Every year, a friend of mine plans an annual Ladies-Only Trip to Downieville, a small town in the canyons of Northern CA that features some of the most epic mountain biking around. While I was unfortunately unable to attend last year, I had last participated on the trip in 2010 and had an absolute blast so you can imagine how thrilled I was to return for 2012.

Downieville is a really wonderful place. First of all, it’s in a prime location, with huge mountains towering over an idyllic and lush canyon cut away by the Yuba River. In prior years, the trip had only been two days but it was extended for three days of camping, swimming and biking fun.

Wild Plum Campground outside Sierra City

I arrived late on Monday night, missing that day’s ride down Butcher Ranch, but was excited to learn everyone wanted to return for the same iconic downhill the next day.

At the top of Butcher Ranch

Butcher Ranch is the most famous trail in Downieville and it, combined with the efforts of their amazing trail organization, the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship have made Downieville the amazing place it is now. The iconic Butcher Ranch trail is famous for it’s ridiculously amazing descent: 5,000 vertical feet in 17 miles. If you are lucky like us girls, you have a really super cool pregnant friend on the trip to run your shuttle, dropping you off at the top and meeting you at the bottom in the heart of Downieville!

Post Ride Swim in the Yuba River

Being more of an uphiller than a downhiller, I found the bottom of the Butcher Ranch descent, the rolling singletrack of the Third and First Divide Trails to be more my speed. They are 3 miles of shaded gorgeous climbs and descents with some technical features but overall, simply solid fast trail. And while you’re at it – no bike ride into the heart of Downieville is complete without post ride beers and a dip in the river!

By Wednesday, most of the girls had taken off so my friend Heidi and I went and re-rode the N Yuba River Trail, a sometimes brutally steep 15 miles of singletrack with 3,381 feet of elevation gain that parallels the Yuba River from Downieville to Indian Valley Campground. The trail is tough and although it took our motley crew of 15 or so girls five hours to do it the first year because of differences in pace and climbing speed, Heidi and I mashed it in 2 and a half hours. We felt awesome afterwards!

Every time I visit Downieville I lament that I am not there more often. It’s less than two and a half hours from Tahoe, super easy to get to and offers world class mountain biking in an adorably quaint town. What’s not to love? I must go back this summer!

Visit Downieville:
SLEEP: Wild Plum Camground #1 is absolutely one of the most gorgeous campsites I’ve ever stayed in.
SUPPORT: Support the trail stewardship of the Sierra Buttes either by joining or purchasing items in their non-profit shop dedicated to furthering their mission. They also provide bike shop services/labor and daily shuttle service in the summer to the top of Butcher Ranch.

Traditions are awesome! What a fun couple of days!

You can see all the photos here.