Downieville Downhill, filmed and reviewed by Jim Bernstein
Review Date: 5/7/2017
I am sure you can tell by the name of the trail that the Downieville Downhill is a downhill trail and if you were to ride it you would know why. Sure you could try to ride up it but it would not be too fun and you would most likely get some dirty looks as you were getting plowed over by riders coming down and breakneck speeds! The Downieville Downhill trail is located in Downieville which is east of Chico kind of in the middle of nowhere in northern California. The town is about a block long and has places like a general store and a hotel but not much more except for the two places that offer shuttle rides to the top of the trail and to other places in the area. However, once a year the town comes alive for the Downieville Classic Mountain Bike Race and Festival which is quite the event and features 2 days of racing with cross country and downhill races.
As for the trail itself it's quite the ride to get to the bottom because its 15 miles long with over 4000 feet of descent starting at around 7000 feet and will take an average rider 1-2 hours to get to the bottom based on how often you stop (or crash). There are also some alternate routes and trails you can take to extend your ride but quite a bit if you desire but we recommend doing the normal downhill route your first time for the experience. Downieville Outfitters and Yuba Expeditions offer shuttles to the top for around $20 per rider and often times have specials for multiple runs. The shuttle takes about 45 minutes to get to the top.
Downieville Downhill Video
Downieville Downhill Review
Now if you are into downhill shuttle runs then this is a must do even if you need to travel a bit to get to it. The run offers various terrain to test your skill and bravery levels as well as your endurance. The run pretty much consists of 3 different types of terrain. The trail starts off mellow with some flowy singletrack and you even have to do some pedaling at the upper sections but don't let that fool you into thinking it's a boring or easy ride.
After the easy part you will start to notice that it gets rocky and steeper and before you know it you are in the middle of a never ending rock fest that will keep you on your toes and possibly put you on your face. For those who love this kind of stuff it's a dream come true and there are plenty of rocks to hit to get some nice air to get your thrills. You can do this several times and find new lines each time. If you aren't into this kind of thing then you either need to take it slow, walk some sections or find another trail! You don't need a full on downhill bike for this but a hardtail definitely won't cut it and we recommend a nice enduro bike with 6 inches of travel for the most fun. Some people choose to wear a full face helmet and pads but if you are a good rider you really don't need them unless you are going full Red Bull Rampage down the trail. Lightweight knee and elbow pads definitely won't hurt though.
Once the rock n roll section is done you will come to a bridge that goes over a nice "watering hole" where you can jump in and cool off because it can get pretty hot during the summer months. After the cool down you hop back on your bike for a short climb and then the super fast section called the 3rd Divide begins. Many times when riding downhill trails you have to worry about those pesky turns on the switchbacks but for this section you get to put it in overdrive and go as fast as your guts will take you without having to worry about too many turns.
Then finally the fast part is over and it's just some nice scenic singletrack back into town. This part is still fun but it's much more relaxing and you can take in some nice views of the trees and water since you don't have to worry about holding on for your life here. Then once you are back in town you can grab a beer and burger and jump in the river to cool off before starting the long drive home.
Directions to Downieville
To get to Downieville you will need to find your way to Highway 49 just south of Plumas National Forest. You can reach it via the 80 out of Sacramento, the 5/99 out of Red Bluff or the 80 out of Reno/Tahoe. Just try not to blink otherwise you may pass it since it's so small but once you get there you will know it because the town looks like a blast from the past and is actually very cool.