Mills Peak Trail is the essence of a mountain bike trail. Out and back from the highway yields an 18-mile ride with 3500 feet of ascent and descent.
This is an amazing trail put together by the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship and is the culmination of years of effort. Donating to the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship will also ensure maintenance of existing trails and the continued efforts to add new ones to the many already created. The Downieville Lakes Basin Trail Guide is available at many vendors in the area as well as online, you will have a great guide to this area as well as support the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship.
The singletrack trail starts a gradual climb through the trees and parallels the Gold Lake Highway. The starting elevation is around 4400 feet so the lungs have to adjust to the lower oxygen content. After a mile and a quarter the trail lands on Summerhouse Mohawk Chapman Road, turn left and climb the hill. A short climb on the pavement and a clearly marked Mills Peak Trail takes off to the right.
The next couple of miles climbs through technical sections and flowing switchbacks. Three miles into the ride at 5400 feet a view of Mills Peak is unveiled. This vista is a good spot to stop and take a picture of the Lookout in its alpine setting. Another quarter of a mile and the singletrack turns right onto an old fire road that climbs to the five-mile mark at 6100 feet.
It is at this point the true beauty of the Mills Peak Trail comes to life over the next 4 miles to the lookout. The singletrack trail zigzags back a forth through a mixture of trees, boulders, rocks, and large rock outcroppings. The climbing in this last section isn’t as fun as the downhill but it has so much going on you kind of forget the effort you are having to expend. Just about the time it seems that Mills Peak Lookout is never going to show, the trail ends in a parking lot below the manned lookout station.
I took a little time to rest, talk to the person manning the lookout, and sign the log book.
Most people shuttle to the top of Mills Peak to experience the downhill without climbing. By parking a car at the highway and driving one to the top it is possible to only have to make a couple of small climbs on the way down.
The trail down is amazing, especially the four-mile section on the way to the fire road. Weaving through the boulders and rocks becomes effortless as the consistent rhythm of the Mills Peak Trail pulls the rider to ride better. The upper section of the trail is technical but fast, sure to be a hit for a true mountain biker, but might be a nightmare for a fraidy-cat.
With the top section out of the way, it is onto the fire road. Fast and fun the fire road delivers you to the bottom 3.5-mile section of singletrack before you know it. The bottom section is fast and flowing with periodic sections of rocky technical. The section with the Summerhouse Mohawk Chapman Road comes up after a myriad of fast swooping turns through the forest, and then onto the bottom trail for the finish to the parking lot.
Finished Mountain Bike: Jun 11, 2016, 1:50:07 PM
Route: Mills Peak
Distance: 17.66 miles