In an area blessed with an array of great trails, it's sometimes tough to pinpoint a favorite. However, in the fat-tire mecca of Downieville, California, there may be consensus: the Big Boulder Trail is "the one." This trail features sustained climbing, outstanding mountain scenery, varied technical challenges, and singletrack descending that almost lives up to that impossible descriptor: endless. The Big Boulder is a historic 130-year-old mining trail, which has recently been revived as one of mountain biking's finest singletracks. Not only is there fabulous riding as you descend along the Yuba River, but near the end dozens of swimming holes provide an excellent opportunity to cool down and relax your brake-weary fingers.
In recent years, Downieville has become a premiere West Coast riding destination. Proof of its popularity is the fact that a number of mountain biking's pioneers have purchased second homes in the area. One trip down the Big Boulder Trail's descent will tell you why. After the first half-hour of super-fun singletrack descending, you'll be smiling ear-to-ear. Sixty minutes in, you'll probably be hooting. Somewhere along the way, you'll experience pure mountain bike ecstasy, and if you can think beyond the next turn you'll be delighted that you put Downieville on your must-ride list.
Location: The Big Boulder Ride is located near Downieville, California, in the Sierra Nevada foothills. The closest major cities are Reno and Sacramento, both two hours away.
Length: 35 miles
Elevation: 2,900 to 7,300 ft
Climbing: 5,000 ft
Terrain: Twisty, technical singletrack, 17-mile fireroad climb
Season: Spring through Fall
Highlight: Numerous swimming holes along the Yuba River
Details: Yuba Expeditions, 530-265-8779, http://www.yubaexpeditions.com
Club: Bicyclists of Nevada County, 530-274-DIRT
Shop: Tour of Nevada City Bike Shop, 530-265-2187
Lodging: Sierra County Chamber, 800-200-4949, http://www.sierracounty.org
Brew: Sierra Nevada
Coffee: Downieville Bakery
Eateries: Downieville Diner, Riverview Pizzeria
Event: Downieville Classic, always the second weekend of August
Must do: Dive in the Yuba River.