The famous Downieville Classic is returning in July for its 25th iteration and is not surprisingly rated by Strambecco as one of the best MTB events in the Northwest. The popular bike festival brings hundreds to the small town of Downieville in Sierra County, California, just a 1.5-hour drive from Lake Tahoe. This bike festival epic comprises a weekend of partying, bike racing, and maybe a dip into the Yuba river.
Two-weekend races occur as a point-to-point cross-country and a downhill discipline. The cross-country race is well-known for its challenge. The 26.5-mile course follows a rugged “Gold Rush” era route from the mountain town of Sierra City (elevation 4,100′) to the crest of the Sierra Nevada (elevation 7,100′) and down 5,200 vertical feet into downtown Downieville. It’s considered a tribute to the mountains, the rivers, the big trees, the fresh mountain air, and the hard men that carved trails through the river canyons in search of gold and prosperity. The Classic is followed by the Downieville Downhill, which drops 5000 vertical feet in 15 miles from Packer Saddle to Downieville. It’s the longest and most demanding downhill mountain bike race in the nation and is dubbed the “Ironman of mountain bike downhill events”. You can race individually in one or both disciplines, but there’s also a unique category for the all-Mountain Championship, where you must complete the downhill and XC on the same bike.
But the Downieville classic is much more than a race day. The festival is an ultra fun-filled weekend with great food, drinks, live performances, and fun on the river. Not a racer? Don’t worry. Nearly as famous are the Big Air River Jump, the log pull competition, and a soundtrack of live music. The best part of the event is that the Downieville Classic generates funds that are reinvested in the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, the non-profit that produces the event. This organization is dedicated to creating sustainable communities centered around recreational activities by focusing on stewardship, job opportunities, and hosting other exceptional events like the Lost and Found Gravel Festival which is one of the Best Gravel Cycling Events in California. Through their efforts in trail construction and upkeep in the Lost Sierra region, they ensure the provision of exceptional outdoor experiences.
With all of the natural beauty surrounding Downieville, there are plentiful outdoor activities to enjoy before or after participating in the event. Popular hiking trails in the area include the Butcher Ranch Trail, Pauley Creek Trail, and the Lakes Basin Loop. These trails offer a range of difficulty levels and wind through the stunning Sierra Nevada mountains, offering breathtaking views of forests, waterfalls, and scenic vistas. The pristine Yuba River, which flows through Downieville, provides fantastic opportunities for swimming, SUPing, kayaking, and whitewater rafting. There are several swimming holes along the river, such as the popular “Bridgeport” area, where visitors can cool off in crystal-clear waters. Or, you can cast your line and try your luck catching trout or smallmouth bass.