Trail Report: Mountain Biking Foresthill Divide Trail, Auburn, California

I am lucky enough to get both Lincoln’s Birthday and President’s Day off, so I had a four day weekend this weekend. I packed a lot of fun into this weekend, and I managed to fit two of my favorite things (beer and mountain biking) into Valentine’s Day. We’ve been having a bit of a dry spell up in the mountains, and while it’s led to fun, spring-like conditions for snowboarding, I was ready to get out of the Tahoe area and find some real spring weather. Greyson had heard some good things about the mountain biking around Auburn, and with the forecast calling for 74 and sunny, we decided to check out the Foresthill Divide Trail.

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Sidenote: Greyson has been obsessed with Mountain Bike Project  basically since it came out. It took me longer to jump on the bandwagon/download the app to my phone, but it is totally awesome! I highly recommend it.

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Photo via Strava

The trailhead for the Foresthill Divide trail is easy to find – it’s 3.7 miles east from the Foresthill Bridge on Foresthill Road. (Note: Google Maps has the trailhead in the wrong location). From Auburn, the trailhead is on your right with enough parking for 15-20 cars. If you don’t have a California State Parks Pass, it will cost $10 to park. There porti-potties, but not permanent bathrooms here. They were very clean porti-potties though! There are signs up reminding you to hide valuables and to lock your cars – locals we talked to agreed with that recommendation. Apparently, there have been break ins and thefts at the trailhead. The Foresthill Divide trail is open to horses, hikers and leashed dogs (but not OHVs), so be aware and practice good trail manners. We saw lots of hikers out yesterday.

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Some nice hikers took this Valentines Day picture for us.

The Foresthill Divide Trail is a lollipop with a very short stick, and it is very well marked. There are easily read “Foresthill Divide Trail” signs at every major intersection. As long as you follow these signs and stay on the main trail, you will be fine. After you leave the parking lot follow the signs, you’ll ride about 0.6 miles before hitting the loop part of the trail. The sign here points right, and follow that to do the loop counterclockwise. Pretty much every biker we encountered was doing the loop that direction. You’ll get the harder climbs out of the way sooner, and the steeper sections will be downhill.

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I’m feeling pretty out of shape bike wise, and the thought of lugging my heavy Sanction up ~1,600 feet of climbing sounded pretty miserable to me, so I did some research into whether this ride would be a good candidate for riding my hardtail. To be honest, that is my number one question whenever I am thinking about riding a new trail. Can I ride my hardtail, or do I need suspension? The research I did had me leaning toward hardtail acceptable, so that’s what I brought. Spoiler alert: the trail is definitely doable on a hardtail and it was enjoyable, but next time I will be riding a full suspension bike.

The Mountain Bike Project describes the Foresthill Divide Trail as “A very good intermediate Level XC Trail. Rolling singletrack that’s very well designed and maintained,” and I wholeheartedly agree with this description. The trail is hard packed dirt for the majority of the length, with a few rocky and rooty sections. The trail definitely had some erosion damage when we rode it yesterday, but it is generally a well built, FUN to ride trail.

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While I enjoy the more technical, rocky trails that Tahoe has to offer, it is just so FUN to be able to let go and ride fast on hard packed, sticky dirt. There are also long, straight downhill sections with lots of visibility ahead, so I felt safe getting my speed up and not worrying about coming up on unsuspecting hikers or horses. While there were rocky sections, none lasted more than a few hundred yards, and there was only one steep, rooty section that I felt like I couldn’t have handled on my hardtail. (There were definitely other sections that I chose to walk due to out-of-bike-shapeness). I said earlier that next time I’d choose to ride a full suspension bike, and that was more due to the bumpy erosion damage and hard packed dirt than the size of the rocks.

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Photo via Strava

While the ride had ~1,600 feet of climbing (according to Strava), none of the climbs were too steep to ride. I definitely stopped for many breaks, but I also haven’t been on a bike since October. You spend most of your time riding through classic California oak woodlands, but you pop out for gorgeous views quite a few times along the way, and we caught a glimpse of the American River a couple of times.

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The only major downside to this trail is the couple of times you have to cross a major road. You cross Foresthill Road at 5.6 miles and again at 10.3 miles. Cars are coming fast, and the corners are a little blind for my taste. We obviously made it across safely, but be careful, because there are no warning signs for cars about bike crossings.

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We had a great time riding the Foresthill Divide Trail, and I definitely recommend it as a good intermediate cross country trail. It would be a challenge for a beginner, but doable, especially if they’re in good cardio-shape. It’s rideable for an intermediate rider, and there’s enough going on that an advanced rider would have fun. Plus, there’s lots of other fun stuff to do around the Auburn area, and I plan on writing about that in the next week or so.
Trail Stats:
Location: near Auburn, California
Mileage: 11.0 miles
Elevation Gain: ~1,600 feet
Difficulty: Moderate