California is a nature lover's Shangri-la thanks to its mild climate, beautiful oceanfront and numerous state parks. It's a particularly appealing destination for biking devotees, as California has some of the most beautiful and challenging bike trails in the United States.
If you are headed to the Golden State here are some of the best trails to ride.
Time and time again I have read that this is THE spot to mountain bike. A historic gold rush town turned mountain bike paradise, where mountain bikers are not just tolerated but invited. Yuba Expeditions and Downieville Outfitters offer shuttles uphill for those who prefer to speed down. Afterward, relax on the patio above the river at La Cocina del Oro for Mexican food or visit the historic St Charles Bar for a cold beer.
“This is, hands down, one of the rockin’est trails you’ll ever see. Well worth the 20 clams for a shuttle ride to the top. Well over 4k feet of almost continuous descent ranging from buff to technical, and great scenery to boot. Not for the timid, but other than that, you can’t go wrong with a run down the Downieville Downhill. There are a number of routes, but the classic remains the best: Sunrise, Butcher Ranch, Third Divide, Upper First Divide, and Lower First Divide.” -John Fisch
Mammoth Mountain Bike Park:
In the summer a number of California’s ski resorts lead another life as bike parks. Mammoth is arguably one of the best, and certainly the largest, with 3500 acres and 80 miles of singletrack (approximately the width of a bike). There are a number of expert-level trails and there’s also a beginner area that’s great for kids as well as cross-country loops great for intermediate riders. Mammoth offers single and mutli-day unlimited tickets. This will get you unlimited uphill access on chairlifts, Panorama Gondola and Bike Park Shuttle, when in operation. Hungry after a day of riding? Then head to The Mill located on Mammoth Mountain, or the Latin Market Taqueria for tacos.
Soquel Demonstration Forest "Demo":
Located South of Santa Cruz, the Demo offers trails for intermediate and advanced riders.
“Demo Forrest is absolutely the must-do area in Santa Cruz… Period! Tons of work by the guys from Ibis ensure these trails will be in great shape year-round. There are many different routes, so pick your poison. I am one who never minds the opportunity to mash some pedals in order to earn some DH fun. In Demo Forest there is definitely some work to be done in the earning department. It’s a slow steady climb to get to the Forest, but once you’re there, you’ll forget you just climbed to get there. Amazing flowing DH rides with GREAT natural terrain features, huge banking turns, and even a few spots to create some white-knuckled riding. A day of riding Sawpit, Braille, and Flow will give you PLENTY of fun and remind your legs why carbs are important when you pedal back to the car. You’ll take a puff or two with all the climbing, but EPIC flowing downhills make it every bit worth it.” -larryhogueisson
After a long day on the bike, locals recommend heading to El Chipotle or Taqueria La Cabana for some tasty grub.
San Juan Trail (Mission Viejo):
The San Juan Trail is located on the southeast side of Orange County and hailed by many as one of the best mountain bike trails in SoCal. Depending on your personal appetite it will allow you about 3,500 feet of climbing if you ride it as an out-and-back.
“Could be the best singletrack in SoCal. Awesome set of switchbacks to start the ride then some rocky sections requiring short bursts of power. There are some exposed sections commanding all your attention. The DG or decomposed granite makes the riding surface very slippery (like marbles on a tile floor) so careful on the way back down. There are a few washed out sections in some turns but overall the trail was in good shape. I used to do night rides here in the mid 90’s. A must do.” -david_darling
Tahoe Rim Trail (Lake Tahoe):
The Tahoe Rim Trail offers some of the best and most beautiful trail riding anywhere. The beauty of this area cannot be overemphasized. The Tahoe Rim Trail is a 165-mile long-distance biking/hiking trail that forms a loop around the Lake Tahoe Basin in the Sierra Nevada and Carson ranges of California and Nevada. Choose between riding the Alpine Lakes, Wildflowers, Peaks & Vistas, and Waterfall trails.
Whatever trails you choose to ride, be sure your camera battery is charged. From picturesque lakes and green mountain scenery, the Golden State will guarantee you an vastly-diverse range of mountain biking trails. After the pictures have been taken make sure to add them to unique picture frames that are as impressive as the photos you took.
My two favorite frames: