Jackass Trail is probably the most ridded downhill trail in the Truckee area, and that’s for a good reason. It’s rideable by all levels of riders, with ride arounds for beginners and doubles, drops, and rock rolls for advanced riders. It’s newly legal (thanks Truckee Trails Foundation & US Forest Service!) and there’s a new trail for climbing so go check it out.
Fall, or “Locals Summer”, is hands down my favorite time to go mountain biking in Tahoe and Truckee. The weather is cooler, the trails are less crowded, and, if we’re lucky, we’ve gotten some rain to help tamp down the dust. However, some rides are better than other in the fall. Some trails get over ridden throughout the summer and are too loose by September, and others are high enough that early season snow renders them unrideable. Here are some of my favorite Truckee and Tahoe trails to ride in the fall.
Donner Lake Rim Trail, Truckee, California
The Donner Lake Rim Trail, which currently traverses about 10.5 miles of single track above the north side of Donner Lake is an awesome fall ride. Other than some loose, dusty corners, the trail holds up really well into the late fall. The Donner Lake Rim Trail has some of the best views of Donner Lake, it’s one of the best mountain biking trails for fall colors. It’s easy to access, has plenty of parking, and it connects to other local trails, like Hole in the Ground and Wendin Way.
The Donner Lake Rim Trail has sections for everyone, from beginners to advanced riders. The Castle Valley segment is rocky and technical, the Drifter Hut Switchbacks are mostly flowy with some tight corners, and the Skislope segment is either a mellow climb up or ride down. For more details about the trails, check out my Trail Guides for the Donner Lake Rim Trail from Castle Valley and from Glacier Way. I haven’t written a trail guide for the newest section of the Donner Lake Rim Trail that connects to Northwoods Drive, but you can check out my video of the trail here.
Upper Corral and Incense Cedar Trails, South Lake Tahoe, California
While Truckee mainly gets dusty in the fall, South Lake Tahoe trails tend to get sandy from decomposed granite. This route consisting of Upper Corral and Incense Cedar mostly avoids the sandpits that form in the fall. To access the trails, head up Fountain Place Road, a paved road that can be ridden or shuttled. Upper Corral is a pretty technical downhill trail, earning its advanced rating on Trailforks. There are some tricky turns, mandatory drops, and long rock gardens, though all the features are walkable if needed. Incense Cedar, on the other hand, is a mellow trail that’s mainly downhill, with a few short climbs sprinkled throughout. Incense Cedar pops out onto Powerline Road, a fire road that can get pretty sandy in spots, but is rideable back to the parking area on Fountain Place. To see my Strava track for this route, click here. For more information about the Corral Trail Network, click here for my trail guide.
Royal Gorge Rim Trail, Soda Springs, California
The Royal Gorge trails on Donner Summit make for great fall riding. The trails were designed with mountain biking in mind, so they hold up well. Also, since they’re less well known than other Truckee trails, they have much lower traffic than something like Jackass, and aren’t as beat up as a result.mFor a great fall ride, I’d recommend the Royal Gorge Rim Trail Loop, which is a little over 6 miles and about 1,000 feet of climbing. Be sure to take the Routen Peak Spur, and enjoy the incredible views. Click here to see my video featuring the Royal Gorge Trails.
Tyrolean Downhill, Incline Village, Nevada
The Tyrolean Downhill is an awesome shuttle trail that gets sandy, but is still an excellent late season ride. It’s got incredible views of Lake Tahoe and takes you through a variety of classic Tahoe terrain. Tyrolean has features that will challenge advanced riders, but the majority of the technical features have ride arounds that make this doable by intermediate riders – without losing the flow!
To do the Tyrolean Downhill as a shuttle (which most riders do), leave one car parked at the Diamond Peak Ski Resort parking lot, where the trail ends. While there are several ways to access the Tyrolean Downhill, my favorite is via the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT). Park at the Tahoe Meadows Tahoe Rim Trail parking area, off of Highway 431. Hop on the TRT: Tahoe Meadows to Tunnel Creek segment, and after about 1.6 miles, you’ll hit ab intersection. Turn right to get on Upper Tyrolean, which is a mellow flowing ride through the forest. After about 1.15 miles, Upper Tyrolean turns into the Tyrolean DH, which drops nearly 1,650 feet in 3.3 miles! The trail ends at the Diamond Peak parking lot, making this a super easy shuttle, with only about 350 feet of climbing over about 6 miles. Click here to see my Strava route, but ignore the spur at mile 0.8. We were riding through patchy snow at the top and took a wrong turn. For my video of the Tyrolean Downhill (also featuring a trail race and a bunch of runners who aren’t usually there), click here.
Big Chief Trail, Truckee, California
One of the newest, techiest trails in Truckee is an incredible fall ride, the Big Chief Trail. The trail is mainly in the thick forest, and is well built so the dirt segments hold up well, even after long, dry periods. There are also incredible rock work, long rock gardens, and gravel sections which won’t get very loose and dusty. It’s made up of two sections, Big Chief Upper and Big Chief Lower and can be accessed by a 7.7 mile fire road climb on the 06/Sawtooth Road. It can also be shuttled and some people ride up the trail. The trail is multidirectional, but most riders tend to ride up the fire road. The whole ride is about 15.7 miles and around 2,000 feet of climbing. For my Strava route, click here.
This is a trail for advanced and intermediate riders, especially the upper section – there are some big drops, tight corners, and technical rock gardens. I ended up walking quite a few features on Big Chief Upper! For an easier ride, you can easily just do Big Chief Lower, as the start of this segment crosses the 06 at about mile 3.7. If you’re looking for even longer ride, you can tack on Sawtooth Loop or other trails in the Sawtooth network. Click here to see my video of Big Chief Trail.
I rode the Royal Gorge Trails on Donner Summit for the first time this summer, this is such a cool and underrated area for mountain biking in Truckee! The trails are well built, and climbing doesn’t feel like a chore to get to the good stuff. While the downhills have flow, they’re not overbuilt flow trails, and riding through the forest feels natural. As a bonus, they aren’t as well known as the other Truckee trails, so they don’t get very crowded or beat up by overuse.
The fact that there are any trails at Royal Gorge is an amazing story of conservation success story. In 2012, Mountain Area Preservation (the organization where I work), Truckee Donner Land Trust (the organization where Greyson works) and eight other organizations came together to stop a proposed development of 950 residential units. Through negotiations and fundraising more than $11 million, the Truckee Donner Land Trust was able to acquire more than 3,000 acres at Royal Gorge, which is now permanently protected and accessible to the public for mountain biking, hiking, cross country skiing and more! Click here for more information from the Land Trust about Royal Gorge.
For an awesome ride that showcases some of the Royal Gorge Highlights, I’d recommend this route that’s mainly on the Royal Gorge Rim Trail which is about 6 miles and ~1,000 feet of climbing. Park at the Hoelter Hall Trail Head in Soda Springs, and from there hop on Upper Switchback which turns into Lower Claim Jumper. After about 0.5 miles on Lower Claim Jumper, there’s an intersection and take the right fork to continue on to Upper Claim Jumper for less than 0.25 miles. Take a right for a short jaunt on the Razorback/Claim Jumper Connector and then another right on to Lower Bogus Basin. After about 0.3 miles, you’ll hit a trail intersection where you want to take the middle trail with lots of switchbacks, Razorback Reroute. Razorback ends at a bench with awesome views, so check it out.
Razorback turns into the Royal Gorge Rim Trail (RGRT), but be sure not to miss the Rowton Peak Spur, which is a short climb rewarded with amazing views. After riding back down, hop back on the the RGRT Bogus Basin to Razorback segment which descends a fun and flowy 230 feet in about 0.75 miles. At the intersection, take the left trail on to RGRT Tiny Tim to Bogus Basin for another 300 feet of descent interspersed with some short climbs that dead ends on a very short section of access road. Go left on the access road, and almost immediately RGRT Soda Springs to Tiny Tim, the final bit of trail on this route will be on the left. The Royal Gorge Rim Trail ends on Soda Springs Road, which will take you back to the parking area.
This route is just a part of the Royal Gorge Trails, and I’m excited to explore more of this area before winter arrives!
Location: Soda Springs, Donner Summit, California
Mileage: ~6.25 miles
Elevation Gain: ~1,000 feet
This weekend, I rode the Donner Lake Rim Trail from Castle Valley west and down the Wendin Way Trail. This is a great route for late in the summer – it’s less dusty than a lot of the trails in the area and is still in good shape. We did it as a shuttle, leaving one car at the PCT trailhead near Boreal Resort and one down at Donner Lake. Doing it that way it’s a fun shuttle with a mellow fire road climb, some chunky granite XC style riding, flowy mellow trails in the trees (with a great stopping point at Summit Lake) and a downhill that has both fast switchbacks and some rocky features.
For years, I struggled finding women’s specific mountain bike shorts that were comfortable, durable, fit well, and had good coverage. Now there are more options than ever, and I’ve found some that I really love. I’ve rounded up and reviewed some of my favorites below.
Sizing Note: I’ve found that women’s mountain bike shorts don’t tend to be “vanity sized” and I wear about a size up from my day to day shorts and pants. I also prefer my baggies (not chamois!) to be a little on the loose side, for comfort during a long ride. I’m 5’11”, 31.5″ waist, 38″ hips for size reference.
Best Overall Shorts
Patagonia Women’s Dirt Craft Bike Shorts ($149)
Patagonia hasn’t been in the mountain biking world for very long, but they got so much right with these shorts! I got them earlier in the summer, and I’ve worn them a bunch. They’re an awesome mix of great fit, comfort while riding, and durability. The legs are fitted enough not to snag, but not overly tight, and they are stretchy enough to have a good range of motion for pedaling, but they don’t stretch out very much over the course of the ride. The waist band goes up in the back, so I don’t have to worry about a gap of skin between the shorts and my jersey and is adjustable. They also come with a very high quality chamois which feels bulky while off the bike, but I don’t even notice once I start riding. Basically, the only downside is the high price, though I think the shorts are totally worth it!
Perfect For: Pretty much any ride you want to do – I recently loved wearing them on the Royal Gorge Rim Trail.
Size: 12, fits great
Most Comfortable Shorts
Shredly MTB Curvy ($105)
The MTB Curvy from Shredly are the first and only thing I’ve ever bought from an Instagram ad, and I’m so glad I did. The idea of putting a comfortable, yoga style waistband on mountain bike shorts is genius! Shredly was founded by a woman, and that show’s in the design of these shorts. They have a bunch of functional, accessible pockets AND come in a variety of colors and pattens from bright and whimsical (the Tina) to more muted (the Denim C). The shorts are long for a lot of coverage and are made of a tough, durable material. While this means they’ll be good in a crash, they’re also pretty hot on warmer days or long climbs. They do have zipper vents on the thighs which help, but aren’t enough for really hot and sweaty rides. The $105 price tag is fairly high, especially since the chamois is sold separately, but the quality is very high and they’re made in the US.
Perfect For: A day in the Mammoth Bike Park or a fall ride in Downieville
Size: 12, could size down
Great Value Shorts
Fox Racing Women’s Ripley ($80, on sale for $33-$62)
These shorts are a great value for bike shorts! Even full priced, they’re on the lower end price-wise for good quality women’s bike shorts. Plus, Fox releases these year after year, so you can frequently find older models on sale for a great price. They’re pretty basic and no frills, and only have one small, rear, zippered pocket. They’re very durable – I’ve crashed in mine and they’ve held up to wear and tear really well. The material is a little stiff and rough, especially compared to the higher priced versions. They’re not very stretchy, which helps them hold up, but also means the range of motion isn’t as good. They’re a tighter fit than, which is nice for not snagging on things, but also affects the range of motion. They also come with a chamois which I really like the fit of.
Perfect For: Riding the Donner Lake Rim Trail & Wendin Way Trail
Size: Large, fits great
These Don’t Look Like Bike Shorts
Club Ride Eden ($100)
While bulky, knee length bike shorts are great for protection from the branches, rocks, and bugs I encounter on the trail, they’re not really my style for wearing to the brewery after my ride. If I want a pair of shorts that goes a little more smoothly from trail to beer, I like the Eden. They’re definitely shorter than the other shorts and don’t scream “bike shorts” quite as hard. The short length makes them lighter for hot days, which is nice, but they lack coverage in the case of a crash. I’ve gotten some gnarly leg scrapes from wearing them on the wrong trails. The material they’re made from is very stretchy, so they’re super comfortable. However, they do tend to stretch out in the waist by the end of the ride due to this fact. They do come with a chamois, but I didn’t like how it fit. These shorts are great for casual rides, and I’m fine with slipping them back on after I change out of my chamois.
Perfect For: Mellow cross country rides like Elizabethtown Meadow Trail or Emmigrant Trail
Size: Large, could probably size down
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!
I did my first ride on the Royal Gorge trails on Donner Summit in Truckee. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to ride these trails – they’re so close to home! I rode the Royal Gorge Rim Trail and up Rowton Peak. The views are incredible and the wildflowers are still going off. If you’re looking for a fun climb with payoff views and a fun downhill, check out Royal Gorge.
Last weekend, Greyson and I headed north into the Lost Sierra to ride one of my all time favorite trails, the Downieville Downhill. It just seems to get more fun every time I ride it, and this time was no exception – even though the temps were in the high 90s! Riding such a long trail, far from services, and in the heat requires more preparation than a typical ride. Now that I’ve done the Downieville Downhill a handful of times, I’ve got a packing list down.
Bike & Gear:
I’ve seen people ride the Downieville Downhill on all types of bikes – from modern enduro bikes to old school downhill bikes to full suspension fat bikes to a guy on a single speed hardtail last weekend! However, I think that for maximizing fun, you’ll want a full suspension bike with at least 115 mm of travel. I’ve ridden it multiple times on my 2016 Transition Smuggler, which is a short travel 29er (130/115), and though I would like a little more travel for comfort and confidence, it’s still very doable. Having good flat pedals and real bike shoes has made a huge difference for my comfort levels on some of the Downhill’s trickier sections this year. I’m so happy with my RaceFace Chesters and Five Ten Freerider Pro. The Freerider Pro women’s version isn’t just sized down, it has a women’s specific fit, (which can sometimes be a load of crap) and the narrower heel/wider toe box fits me super well, while the men’s version didn’t.
A hydration pack is a must for this trail (click here for my blog post with hydration packs recommendations), and I like to have one that can fit at least 2 liters of water in addition to all my stuff. This time, because it was so hot, I had ~2 liters of water in my CamelBak Solstice and some Tailwind in the bottle in my frame. I packed a few assorted gels, chews, and bars – I like to have more than I think that I’ll eat just in case. I’ve bonked HARD at Downieville, and I don’t want to repeat that experience. Also in my pack, I bring a tubeless plug kit, 1 or 2 spare tubes (there are quite a few sharp shale sections), multi tool, tire levers, and a pump. Someone in the group should have a first-aid kit as well.
I would highly recommend using a full face helmet, though lots of people don’t. I think a lightweight full face with a removable chin bar, like the Bell Super 3R, is the best of both worlds. The trails of Downieville get dusty pretty much as soon as they melt out, so goggles like the Smith Squad MTB are really nice to have. I also wear elbow pads, knee pads and padded gloves for extra protection.
For clothes, I tend towards more coverage, even when it’s really hot out. I like lightweight long sleeve jerseys, like the Patagonia Nine Trails or the Pearl iZUMi Launch for sun coverage, protection from overgrown trees and bushes, and protection. I’ve recently gotten a couple of pairs of longer baggies that I really like – the Shredly MTB Curvy and Patagonia Dirt Craft, for lightweight protection. Another piece of critical clothing is a very supportive sports bra like the Brooks Juno– the trail is rocky and bumpy!
Downieville is a fun town to hang out in, so we don’t hit the road right away. However, it’s a small town with only a few restaurants and stores, and can be expensive and crowded on a busy weekend. This time, we planned ahead and brought our Yeti Cooler packed with snacks. We pre-made Tailwind Recovery and kept those cold while we were riding and they were perfect to drink right away. We should have packed beers too, but, if you shuttle with Yuba Expeditions, you’ll get a free beer from their shop at the end of your ride!
Before I even got a beer or food though, I rode directly to the confluence of the North Yuba and the Downie in downtown Downieville, stripped down to my chamois & sports bra, and jumped in to the refreshing water. Nothing has ever felt better. I usually pack a swimsuit, but forgot and regretted it – so bring one. After my swim, I changed into comfortable clothes and the Chacos that I’d packed, and I was so glad I didn’t have to change back into sweaty bike clothes or non-breathable shoes. We didn’t see much this trip, but there is often a fair amount of poison oak just off the trail in Downieville as you get closer to town. Since it might be awhile until you get a chance to shower for real, wipes to remove the poison oak residue like these Tecnu ones can be really useful.
The Downieville Downhill is an incredible mountain bike trail and worth a road trip. It’s a classic for a reason, and having the right gear will make it an even better experience. Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!
As much as I love Lake Tahoe, the California coast, Yosemite National Park, etc., they’re often busy with visitors and locals, especially on a nice summer weekend, taking away some of the natural charm. If I’m wanting a less crowded experience, I head north of Truckee on Highway 89 into the “Lost Sierra” of eastern Plumas and Sierra counties.
The Lost Sierra is a gem of a region, dotted with small towns and hundreds of outdoor opportunities. There’s really something for everyone there! Unsurprisingly, my favorite thing about this area is the awesome mountain bike trails – Mt. Hough (Quincy), Mills Peak (Graeagle), and the Downieville Downhill (Downieville) are all in the Lost Sierra. There are lots more great trails in this area, and the Sierra Buttes Trails Stewardship is constantly adding and improving miles of trails.
The Lost Sierra is well known for hiking, and you can get to some incredible destinations on your feet. The hiking the Sierra Buttes trail to the tallest point in the Lakes Basin. There are dozens of other great day hikes in this area – check out this link from Plumas National Forest as a resource. The Pacific Crest Trail goes through the Lost Sierra as well, with Sierra City and Quincy being popular town stops for thru hikers. Day hikes on this section of the PCT will take you to some incredible places and views.
There are quite a few rivers and streams flowing through the Lost Sierra which means there’s great fishing, swimming, rafting and floating. There’s rafting and whitewater kayaking on the Feather River, and it has gentle stretches and tributaries that can be tube floated or canoed. The confluence of the North Yuba River and the Downie River is in downtown Downieville, and it makes basically a perfect swimming hole. Nothing feels better than jumping in after a hot, summer mountain bike ride! For lake recreation, Bucks Lake, southwest of Quincy, and Gold Lake, north of Sierra City are great options. If hot springs are more your style, Sierraville is home to the Sierra Hot Springs, a private, relaxing resort in the Sierra Valley.
The Lost Sierra is also a great place to experience history, art, and culture. Did you know that Downieville was almost the capital of California? Also, it was the most populous city at one point during the gold rush. Located in a building from 1852 in the heart of downtown, the Downieville Museum is small, but worth a visit. There are also a few historic fire lookouts throughout the region. There’s one on top of Mills Peak that you can drive to (via rough road) and one at Calpine that you can reserve and stay at!
The High Sierra Music Festival is an incredible festival that happens in Quincy every year during the first weekend in July. Beyond the music, there is a parade, costume contests, art, comedy, a pool, great food and much more. Much smaller, but just as awesome is the Lost Sierra Hoedown, which takes place in September at the Johnsville Historic Ski Bowl. It’s got a focus on community, music, outdoor recreation, and it’s fundraiser for local groups.
Small rural towns aren’t usually known for their food scenes, but there definitely a few great restaurants in the Lost Sierra. The Brewing Lair (Blairsden) is one of my favorite breweries in all of California. They don’t serve food, but they sometimes have a food truck, and you can always bring your own. If we’re doing that, we usually stop at Graeagle Mountain Frostee to grab greasy, comfort food to go. Also in Blairsden is Bread & Butter, which is an excellent stationary food truck with outdoor seating. Quintopia Brewing in Quincy is fairly new, but already has great beer, delicious food, and reasonable prices. Try the chicken tikka masala fries! My favorite place in Downieville is Two Rivers Cafe. It’s a little on the pricy side, but the food is good and the deck seating overlooks the river confluence. Finally, Los Dos Hermanos is a good Mexican restaurant tucked away in Sierraville.
This is just scratching the surface of all of the great things to do and see in the Lost Sierra region. I hope you’ll plan a trip to the Lost Sierra this summer or fall and that you love it as much as I do.
Last weekend, Greyson and I rode the Tyrolean Downhill with 100 of our closest trail runner friends! We had a great time – get out and ride this trail before it gets too sandy.
This trail is accessed via the Tahoe Rim Trail, and it’s requested that mountain bikers only ride the trail on even numbered days.
There’s a newly completed portion of the Donner Lake Rim Trail! Trailforks is calling it two segments – DLRT Teton and DLRT Skislope, which cover about 5.5 miles and around 950 feet of descent (or climbing, depending which direction you ride it). The trail is pretty dusty and riding slow right now, but it has incredible views and I think it will be amazing once it gets some rain!