Lost Sierra Favorites

Lost Sierra Favorites // tahoefabulous.com

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.

Mills Peak // tahoefabulous.com
View from the top of Mills Peak

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.

Downieville Downhill // tahoefabulous.com
Downieville Downhill

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.

Lost Sierra Rivers // tahoefabulous.com

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!

High Sierra Music Festival // tahoefabulous.com
Photo via highsierramusic.com

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.

Quintopia Brewing // tahoefabulous.com

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.

VIDEO: Mountain Biking Tyrolean Downhill, Lake Tahoe, Nevada

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.

VIDEO: Mountain Biking the New Section of the Donner Lake Rim Trail

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!

Mountain Biking Big Chief Trail, Truckee, CA

Big Chief Trail // tahoefabulous.com

Check out my Big Chief Trail video here!

There’s a new mountain bike trail in Truckee, the Big Chief Trail, and it is awesome! While mountain bike/keyboard warriors may complain on the internet that the Forest Service only builds boring, easy trails, that’s absolutely not true of the Big Chief Trail. Ridden from the top down, the trail descends about 2,175 feet over ~8.5 miles, but it’s a pain to shuttle and involves a lot of driving. If you’re riding up, you can either ride up the Big Chief trail or up the 06 fire road, which I prefer. The Big Chief trailhead is about 3 miles up the 06 past the Sawtooth Trailhead. If you are shuttling from the top, the Upper Big Chief Trailhead is near the intersection of the Fiberboard Freeway and the 500 road. There’s limited parking, but the drive in is all paved. (Strava route for the shuttle here and Strava route for the fire road ride here.)

Big Chief Trail // tahoefabulous.com
Trail map & elevation via Strava

Big Chief Trail is split into two main sections, the top third (which was just completed this summer) and the bottom two thirds. Big Chief Upper is the most technical part, earning its advanced rating. At this point there are several large features that I couldn’t ride and didn’t have ride arounds, though I was able to walk them fairly easily. (I’ve heard, though, that eventually all the features will have ride arounds.) This section is pretty rocky overall in addition to the several technical features. After about 2.15 miles and ~850 feet of descent, the upper section crosses the 06 fire road and Big Chief Lower begins.

Big Chief Trail // tahoefabulous.com

The lower section of Big Chief begins with a tiny climb that opens into expansive views and impressive rock work. The lower segment is easier overall than the upper section, but there are still challenging sections and lots of features like drops, rock rolls, wall rides and more. There’s also a fair amount of climbing on this section, with about 550 feet of climbing overall. Most of the climbing comes in a half mile section at about 1.3 miles into the lower section.

Big Chief Trail // tahoefabulous.com

After the climb, the trail flattens out and gets bumpy with rock rolls, drops, wall rides, wooden features, and more. All the features have ride arounds, and this is a good spot to session and practice. After the techy features, it’s mostly a fun, flowy, downhill ride to the bottom. There are great jumps and berms, and the trail is mostly smooth, though there are a few rock gardens and roots to keep you on your toes.

The Big Chief Trail is a fun, challenging trail that I’d recommend for intermediate or better riders. There are definitely advanced features on the Big Chief Upper and lower sections, but the trail is totally doable as an intermediate rider as long as you’re paying attention and prepared to walk or ride around when available. That said, riding just the Big Chief Lower section is less challenging than doing the whole thing, and a great option for an easier ride.

Trail Stats
(from the top of Big Chief Upper down)
Mileage: 7.85 miles
Elevation: 2,178 descent, 675 feet of climbing
Difficulty: Advanced Intermediate
Washoe Land

PS: Check out my lists of things to do in Truckee here and here for after your ride!

Hiking Fern Lake Trail – June Lake, California

I spent an amazing four day weekend in June Lake recently, celebrating at a bachelorette party for one of my best friends. We did many super fun things – beer at June Lake Brewing, swimming in June Lake, dancing to Lizzo, barbecuing, etc. A huge highlight was a short but hard hike up to the incredible Fern Lake.

Fern Lake Hike // tahofabulous.com

The trail to Fern Lake is only 3.2 miles, but it gains around 1,500 feet of elevation. It’s really steep – apparently the trail builders didn’t believe in switch backs. I think there’s only a couple on the whole trail! There are also a few short sections that are closer to scrambling than hiking. It’s also at altitude, starting above 7,000 feet and topping out around 8,900 feet. The trail is rated as difficult – which I agree with. Everyone in our group struggled at some point, but we took it slow with lots of breaks and we made it to the top.

Fern Lake Trail // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Kristen Boysen

We parked at the Yost Creek/Fern Lake Trailhead – even on a beautiful Saturday during a busy weekend there was plenty of parking. The trail was easy to find and we headed up Yost Creek Trail, which would eventually fork into Fern Lake Trail. The trail starts climbing immediately through an aspen grove. It was really mosquito-y through this part, but there were also fields of mariposa lilies, which was incredible.

Fern Lake Trail // tahoefabulous.com

After about half a mile, we were out of the mosquitos and aspens, and the trails started to have incredible views of the surrounding mountains, the green valley below us, and waterfalls off in the distance. At about one mile into the hike, the Yost Creek Trail heads east and crosses Fern Creek – which was raging and basically a waterfall when we were there. The Fern Lake Trail is the right fork and heads steeply up. While the whole route is a steep climb, this next ~0.25 mile section is the steepest, loosest and most technical. It’s also exposed and hot.

Fern Creek Raging

Eventually, the trail flattens out for a bit and we got back in the cool shade of the trails. This flat section (less than 0.2 miles) is a nice respite from the mostly relentless climb, but we weren’t totally done climbing yet (despite what the well-meaning but entire wrong trail runner we encountered told us). After another ~0.1 miles of climbing, Fern Lake came into view.

Fern Lake Hike // tahoefabulous.com

It was totally worth the work to get there! We shared summit beers & snacks and a few of us jumped in the very cold lake before heading back down the trail. The descent was much easier physically than the climb up, but it required a lot of mental energy since it was dusty and rocky. We all slipped a few times, but luckily no one got hurt. Before we knew it, we were back at the car. (Click here for my Strava route for just the downhill. I forgot to turn on my watch for the trip up.) We made a beeline for June Lake Brewing for hard earned Hawaiian food from Ohana’s 395 and delicious IPAs (This summer, I’m loving June Lake Brewing’s Changing of the Guard IPA). This trail is incredible, and I’d highly recommend it to in shape hikers who have experience with steep, sandy climbs.

Fern Lake Hike // tahofabulous.com
Photo by Katie Riley

Trail Stats
Mileage: 3.2 miles
Elevation Gain: ~1,500 feet
Difficulty: Difficult
Northern Paiute, Western Mono/Monache, and Central Sierra Miwok Land

Even More Summer Things To Do In Truckee

I recently shared a bunch of Truckee summer outdoor adventures that I love, and I’m back to share more fun things to do! While not all of these activities take place outdoors, they still take advantage of the nice summer weather and beautiful environment of Truckee!

More Summer Truckee Activities // tahoefabulous.com

Food & Drink
Beer: It’s no secret that I love beer, and our beer options in Truckee have been getting better and better! My #1 local brewery is still Alibi Ale Works, but the newer Truckee Brewing Company is quickly becoming a favorite. Mellow Fellow is a tap house in downtown Truckee with dozens of beers on tap (they recently had Pliny the Elder!). They’re also the northern California’s tasting room for Modern Times Beer, so they always have those beers on draft as well.
Alibi Ale Works // tahoefabulous.org

Wine: The best place to buy a bottle of wine is The Pour House on Jibboom Street in downtown Truckee. The owners put a lot of thought and effort into their wine choices and they have a huge selection. They’re always tasting something interesting and they have an excellent cheese selection as well. Though it’s not located on the river, Truckee River Winery is worth stopping by. They not only have good wine, I love hanging out in their outdoor space. Get snacks and a bottle of wine and play some bocce in the sun.

The Pour House // tahoefabulous.com
Photo via truckee.com

Happy Hour: There are some great happy hour deals in downtown Truckee, and my favorite is at Pianeta, an excellent Italian restaurant. Happy hour is only at the bar and it’s best to get there a little before 5. They have $6 house wine, $5 beers, $7 for certain cocktails and a great price on appetizers. I love the Bruschetta Two Ways and the Mozzarella Fresca. Best Pies has happy hour every day from 2-6 pm. It’s $5 for a big slice of pizza and a beer!

Pianeta Ristorante // tahoefabulous.com
Photo via pianetarestaurant.com

Outdoor Dining: When the weather is nice, I want to eat outside. My favorite restaurant patio is hands down Cottonwood Restaurant & Bar. It’s location on a hill, looking down at the Truckee River and downtown, means it has the best view. The food and drinks are great too, though on the higher end price-wise. For a cheaper option downtown, I like El Toro Bravo. Their patio is covered, so it’s a great option for really sunny days. I like their chile relleno best. Also downtown is Old Town Tap, which has great cocktails, and excellent beer selection and interesting toppings on their wood fired pizza. On the other side of town is Red Truck, which is located in the Truckee Airport. Red Truck is my favorite spot for vegetarian food in Truckee, and they have delicious breakfast bowls too. It’s a lunch counter style place, and you can take your food outside to picnic tables. This is a great spot to bring kids, as there’s a play area, big grassy spot to run around, and you can watch the small planes take off and land.

Photo via ediblerenotahoe.com

Coffee: I like coffee just as much as I like beer, and Truckee has some good spots. I work within walking distance of Coffeebar and Dark Horse Coffee Roasters and I’m a frequent visitor to both. At Coffeebar, I like the iced coffee and any of the baked goods and sitting outside on their patio. At Dark Horse, I HIGHLY recommend their cold brew latte with their homemade vanilla syrup. Pacific Crest Coffee Co. has been roasting and selling coffee for awhile, but their coffee shop is fairly new. It’s tiny, so not really a place to hang out for long, but the coffee is delicious and they have a selection of food to go.

Dark Horse Coffee // tahoefabulous.com
Photo via darkhorsecoffee.com

Dessert: Self serve frozen yogurt is a great way to cap off a long hike or hot bike ride, and Summit Swirl has great options. It’s also open til 10 pm, which is late by Truckee standards. If you’re hanging out on Donner Lake, walk over to the Little Truckee Ice Creamery and have some of Truckee’s only locally made ice cream. I love the Truckee Trails flavor, which is sweet cream and pinenut brittle!

Little Truckee Ice Creamery // tahoefabulous.com
Photo via truckeeicecream.com

VIDEO: Mountain Biking Big Chief Trail, Truckee, CA

Big Chief Trail is the newest trail in the Truckee area, and Greyson and I rode it from the top! Check out the video (not pictured: some gnarly stuff we had to walk) which also includes some of the Sawtooth Trail.

VIDEO: Riding Mt. Hough, Quincy, CA

A couple of weeks ago, Greyson and I finally got the chance to ride the Mt. Hough Trail up north of us in Quincy, California! It lived up to the hype – flowy and fast with gorgeous views. The day was hot and it was a brake burner though. Check out my video of some of the highlights.

25+ Summer Things To Do In Truckee – Outdoors

Summer Things To Do In Truckee // tahoefabulous.com

Summer is an amazing time of year in Truckee, and I want to share some of my favorite things to do. In honor of the solstice and summer OFFICIALLY starting, I thought I’d share the best things to do outside in Truckee.

Hiking Truckee // tahoefabulous.com
Hiking on Donner Summit

Go for a hike! (Note: some of the hikes at higher elevations might not be completely melted out due to the heavy snows this winter. Be sure to check conditions before heading out.) My favorite after work hike is to summit Donner Peak, which is about 4 miles round trip and 950 feet of climbing from the parking area. For a longer hike, the 14 mile trek from Sugar Bowl to Squaw via the Pacific Crest Trail is a local favorite, but not heavily trafficked. Lower Sagehen Creek Loop Trail and Elizabethtown Meadows Trail are both flatter options at lower elevation.

Mountain Biking Truckee // tahoefabulous.com
Big Chief Trail in Truckee

Check out Truckee’s awesome mountain bike trails! Truckee has mountain bike trails for all levels and types of riders. For easier rides, I’d recommend the Emigrant Trail segment that goes from Highway 89 to Stampede Reservoir, which is an out and back and can be made as long or short as you like. Sawtooth Loop is a 10 mile, intermediate route that is slightly more cross country style. For a fun but challenging climb, head up towards the Donner Lake Rim Trail from the Wendin Way Access Trail. If you prefer to shuttle, the Donner Lake Rim Trail has a couple of great options, either riding in from the Castle Valley side or from the Glacier Way trailhead in Tahoe DonnerThe newly completed Big Chief Trail is a great option for advanced riders. For groups with a variety of skill levels, check out the trails in the Tahoe Donner neighborhood, especially those around the Alder Creek Adventure Center. There’s a wide variety of trails at all levels here. Finally, the Truckee Bike Park is a must do for mountain bikers visiting the area.

Donner Lake // tahoefabulous.com

Get in the water! Though you might not guess it from my blog name, in some ways I prefer Donner Lake over Lake Tahoe. I love that there are publicly accessible, free docks that are available on a first come, first serve basis – the Donner Lake Public Piers. They tend to fill up fast on summer days, so get there early to claim one! If a regular beach is more your scene, the West End Beach is great for that. It’s $5 for an adult entrance fee (or $50 for a season pass), and, besides a great swimming beach, there are life guards, nice bathrooms, concessions, picnic tables, a play area, grills, boat rentals, and more! Floating the Truckee River is a popular activity, and you can avoid the crowds by choosing a less popular section to float. I recommend the stretch from the Truckee Regional Park to the Glenshire Bridge which is rowdier than the booze cruise section between Tahoe City and Alpine Meadows, but still doable by amateurs. Be sure to check river conditions, it can be too cold, deep and fast moving to be safe early in the summer. I’d also recommend a raft that’s a step up from a cheap innertube!

Green Phantom Climbing // tahoefabulous.com
Greyson top roping on Green Phantom

Get on a rock! I haven’t been climbing a ton lately, but it’s still one of my favorite ways to experience the outdoors. My favorite top roping spot (mainly for the awesome views of Donner Lake) is Green Phantom on Donner Summit. If bouldering is your thing, Donner Memorial State Park has a bunch of fun routes that are super easy to access. If you want a little bit of a hike before you climb, the Grouse Slab boulder area is a fun area with great views.

Photo by Pacos Truckee

Go with a group! During the summer, Truckee has a lot of opportunities to hike, bike, run, and learn with locals, visitors, and experts. The Truckee Donner Land Trust runs a free, docent led hiking program in the summer. This is a great chance to get out on incredible TDLT properties, including ones that are not yet open to the public, like Carpenter Valley. Paco’s bike shop has a group road ride on Wednesday nights and a no-drop ladies mountain bike ride on Fridays. For trail running enthusiasts, Donner Party Mountain Runners hosts lots of group events and has an up to date calendar on their website.

Road Biking Truckee // tahoefabulous.com

Other outdoor stuff! The Truckee River Legacy Trail is a paved trail paralleling the Truckee River that is great for running, dog walking, and biking. For another easy road bike route, I like doing a lap around Donner Lake (though I highly recommend doing it clockwise!) – it’s 7 miles and under 400 feet of climbing. The climb up to the top of Donner Summit up Old Highway 40 is a lung burning challenge. It’s more than 1,000 feet of climbing in about three miles and tops out at over 7,000 feet. Truckee is a great place to do some high elevation trail running – Emigrant Trail and the Boreal to Old 40 section of the PCT are both great options. Disc golf is a great, low key way to spend time outside and Truckee has a few options. Right in town, there’s a course near the entrance of the Truckee River Regional Park and one on the campus of Sierra College. Up on Donner Summit, the Donner Ski Ranch resort has its own course.

This is just scratching the surface of fun outdoor things to do this summer in Truckee. Get outside and enjoy this great place!

Mountain Biking Dry Pond Loop, Reno, NV

Dry Pond Loop // tahoefabulous.com

With this super long winter we’ve been having, I’ve been having so much fun exploring the trails in the lower elevations surrounding Truckee. Last weekend, Greyson and I checked out some new-to-us trails in the Mount Rose area of Reno, as you might have seen in my video. We rode the Dry Pond Loop counterclockwise, and it was a great intermediate ride, on the easier side of intermediate. It’s about 6.5 miles and a little over 1,000 of climbing, with most of the climbing coming in the first half.

Check out my video of the Dry Pond Loop here!

Dry Pond Loop // tahoefabulous.com

Dry Pond Loop // tahoefabulous.com
Trail Map via Strava

This loop is below Mount Rose in the Galena area, south and west of downtown Reno off of Highway 431. We parked at the Thomas Creek Trailhead parking area (Click here for Google Map directions) and headed up Thomas Creek Trail right from the large parking lot. This trail climbs steadily, but not too steeply along Thomas Creek through aspen groves and into the pines. We saw a ton of hikers with dogs on this section of the trail, but nearly everyone was very friendly. After about 1.5 miles and ~500 feet of climbing, Thomas Creek Trail intersects with the Dry Pond Trail.

Dry Pond Loop // tahoefabulous.com

Dry Pond Trail continues to climb, and the climb definitely gets steeper at this point, and there are a few very tight and steep switchbacks that I struggled with. Dry Pond trail takes you through a curly leaf mountain mahogany forest, which is really cool. I’d only ever seen bush sized mountain mahogany before. There are also really sweeping views looking down into the Washoe Valley.

Dry Pond Loop // tahoefabulous.com

After about 1.2 miles and another ~440 feet of climbing, we arrived at the dry pond that gives the trail it’s name. We stopped here to have a snack and admire the awesome view of Mount Rose across the meadow. The Dry Pond Trail starts heading downhill almost immediately after the meadow, and the trail on the south side was pretty different from what we’d just climbed up. While the climb up was mostly dirt with some embedded rocks and roots, the downhill was looser, rockier and more exposed. It’s all very rideable, but I was amazed at the quick change in the terrain.

Dry Pond Loop // tahoefabulous.com

At about mile 3.8, Dry Pond Trail intersects Whites Creek Trail. We turned left and continued down hill. Whites Creek Trail isn’t as steep as Dry Pond, and it’s back in the pines and aspen groves. The trail isn’t a “flow trail”, but I thought it was fast and flowy, with lots of little rock gardens and objects to pop off of that you can choose to challenge yourself on. It also gets a little sandy in spots, especially towards the bottom, and I imagine it will be even more sandy later in the summer. As we got closer to the end, we started to encounter more bikers, hikers, and dogs, but generally people were really friendly. Whites Creek Trail dead ends at N. Timberline Dr. where we turned left and headed the last half mile back to the car. There’s a tiny bit of a climb back to the parking area, and my legs were dead at this point. It was almost comical how hard the less than 75 feet of climbing felt to me.

Dry Pond Loop // tahoefabulous.com

I really enjoyed riding the Dry Pond Loop. There were great views, interesting ecosystems, friendly people, and enough challenge to make it entertaining. I think this would be a great trail to take newer riders on.

Trail Stats
Location: Mt. Rose, Reno, NV
Mileage: 6.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,025
Difficulty: Easier Intermediate
See my Strava Route here!
Washoe Land