Some of the best mountain biking, gravel and road riding in the United States.
This region features some of the best mountain biking, gravel and road riding in the United States. The high alpine valleys, thick conifer forests, and crystal clear streams and lakes
Downieville in Sierra County is the crown jewel of the region that ranks at the top of many best riding destination lists, drawing international attention thanks to the Downieville Classic mountain bike race that is celebrating its 25th Anniversary in 2023.
Downieville is rowdy and technical with chunky rock gardens, plenty of roots, refreshing creek beds and fast singletrack that always demand a rider’s attention.
Built on historic mining routes, these trails carve through deep canyons and backcountry destinations where you can still see historic Gold Rush remnants from the past.
Most people take advantage of the bike shuttles from Downieville to the top of Packer Saddle available through Downieville Outfitters and Big Boulder Adventures ride the legendary “Downieville Downhill” that drops 5,000 vertical feet in 15 miles. Yet, there so many more Downieville trails to explore that you can easily spend a week in the area and not ride the same trail twice.
Graeagle and the Lakes Basin Recreation Area that spans across Sierra and Plumas Counties have outstanding trails as well. Mills Peak Trail that starts and finishes in Graeagle is a fan favorite, and a bit tamer than the Downieville Downhill. This trail has gorgeous views of the Lakes Basin and Mohawk Valley and descends about 2,500 vertical feet in 7 miles with fast singletrack, a little bit of rock chop and a whole lotta smiles.
Across the Gold Lake Highway from Mills Peak is Lakes Basin that features the most challenging mountain bike trails in the region. Riding in Lakes Basin is measured in “dog miles” due to the massive rock chunks strewn throughout the formidable ascents and descents. Mount Elwell is a favorite ride for many advanced riders that travels past backcountry lakes and summits with spectacular 360-degree views from the top of the Sierra Crest. There are plenty of trails to explore in the Lakes Basin that you can link together for epic day long adventures.
The most diverse mountain bike riding in the area that is suitable for most mountain bike rider skill levels can be found in Plumas County in Quincy on Mount Hough. The Mount Hough Trail is the main artery that is a 12-mile, 4,000 foot vertical descent of fast and flowy singletrack with fewer rocks and technical challenges. On many weekends, families can be found out on Hough enjoying their time together on this mostly intermediate level trail.
Shuttles are available through Yuba Expeditions and Adventure Monkeys in Quincy that will take you from town to the top where gorgeously deep blue Crystal Lake can be seen along with great views of Mount Lassen. And the trail network continues to grow each year on Mount Hough thanks to the fine work of Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, who through their partnership with the US Forest Service, develops and maintains most of the recreational trails across the Lost Sierra. And if you’re in Portola, check out the Beckwourth Peak Trail that the Stewardship is currently constructing that is a little over half way completed.
Plumas and Sierra Counties have a vast catalog of unpaved roads just waiting to be explored aboard a gravel bike. In fact, there are 4,482 miles of unpaved roads and trails found within the 1,146,000 million acres of the Plumas National Forest. That’s the highest ratio of roads to acreage anywhere within the entire USFS.
Gravel riding continues to grow in this region thanks to events like the Lost and Found Gravel Festival, considered to be one of the toughest gravel races in the West, and the popular Grinduro series that began with its inception in Quincy, CA. Many come to this area for gravel bikepacking adventures as well and in 2022, local video production company, Lost Sierra Productions, created the gravel film Lost on Purpose to highlight the gravel riding, multi-day adventures available in the area. Great gravel riding exists throughout the Lost Sierra linking together towns from Chester to Westwood to Greenville to Taylorsville and all the way out to Portola, Chilcoot, Loyalton and beyond into Truckee if you are up for it.
Given that the region is called the Lost Sierra, you can imagine that means many uncrowded paved roads traverse the entire geography. Many people seek out a ride around the Sierra Valley that is a beautiful, massive high alpine valley with many bird species and good pavement.
Also popular are rides through the Indian Valley that goes through Taylorsville, Greenville and other historic small towns. The Mile High 100 Bike Ride is a fun, enjoyable way to sample some of the great roads in the area during Father’s Day Weekend in June.
For those looking for steep climbs and fast descents, the ride over the Gold Lake Highway through the beauty of the Lake Basin features scenery that rivals an Alpe d’Huez-like experience with majestic views of the Sierra Buttes. Fall season is a great time to ride and enjoy the colors changing along the Feather and Yuba rivers with details that can be found on the Discover Plumas County website. For more information about road riding in the area, connect with the Plumas-Sierra Bicycle Club through Facebook.