Mountain biking may have been born in Marin County, but its beating heart can be found two hundred miles to the northeast, in rural Plumas County. The small town of Downieville and the vast network of trails there have been considered classic Northern California destinations for well over twenty years. But a region near Downieville is getting a large share of new trail building efforts that are on par with Butcher Ranch, Third Divide, and the other legendary trails of Sierra County. Rockier, wetter, more alpine than the surrounding area, the Lakes Basin region is strewn with gorgeous, bikeable trail miles that were largely designed for mixed use, yet they provide a thrilling, highly technical experience for skilled riders.
Just a few miles from the idyllic country town of Graeagle, the nearly 10-mile Mills Peak trail can be shuttled from the fire road or tackled as an out-and-back for riders who like to earn their turns. An aggressive rider can drop Mills Peak in 30 minutes and usually takes an hour if you are stopping to enjoy the view and shoot some photos. The up and down is a good physical ride, with a nice balance of full body techy pump and soft pine needle duffy cruising.
The Kitsbow crew was up to compete in the Lost and Found, a 100 mile gravel race at Lake Davis, CA. The weather held after the race and a plan for one day of racing soon became a weekend-long camp-out filled with river lounging, fireside contemplation and plenty of sweet singletrack. We hit Mills Peak to test out our new synthetic Radiator Tee and to see if the snow had cleared at the top – three weeks prior, the trail had been un-shuttleable. We found conditions couldn’t have been better. The snow was still clinging to the ground at the peak, and the sun burned brightly overhead. The fire lookout was locked and waiting for the summer crew of spotters. After lounging at the summit we dropped in on the descent, flowing through trees, covered in a thick layer of electric green moss, picking lines on some of the best Granite the state has to offer..By the time we made it back to camp, we were ready to sit with our feet in the cold creek and soak in the sounds of the Sierras.
Everything moves with a blissful slowness after a day of action-packed riding. When we look into our souls as mountain bikers, this is the ultimate high. It’s what we chase on weekends and dream about on weekdays. Calloused, sun tanned, elated and high on dirt, we await the next chance to explore, to test our strength, endurance, and mental perseverance.
Mills Peak is just the tip of the iceberg, the ‘accessible’ one, in a huge network of fantastic trails in the northern Sierras. We are always learning more from locals, guides, and the sage trailbuilders of the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship. The allure of miles of fresh trail that are being built draws us back to Mills Peak and the surrounding area. We suggest you do the same, and when you do, be sure to support your Trail Stewards like the Sierra Buttes team and advocates like IMBA.