're in for some advanced stuff. The beginning is decent, with the semi technical creek crossings, but nothing that would require you to get off your bike. The high speed 3rd divide truly is high speed. Best enjoyed if you never touch your front brakes and just rail through. Supposedly there is a record time run there, in which case I'm sure my group of riders topped it riding with no front brakes. 1st divide is wasted energy, especially on downhill bikes. The trail is decent mainly because it's located in a beautiful area away from the city. The Downieville people are usually friendly, but the area is very isolated so there is nothing else to do but bbq, ride, and bring your girl so you can have sex. She will give it to you good if you stay at the Sierra Shangra-La resort.
Other recommended trails in the same area: There is only one other decent trail which is a hike a bike for a long time to get too. Ask the bike store owner(s) to guide you properly.