Elevation Gain: 1000 ft. Distance: 20 mi. - but there are shorter versions Difficulty: 8 - if you ride during winter. Summer, I would give it a 6
Overview: This is a special ride for me. We have been doing this ride the Friday after Thanksgiving for about 18 years. It originally came about when Tim Martin and I decided we were going to ride Downieville one Nov. Friday. We happened to meet a friend of mine, Dan Tebbs - who now owns Victory Velo in Auburn, at a gas station in Grass Valley that morning. He suggested we follow him and ride Bullards Bar. Now it has become a tradition. For about the last 15 years, Erik Fleischman has joined us as well.
We have tried riding this during the summer and it is nice single-track but not nearly as challenging as during the fall/winter when it is slick with leaves, wet and muddy - a blast!
I suggest you check trail conditions, as you will see from some of the video; there was one part of the trail that was completely washed out. We had to hike down a ravine and climb up the other side. There were also several parts that look on the verge of washing out, so I don't know how much longer the trail will be around.
Also, there are a couple of variations of this ride. There is the Rebel Ridge and 8-ball trail but I will document the longest loop. I highly recommend riding this counter-clockwise as we do; otherwise you have a nasty uphill climb at the end.
There are a couple of miles of fire road climbing but it is mostly single-track with beautiful views of the lake and some technical, rocky sections.
Getting There: (You have 2 options from Sacramento)
Option 1: I-80 to Highway 49. Continue to Grass Valley and stay on 49 to Downieville. This is a windy, up and down road. Turn left on Marysville Rd. and take it about 5 mi. You will see the Vista Point Rd. on your right. Park here.
Option 2: I-80 to Hwy 65 to Marysville. In Marysville, turn left on Hwy 20 towards Grass Valley. Turn left on Marysville Rd. towards Browns Valley. Turn right again on Marysville Rd. after about 15 mi. Follow this all the way to Bullards Bar Dam. Cross the dam and make a left on Vista Point.
The Ride: From Vista Point, head back to Marysville Rd. and turn left. If you want, you can ride the road all the way to the Market, about 5 mi. If you want dirt, look to the left after about ¾ mi. of road. You will see a single-track that you can take for about 3mi. You will still have to ride some pavement.
Once at the market you get on Old Toll Rd. /Camptonville Rd. and ride past the market. Now you climb fire road for about 2 mi. When you get to the top of the climb, look for the trail on your left. You should be at about the 7 mi. mark.
Now get ready for some fun! You have about 2 mi. of downhill, mostly single-track. After this it will level out and you are going to ride relatively flat single-track for the next 7 mi. You will be riding mostly on a narrow trail that drops off to your right, sometimes very steeply! You will cross a paved road, Dark Day campground. Just ride straight across the road and you will see the trail continue. There is a short climb and you will come up to an intersection of roads. Ride across and look for the trail to branch off to the right. Keep riding for another 2 mi.
You are now at about the 18 mi. mark and you will come to a signed intersection for Schoolhouse Rd. If you are a wuss (Tim), you can turn left and have a short but very steep climb out to the road. Otherwise keep going for a 1 mi. awesome fast part of the ride that will shoot you out onto a semi-paved fire road. Turn left and climb about 1 mi. back to Vista Point and you are done.