With so much varied terrain to chose from, Sacramento is a paradise for the knobby-tire crew. Choose the ride that fits your off-trail needs from these five local backroads.
American River Bike Trail
1901 Hazel Ave.
Gold River, CA 95670-4501
Price: $5 parking fee at developed county access points
Hours: 24/7, unless otherwise posted
Get off the paved path along the length of this gorgeous river trail into the woodlands that border the river. Most of the dirt paths are marked, but savvy riders learn the routes here quickly. Check with Bicycles Plus in Folsom about the group that rides after dark on Tuesday nights, all on dirt paths along the trail. The riders and bikes are lit up and are quite a sight on a dark evening.
Pedro Hill Trailhead
Pedro Hill and Highway 49
Pilot Hill, CA 95664
Salmon Falls Bridge Trailhead
Salmon Falls Road
El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
Price: $5 parking at Salmon Falls Trailhead when gate is open/free on-street parking when gate is closed/free at Pedro Hill Trailhead
Hours: dawn to dusk, year round unless otherwise posted
This ride recently extended from the Salmon Falls bridge to the trail head off of Pedro Hill Road just outside of Coloma. It is a dirt trail all the way, featuring some pretty dramatic views of the American River. Part of it climbs out on an old fire road. Mountain bikers have described it as a good ride for riders of all levels. The trail is an out and back through oak woodlands, bluffs and grassy meadows. Riding from Salmon Falls is mostly a gentle uphill, with a return trip that’s a bit easier.
Iron Mt. Road at Sly Park Lake
Pollock Pines, CA 95726
Old logging roads make for incredible mountain bike rides. Fleming Meadows trail head, just past Sly Park Lake, opens up to miles of up and and down pedaling. A good trail map is essential here as the old dirt roads can go on for quite awhile, with off shoots that are hard to follow. Riding with someone who knows the trails is a great way to start here. It boasts nothing too technical along the way, but some of the climbs will test most riders.
Foresthill Divide Loop
outside of Auburn, CA
A great 10 mile loop, Foresthill Divide delivers about 2,000 feet of vertical gain and loss along its 10 miles. The trail graces riders with beautiful views of Lake Clementine and both the North and Middle forks of the American River. Ride through landscape changes of forests, riparian woodlands, meadows and grasslands. Ride in spring for a vibrant treat as the wildflowers put on quite a show. Riders should have at least intermediate skills to tackle this one.
Off of Blair Road
Pollock Pines, CA 95726
Part of the Badger Hill ride is on pavement, cutting through the forest. A turn to the right just past Ghost Mountain Ranch propels the mountain bike down a seriously rutted dirt road. Bumpy and somewhat technical but not overly steep, the trail ends at Cable Road. Also known as the Ghost Mountain Loop, it can be an out and back or a loop if the rider takes Cable Road out to Carson Road and back to the start point. Dust rules the day in summer when it is very dry. Park for free off of the road.
Charles is a freelance writer who has lived in the Sierra, halfway between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, for the last 37 years. He retired from teaching after 36 years in 2010. He and his wife hike, kayak, cross country ski, snow shoe, ride mountain bikes and road bikes, year round. Wandering aimlessly, always looking for another place to explore, some place new, is high on the agenda. Charles enjoys all aspects of the great outdoors and writing about it to encourage others to explore as well. His work can be found at Examiner.com.