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Thanks to the variety of climates and elevations within Placer County, visitors can find prime conditions for outdoor adventure any time of the year. Mountain bikers, in particular, can hit the singletrack in the Sierra Nevada foothills during fall, winter, and spring, then escape up into the mountains come summer. The favorable weather really just sweetens the deal. Placer County’s national forests and recreation areas are brimming with world-class trails, from beginner to expert. Here are some of the county’s best trails for year-round riding.
While the snow still blankets the slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Folsom Lake trails provide ideal conditions for winter and early spring riding. Check out the Granite Bay Trail, a 7.5-mile loop ideal for easy-intermediate riders looking for flow trail with a mixture of moderate climbs and descents. A few tougher rock gardens ramp up the excitement, while beautiful S-curves on smooth dirt keep it fast. Add the 5-mile (one-way) Folsom Bike to Granite Bay Connector Trail for a longer ride that explores the western shore of Folsom Lake.
This park encompasses 40 miles of the scenic canyons of the North and Middle Forks of the American River near their confluence. Auburn State Recreation Area boasts some of the best mountain biking in the southern half of Placer County, perfect for riding year-round. Rides range from easy-intermediate to expert, with Confluence Trail, Foresthill Divide Trail, and Culvert Trail standing out as the most popular. Tight turns, technical rocky sections, and pristine views of the rivers below make these trails both tough and rewarding. For a real challenge, link up these three trails to complete the 26-mile “Tour the ASRA” loop.
Nestled in the foothills between Lincoln and Auburn, Hidden Falls Regional Park hosts outstanding winter, spring, and fall riding. The park’s network of smooth, rolling singletrack attracts mostly beginners, though more advanced riders will still love pushing their speed through the soft curves. Hidden Falls Access Trail and Poppy Trail see a fair number of hikers, while the rest of the park offers more solitude. Enjoy riding through shady oak forests and grasslands—and don’t forget to check out the 30-foot waterfall that gives the park its name.
Situated between the North and Middle Forks of the American River, Foresthill is the jumping off point for some of Placer County’s lesser-known trails. Tackle the challenging singletrack of the 5.8-mile (one way) Euchre Bar Trail, which passes old mining equipment on the way into the remote North Fork Canyon. Meanwhile, the 2.6-mile (one-way) Green Valley Trail leads steeply down to the river, with technical rocky segments that keep it spicy.
The peaks of Tahoe National Forest lining the east side of CA-89 between Truckee and Tahoe City holds a veritable gold mine of singletrack once the snow melts. Add Sawtooth Trail high on your list: This easy/intermediate loop provides an excellent intro to the infamous rock gardens of Tahoe riding. Intermediate-to-advanced riders can start at Watson Lake and catch the newly constructed Big Chief Trail for a predominantly downhill spree of stone pavers, log rides, rock rollers, and flow trail, complete with views of the Sierra Crest.
Connect with local outfitter Dirt Gypsy Adventures for guided tours on either of these routes, along with full-suspension bike rentals and shuttle services for point-to-point rides. They also offer self-guided tours for the independent traveler, in which they’ll set you up with bikes and load your phone or GPS device with the best routes.
Downhill junkies can get their fix at the Northstar Bike Park come summer. Tahoe’s largest lift-served mountain bike park features three chairlifts, dozens of trails from beginner to expert, and a jump park. Northstar offers top-of-the-line downhill bike and gear rentals, along with private and group lessons, a teen camp, and a downhill race series for the seriously dedicated crushers amongst us. Choose from single-day lift tickets or unlimited season passes, which provide access to nine downhill parks around the country.
The 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail traverses the mountains surrounding beautiful Lake Tahoe, traveling through wildflower meadows, alpine lakes, and granite wonderlands. Mountain bikers are allowed on most of the trail sections in Placer County: Tahoe City to Twin Peaks (11.3 miles), Brockway to Tahoe City (20.2 miles), and Mt. Baldy to Brockway (15 miles). But these beauties are not recommended for beginners: Expect major elevation gain and loss, tight corners, and plenty of hikers on these advanced trails.
For all your biking needs in the southern part of Placer County, head to Auburn, which is right off I-80. Victory Velo stocks all the components and accessories you need, and you can also demo the industry’s newest mountain bikes for 24 hours. Down the road, Atown Bikes has new and used mountain bikes along with tune-up and repair services. Meanwhile, Bicycle Emporium is known for its full-suspension bike rentals and demos.
In the northern part of the county, check out Tahoe Adventure Company for one-hour to full-day mountain bike rentals (hardtail and full-suspension bikes are both available). They also guide mountain bike and multi-sport tours ranging from easy to strenuous in the Tahoe region.
Not surprisingly, mountain bikers will find a lot to love in Placer County. See for yourself why it’s become such a major destination for fans of off-road riding—and anybody who loves the outdoors in general.
Written by Jenna Herzog for Matcha in partnership with Visit Placer County.
Featured image provided by dh Reno