The Sacramento region is a popular area for mountain biking enthusiasts, with numerous places to dial in for beginners and advanced riders alike. The American River watershed alone has numerous mountain biking areas over several hundred miles of trails, and Auburn, Folsom and El Dorado Hills are also rich with opportunities to shred until you bonk. Insider tip: Visit Natomas Bike Shop for expert advice on equipment, rides and maintenance.
Darrington Trail
780 Salmon Falls Road
El Dorado Hills, CA 95762

Although the name Darrington has other origins, the trail could have earned it from the bit of daring needed by mountain bikers traversing it. Only experienced bikers need apply, as the trail includes narrow paths, plenty of baby heads, granite obstacles, diverts and roots, as well as cliffs that make passage quite treacherous at times. Down hills on the trail are also exciting, and the trail begins near Salmon Falls on the southern side of Folsom Lake.

Cummings Family Skate & Bike Park
1775 Creekside Drive
Folsom, CA 95630
(916) 817-2767

No need to travel to the hills, as the City of Folsom Parks and Recreation Department offers skills courses for both BMXers and mountain bikers. Beginners can practice the basics, including those all-important methods to avoid wipe-outs, and riders on more advanced levels can get in the zone with features like a 15’ wooden wall ride. Riders on all levels can try the rhythm trails and learn to fly without pedaling on the tight terrain pump track. Helmets are required, and a $3 entry fee allows access to the bike and skate parks for an entire day.

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Clementine Loop
Auburn, CA 95604

This single track and fire break trail is an 11-mile loop, running in part beneath the 750’ tall Forest Hill Bridge. Best for advanced or intermediate riders, as it is strenuous, requires greater technical skills and includes some steep grunts and drop offs. The views of the American River are spectacular, and riders must keep an eye out for hikers. From Sacramento, take Highway 80 towards Auburn and follow signs to Highway 49 South. Stay on 49 until it veers right at the confluence, then continue straight towards Foresthill; immediately pull to the right side for off-road parking.

Deer Creek Hills Preserve
15489 Latrobe Road
Sloughhouse, CA, 95683

On Mondays from early June through Halloween, experienced bikers take self-guided rides in the Deer Creek Hills Preserve. Although there is no limit to the number of participants, anyone interested in joining the 4:30 p.m. to dusk rides are asked to register online in advance. Rides are free, but donations to the Sacramento Valley Conservancy are appreciated. Granny gears are required for steep single track climbs, and the views alone are worth the ride. The preserve also welcomes guests to the 4th annual FATRAC demo day on Sept. 10, 2016; the special event with FATRAC (Folsom Auburn Trail Riders Action Coalition) includes brews from Bike Dog Brewery and Two Rivers, and bikes from Trek, Kona, Pivot and Specialized. Registration and discounted tickets are available on the website.

Olmstead Loop
Behind the Cool Pilot Hill Fire Station
Florian Court
Cool, CA 95614

Also known as the Cool or Knickerbocker trail, the Olmstead Loop southeast of Auburn runs just under 10 miles long. There are fire roads and both single and double tracks, and is appropriate for advanced riders, intermediates and alert beginners. The trail has several streams and occasional cattle gates, which must be closed once passed; riders also need to keep an eye out for equestrians. Olmstead is home to one of the largest and most well-known races in the area, the Cool MTB Race, held each February.

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Valerie Heimerich is a freelance writer out of Sacramento. She typically covers business, employment, animal rescue, volunteerism and nonprofits.