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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2012
    san diego

    TR - Sierras exploring

    Headed up to the Sierras for Labor day weekend. Will turn this into an ongoing TR thread as I have a bunch of other recent and older sierrras trips that could be of interest. Any omissions of ride locations is intentional!

    Labor Day weekend 2019:

    As usual had a list of way too many rides I wanted to do, and even toward the end of the drive up had still not decided which ones to hit or in what order. Finally pulled off the highway and had to flip a proverbial coin.

    Downieville would be up first.

    Had left after work so it was now late at night. Needed to find a campsite as well and there is not much right around Downieville. Also wasn't sure if the road I'd be going up next day was even driveable - Trailforks listed it as 4wd road, so figured I'd drive up a ways and check it out, and hopefully find a campsite. Turned out the road was great but not many good campsites. Next thing you know I'm at the top and there was a nice flat pullout, so I crashed out there. In the morning stashed the bike away and drove back to town to set up the self shuttle.

    Dropping my truck at the river. 8am and already warming up, was tempted to go for a swim

    Moto shuttle back to the top. Best part about doing a moto shuttle is the shuttle part is like another bike ride.

    Great views right off the bat

    There was a bit of a doubletrack traverse to start with some steep climbs and descents. When I stopped to get a photo here I could hear something huffing in the bushes below the trail. Never saw the bear but he wasn't pleased I was there....

    Wasn't sure what Chimney Rock would be like. It is moto trail and follows a ridge top so was expecting steep in places, but mostly it was pretty good rideable grades

    Some turns were armored. I loved the toothy rock edges to keep riders from cutting the corners

    Climbing higher views really opened up

    Looking back

    I guess this is the Chimney rock

    Had to break my no-selfie rule for this sweet pair of shades I found. Not being cool enough to pull these off, I left them trailside.

    Trail got good beyond Chimney Rock

    Most of the climb was good and the views were outstanding. After some more traversing and a pretty stout climb I came to the turnoff for Empire Creek trail. Empire was 100% descending, once again on moto trail. Nothing mind blowing, just a fun decent. Lots of small stream crossings and paver sections. Would not want to climb it (under my own power!)

    The singletrack portion of the descent was around 5 miles, ending with a wider stream crossing that I barely cleaned without getting feet wet. A couple miners were camped there and watched hoping I got wet. Sorry to disappoint! Then there was a couple miles road descent before being dumped onto the Downieville DH route above First divide. Got my fill of the DH route back into town and then got my fill with a burger, after going for a swim. I definitely liked the route. Fun as the descent was the highlight for me is the traverse on Chimney Rock with its amazing views and ridge top riding. You don't hear of many people riding it which is a shame. But of course, the shuttles don't go there so what do you expect.....

    After retrieving the moto I decided to head over and check out Mt Hough near Quincy. Its a ride I've wanted to do for a few years but never got around to, being a haul from Downieville. This time dropped the moto at the bottom and headed up the hill.

    Got to the top just in time for a golden hour descent. Saw a few motos headed down the road while I was nearing the top, otherwise had the place to myself.

    Super fun flowy trail. All the trail sanitizers in Socal need to go up and ride this trail, as it is their holy grail of strava-hero buffness. Maybe they'd get it out of their system and stop pulling rocks out of every trail in socal. /rant

    This marked the end of the trail

    Sunset on the moto ride back to the truck. Super silty/dusty...glad there was no other traffic

    Lots of other trails nearby, looks like I have a reason to come back. The shuttle is pretty short time-wise, so these other trails would turn it into a full day adventure. Would do Mt Hough again for sure... Great day on the bike!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Nice! I enjoy TRís, because being a ride from home kinda guy, I see the same trails everyday.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    a poop plant
    Nice TR. Need to get up to that area, Thanks for sharing.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Many years ago my first ride in downieville was this one. I remember a ride description from Coyote adventures the precursor to Yuba. After climbing a up a long ass way on that fireroad out of town it said make sure you go right at some intersection or else you will end up in 6 toed hillbilly country 🤣

    Thereís lots of ways to turn that shuttle up to packer saddle into an epic ride

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Hugh's Mom's House
    Quote Originally Posted by evdog View Post
    Had to break my no-selfie rule for this sweet pair of shades I found. Not being cool enough to pull these off, I left them trailside.
    That was a mistake, those things were rad as hell.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Looks like a great trip evdog. Envious. Nice catch and release on the vipers too!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2012
    san diego
    Day 2

    Following the ride on day 1 I spent a few minutes going over my ride list and trailforks as I still hadn't decided what to ride the next day. Given the distance back to Downieville, that area was out. I've been wanting to ride Donner Lake Rim Trail for ages and that was pretty close by. There is also the new-ish Big Chief trail above Truckee that is supposed to be fun. And...DLRT ends close to the start of Hole in the Ground. Could I combine those three into one big ride? Looked promising! So I started driving down towards Truckee, and eventually found a forest road off the highway where I could crash for the night.

    In the morning I dropped my moto off at the end of HITG, and made the drive up to Big Chief

    First rock feature

    Second one. Noticed the high line as I rode through and had to go back and ride it.

    Nice view!

    Impressive sidewalk building.

    Didn't take many photos after this. Big Chief was kinda fun. A bit of an odd trail though. Like it couldn't decide whether it wanted to be a flow trail or a rock garden with tech features, and in the end didn't do a great job of either. I'm sure I'd have more fun if I could ride it a bunch of times to figure out the flow better. But on my one and only lap it seemed too pedally and too rocky to get the speed you wanted to carry to really have fun.

    After finishing that part of the ride out on Sawtooth Trail and a few blocks of pavement through Truckee, it was on to a paved bike path that led up the hill right to DLRT

    A bit of climbing through the forest soon led to this view over Donner Lake

    I'd been expecting miles of techly granite and slickrock on DLRT. What I got instead was miles of contouring climbing.

    Back into the trees

    Still climbing. I was now approaching what would be the high point

    Almost there. Still on flowy contouring trail

    A fun switchback descent later and I was back climbing again

    Finally, here's my granite!

    The last mile and a half from Summit lake was rocky goodness. It was also where I saw the most hikers. Fun riding, just wish there had been more of it. It was also painfully obvious by this point I had ridden DLRT the wrong direction as it mostly climbed up from Truckee. That was hard to see on trailforks since this trail is split into 3-4 segments. I hadn't thought it would matter having assumed lots of tech riding but I won't be doing this one in that direction again.

    Done with DLRT and motoring right on to Norcal's BEST trail according to MTBR, Hole in the Ground

    Jumbo fungi

    Forgot how rocky this trail was in places, interspersed with nice buff sections

    So inviting....this was one of the few sections of HITG I remembered from riding it years ago. It's a fun trail, but the ending on dirt road and the stair step trail kind of ruins it.

    Finished not long before dark, stashed the MTB and hopped on the moto to go retrieve the truck. Took the scenic route.... Grabbed the truck and made it back down into Truckee in time to get dinner at Firty Fifty brewing.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Paper St. Soap Co.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2012
    san diego
    Day 3

    After some more hemming and hawing I decided on rides to round out the trip. I have an insatiable urge to explore new stuff, especially off the beaten track trails, but these are not always the easiest rides to pull off. Sometimes on trips you have to put them off for a later day. The rides I'd done so far had been put off numerous times, as had the others I now planned to hit. This trip was turning into a mission to knock long-standing bucket list rides off my list!

    Wanted a shorter ride for day 3, and opted for some lines on a map I'd been staring at for some time that could be worth it...or not. Never seen much attention given to these trails. Only one way to find out!

    The only certain thing was a steep price of admission

    Steep, about to get steeper

    Views opening up after some world class hike a bike. This was seriously some of the harder hike a bike I've done, and I've done plenty

    But totally worth it for this view alone

    About to cash those HAB chips in

    Second impression, what looked amazing was surprisingly difficult to ride because the trail was so loose and slippery

    More hike a bike coming up. Trail would go straight up and over the north peak

    Lookin' back

    Dropping off the peak was super steep and loose, then it mellowed out as I traversed around back to the south. Every time it got nice there'd be a stream crossing, rocky chute, or something else to keep you on your toes. Great backcountry riding....

    Nice view down into a lower basin

    Lots of streams flowing

    And lots of flowers growing

    There was a super steep descent down to the bottom of this basin, and then an equally steep push back up. Views were great the whole way so I didn't mind the slow pace. Was getting a bit toasty though.

    I've been wanting to head to Colorado in July to see the wildflowers, now I don't need to.

    The reward for doing the super steep HAB first was a fun descent down a less steep, but chunky and fully rideable trail, to exit the area. Then some crappy pavement riding to close the loop. Great day on the bike and turned out better than I could have hoped.

    Headed down toward Lake Tahoe. Since I had plenty of time, thought I could drive up Tunnel Creek Rd and do an easy out and back on the Flume Trail. But late afternoon, and the road was blocked by a closed gate with private property signs and cameras??? Did I just miss closing hours or is this road not open to the public? WTF. Had to settle for some lake views from the highway. Of course being Labor day weekend the whole place was a shitshow of cars parked everywhere. Oh well.... Still got in a great sunset.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    You can't drive up Tunnel Creek, at least not very far. The ride up to the flume trail is sandy and unfun - there are much better ways to go see the flume trail - either from Mt Rose meadows or from Spooner Summit.

    I've never ridden the Donner Lake rim trail. Which direction did you go? (so I'll know that the opposite direction would be more fun)

    Great TR!
    Quote Originally Posted by powder11 View Post
    if you have to resort to taking advice from the nitwits on this forum, then you're doomed.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2003

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2012
    san diego
    Quote Originally Posted by El Chupacabra View Post
    You can't drive up Tunnel Creek, at least not very far. The ride up to the flume trail is sandy and unfun - there are much better ways to go see the flume trail - either from Mt Rose meadows or from Spooner Summit.
    Yeah I've done the flume many times from Tahoe meadows and once riding up from Spooner. Had no desire to do that climb again, and it was an odd# day so Tahoe meadows not open to bikes. Didn't really have enough time for those options or Incline flume anyways. Just wanted to drive up to Flume and do an out and back stopping for a beer to watch sunset. Had no idea the road wasn't open to the public to drive. Thought I had seen private vehicles up there before....

    Quote Originally Posted by El Chupacabra View Post
    I've never ridden the Donner Lake rim trail. Which direction did you go? (so I'll know that the opposite direction would be more fun)
    Haha. True. I did end up riding it the wrong way, went from Truckee up to HITG. I didn't think it would matter much as I was expecting lots of granite riding, but in the end the whole trail from Truckee to Summit lake is normal dirt singletrack. Going the other way you'd have a half mile fire road climb, then a mile and half rolling granite goodness to Summit lake, then mostly downhill except for a 700ft switchback climb from Negro canyon up to the hut. I think it would actually make for a really good ride to tack clockwise HITG onto that as well.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2012
    san diego
    Day 4

    Had to start mega early as I had a long ass drive in front of me to get home.

    This would be another ride I'd been wanting to hit for ages. On the trail just after sunrise

    Impressive tree

    Trail was nice so far and continued to look promising

    Post ride swim looking was promising as well

    A bit of hike a bike never hurt anyone. This part would be fun coming down - a bunch of it later would be a hike downhill too

    Some fun tech riding followed

    Had to choose between 3-4 options up top. Went right to do the outermost loop, thinking I'd come back again and do the inner loop next. Nice trail here....

    The trail dropped me down to a lake. I'd already seen on satellite there would be a short bushwack over to where an old road ended, and I was not disappointed

    Lake looks inviting. Swimming would have to wait though

    Outflow of the lake

    The road wound through this canyon above the stream

    After a wet crossing there was a bit of a climb then a long dry stretch to the far end of the valley

    Another wet crossing. It was hot out by this point so I left shoes on to help keep me cool

    Took a chance on another line on a map which turned out to be some tough but scenic singletrack to close the loop. Great ride. Decided it was too hot out to do lap #2, so it was time for a swim.

    Since I finished early I decided later I'd have time for a lap on Lower rock creek near Mammoth. Had been a few years since I rode that. Ditch the mtb at the top and drove down to run the shuttle.

    Visitor at the lower TH

    I thought the place would be packed being Labor Day but maybe it was just too late in the day already?

    I always look forward to this grove of pine trees lower down

    Got rained on briefly but it held off

    Still a ways to go. I don't ride this trail often enough to remember everything so got hung up on a few rocky turns. Went back and cleaned them. Such a fun trail.

    Cool view on the drive back up

    I'd made great time so far and got back on the road. This would be a world record for me, drive back from Tahoe area and get in 2 rides, and not be home at 3am.

    Until... traffic comes to a dead stop south of Lone Pine. Of course this was just out of cell service so I couldn't tell how far traffic was stopped. Moved maybe 500ft in 15min. The caravan of overlanders ahead crossed the median and turned back north to get onto the LA aquaduct road. Seeing them moving prompted lots of other drivers to do the same. I'd heard of drivers being turned back on the aquaduct road trying to bypass traffic jams but I saw on my garmin there was a separate powerline road that went for quite a ways. Some people were on that too. Time for some XC!

    Stopped traffic far as the eye could see. Some passenger cars had to go return to 395 as the dirt was too rough for them in places. At one point saw vehicles on the aquaduct road heading back north too, so maybe they did get turned back.

    Eventually had to turn onto an old rail grade which eventually brought me back to 395. Pretty good victory passing miles and miles of slow traffic. The highway was back to 1 lane each way, and when I got a bit of coverage could see the slowdown ended in a mile or two at Olancha. Given the short distance I stayed on 395 rather than jump on another dirt road up to the aquaduct like some other drivers. Looks like the whole slowdown was due to lanes reducing from 2 to 1, and made longer by drivers taking Hwy 136 to 190 to bypass but then having to merge back in anyways.
    #winning, I guess. Arggghhhh...... So much for getting home early. Is 395 usually like this? Guess I don't see it since I usually come through much later.

    Awesome trip regardless!

    Speed sign says it all....

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Roseville CA
    Great write up!

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Really cool write up, thanks and great work!

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