Heart of Gold Gravel, produced by Bike Monkey, explores remote roads north and east of Nevada City, California. Repeatedly picked as one of our best gravel cycling events in NorCal, California and the Southwest, the course features a mix of pavement, smooth and rough gravel roads, ripping descents, and prolonged, steady climbs.
This event uniquely intertwines the thrilling challenges of gravel cycling with the noble cause of youth mental wellness as proceeds benefit several charitable organizations focused on this cause. Originating from Nevada City’s Rood Center, riders are presented with two course options, spanning 46 to 70 miles, each revealing the rugged, unspoiled beauty of California’s hidden pockets.
Event & Course Info
Both Heart of Gold Gravel routes have been updated for 2023, and the new Long Route sets off clockwise through Columbia Hill, and leads riders towards the picturesque Graniteville. Thanks to the introduction of segment timing, the initial 21 miles serve as a warm-up, sparing cyclists from a chunk of uphill battle. This route hosts three timed segments:
- Segment 1: Covering 11 miles from Mile 21 to Mile 32, this segment scales a 1,600′ elevation, culminating at the Graniteville aid station.
- Segment 2: This 14-mile stretch, from Mile 43 to Mile 57, challenges riders with a 2,000′ ascent, concluding at the Lake City aid station.
- Segment 3: Although merely 1.4 miles long, from Mile 61 to Mile 62.5, this segment is a formidable climb with a 900′ gain. Designed for the brave-hearted, this brief, steep stretch promises an unforgettable adrenaline rush.
The Medium Route makes a deviation from the long route at Malakoff Diggins, and promises a fantastic experience of Nevada County’s dirt terrains, slashing a significant elevation. One highlight is a single timed segment, which is the demanding Segment 3 from the long course. Strategically located aid stations on both courses, such as Graniteville and Lake City, ensure that participants remain hydrated and energized throughout their journey.
In a fresh twist for the 2023 edition of Heart of Gold Gravel, riders will compete in three timed segments for the long route, and the combined scores will determine the overall standings. Moreover, Segment 3 is a dual contest: while it contributes to the overall score, it also hosts its standalone King/Queen of the Mountain (KOM/QOM) title.
A generous $2,000 prize pool awaits the top performers of the long route. Both men and women champions will be rewarded, with the allocations being $500, $300, and $200 for the top three finishers in their respective categories. Notably, victors of the combined segments won’t be contesting the KOM/QOM title.
From 12 pm to 4 pm, a grand festival awaits participants and their families. From relishing delicacies at food trucks to grooving to live music, from indulging in lawn games to exploring vendors, there’s something for everyone including a bike rodeo for the young cycling enthusiasts.
When it’s all said and done, the Heart of Gold Gravel isn’t just a race; it’s a celebration of resilience, community, and the undying spirit of adventure.
Area Accommodations & Things to Do
Nestled on the Western Slope of the Sierra Nevada, Nevada City stands as a shining testament to California’s Gold Rush legacy. This vibrant Victorian-era gem is cradled by ridgetops and majestic promontories, situated at an elevation of 2,500 feet and embraced by expansive forests. The serene Deer Creek meanders gracefully through its heart, earning Nevada City accolades from U.S. travel media as the “Most Beautiful” and “Best River Town.”
While there is no single hotel partner for the Heart of Gold Gravel event, there are a variety of lodging options such as Pitey Hill Cottages, Best Western, and the National Exchange Hotel. For those looking for a more home-like experience, there are many vacation rentals to suit many needs from Victorian homes to cottages.
Nevada City, CA boasts a vibrant culinary scene that reflects its rich Gold Rush history, featuring a mix of cozy bistros, farm-to-table eateries, and artisanal cafes that showcase the region’s fresh, local produce and flavors. Its diverse array of dining options offers both traditional and innovative dishes, making it a must-visit for food enthusiasts. Check out Eater’s list of recommended spots while you are in town for the Heart of Gold Gravel weekend.
As the golden hues of early October begin to drape the landscape, Nevada City, CA, nestled in the heart of the Sierra Nevada foothills, transforms into a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Beyond its Gold Rush history and picturesque streets, this “Best River Town” offers a medley of outdoor activities. One of the best ways to experience the fall colors in Nevada City is by hitting the trails. The Deer Creek Tribute Trail, in particular, provides runners with a stunning blend of nature and history. Spanning around 4 miles, this loop trail offers moderate terrain, making it accessible for both seasoned trail runners and beginners. As you tread along, the trail unveils the mesmerizing sights of Deer Creek, historical Chinese Bridge, and native Nisenan Tribute installations.
For those seeking adrenaline, the Hoot Trail offers an exhilarating mountain biking experience. This single-track downhill route stretches approximately 1.7 miles and is renowned for its smooth turns, small jumps, and rapid descents. The cooler October temperatures provide the ideal climate for bikers to navigate the trail’s challenges, all while being surrounded by the splendors of autumn foliage. After a thrilling ride, bikers can rejuvenate at one of the many creekside spots before heading back to town.
October’s mellow sunshine and crisp air make it a prime time for water enthusiasts to explore the South Yuba River’s pristine waters. With various access points around Nevada City, including the popular Bridgeport Covered Bridge area, kayakers can embark on a serene journey, paddling through calm waters flanked by rocky canyons and golden-leaved trees. The river’s clarity during this season offers a unique perspective of its underwater ecosystem, and with luck, one might spot the occasional salmon making its way upstream.
The Heart of Gold Gravel is brought to you by Bike Monkey, which produces some of the best gravel and road events throughout California and Nevada, including Levi’s Gran Fondo (one of the Best Road Cycling Events in California, and the Northwest); Rebecca’s Private Idaho (one of the best gravel events in the Rockies); Stetina’s Pay Dirt; Truckee Dirt Fondo; Fish Rock; Heart of Gold Gravel; Hammer Road Rally; and the Bovine Classic.
For multi-sport athletes, check out other Strambecco best-rated events taking place in California, such as the Mount Diablo Challenge from Valley Spokesmen Bicycing Club, considered to be one of the Best Road Cycling Events in the Southwest. Mountain bikers will also appreciate top tier events in the area such as Boggs MTB and the Downieville Classic, while the trail runners of the group can consider the Catalina Marathon, or the Canyons Endurance Runs a UTMB event and a Western States Qualifier.