Trip Ideas

banked turn on Happy Face MTB trail in Truckee California

Saddle Up To Nevada County’s Mountain Bike Trails In California

Happy Face up, Parliament funk on down here's some of our favorite mountain bike trails in California - Nevada County.

Tips & Resources

Throughout Nevada County many of the trailheads are being affected by road construction. To get the latest information for parking & traffic issues we recommend visiting:

Cal Trans District 3

Nevada County’s Public Works

Trailforks is the official trails portal for all trails in Nevada County and useful throughout the country. MTB Project is another resource, though not at extensive as Trailforks.

Do you care about protecting great places to ride? Join a trail day or donate to Bicyclists of Nevada County or Truckee Trails Foundation.

Check out the Visit Truckee-Tahoe comprehensive guide.

By Alex Silgalis

Mountain biking in Nevada County offers a up a unique destination to get your fix of pedaling or gravity shredding in. From flowy singletrack with tacky dirt to big granite rock gardens to solve, Nevada County Mountain bike trails in California has it all. And due to the massive topographical relief (ranging from pretty much sea level west of Penn Valley to Truckee’s High Sierra at  nearly 9,000 feet), you have an opportunity to ride epic dirt pretty much all year. Throw the bikes on the back of your car or truck and head on up for some amazing mountain bike trails in California Nevada County.

Two Distinct Seasons… One Amazing Place

The county’s mountain bike trails in California are divided up into two distinct regions. Each offers different terrain, trail styles, and of course prime cycling seasons. The Western half is around the fun and vibrant towns of Nevada City and Grass Valley. These are managed by Bicyclists of Nevada County (BONC), and its prime time is in late fall through early summer.

For the Eastern half, the jumping off point is the historic town of Truckee. Receiving over 200 inches of snow per year, similar to chasing wildflowers, mountain bikers climb higher in the mountains as the snow melts away. These trails are managed by a group called Truckee Trails Foundation (TTF). These trail networks get going in late spring and start firing on all cylinders in the summer.

Nevada City Trails

Scenic mountain bike trail in Nevada County
Image appears courtesy: Bicyclists Of Nevada County

The trail networks around Nevada City are the stuff of legends. Take your pick from fast forest flow to technical climbs and descents. Tacky dirt in the winter and spring will make you want to ride them repeatedly. Due to most of the mountain bike trails being situated around 2-4000 feet, they remain pretty much snow-free allowing you to get your bike on.

Hoot Trail

Hoot is the epitome of a flow trail. You’ll find a rip roaring route full of jumps, perfectly sculpted berms, and plenty of whoops to keep you “Hootin’” to the bottom. All the features are optional so it’s a great place to progress your skills and fun factor.

Scotts Flat

Girl hitting a jump on a mountain bike
Image appears courtesy: Bicyclists Of Nevada County

Twice as long… and for many twice as fun. This engineering marvel was built in 2013 and is continually improved. It serves up a smorgasbord of features such as twist banked turns, tabletops, and log rides. This perfectly designed flow trail is a perfect “dessert” after riding the Pioneer Trail as your main course.

Truckee Trails

Truckee’s trail system literally provides an endless array of options, including 35 miles of Tahoe National Forest trails – fun, flowy, singletrack – open to Class 1, pedal assisted E-bikes. Trails run the full gambit from mellow singletrack through wildflower meadows up to technical descents even the most grizzled veteran will find challenging. With that being said, the High Sierra is composed of more granite offering a different style of riding to its Western half.

Compass Skills Loop, Trails For EveryBODY™

NEW for summer 2022! Check out the first all-inclusive, universally designed mountain biking trail in Truckee, located at the Sawtooth trailhead. Part of Visit Truckee-Tahoe’s Trails For EveryBODYTM campaign, the state-of-the-art loop is one mile long and was thoughtfully designed for rider of all shapes, sizes and abilities to build confidence and skills, including riders on adaptive mountain bikes. It’s a great spot for beginner and intermediate riders to get comfortable on various features and progress their skills.

Big Chief

banked turn on Big Chief MTB trail in Truckee California
Views from Big Chief – Image appears courtesy: Truckee Trails Foundation

Designed with mountain bikers in mind and to be ridden downhill (albeit you can ride up hill as well). Eight-plus miles long, the upper segment is filled with technical rock features including two decent rock drops. It transitions into a more flowy section filled with classic singletrack. Finally, it throws a cherry on top for the lower half where you’ll find tabletops, berms, and just a bit of rippin’ fun to finish the ride off.

Happy Face Up, Wood Splitter Down

Origin of name of wood splitter mtb trail in Truckee California
The origin of the name “Woodsplitter” – Image appears courtesy: Truckee Trails Foundation

Back in 2021, Happy Face got a facelift so that mountain bikers could enjoy it for years to come. The original version was steep, eroding, and unsustainable. Now you’ll find a mellow climb that gives you access to the top of Bald Mountain. From here, you have a couple of options. You can do the full Happy Face Loop where you’ll find a fast and flowy singletrack featuring plenty of hoots and hollers. Or, you can hit up Wood Splitter as your descent. This two-wheeled adventure has a little bit of everything – berms, rocky tech sections, and two unique tree gaps (where its name came from) to get your heart pumping.

The Future Looks Bright

If that isn’t exciting enough, the folks at BONC just unveiled the overarching vision of their new Parliament trail system. What makes this network so unique for public land is that they are downhill, directional, mtb ONLY trails. This means you have a dedicated climb trail to access them. As of this year, the climbing trail known as Unkindness (of Ravens) as well as the first downhill trail “Talon Show” are built and can be accessed. The remainder will be built out as additional funds and trail days are completed. If you want to support this amazing initiative, we HIGHLY recommend you donating to BONC.

This is only a taste of the vast assortment of mountain bike trails you have access to. For an overview of biking of all shapes, sizes, and forms in addition to mountain biking, we suggest visiting our biking homepage. And for the trails surrounding Truckee, a good starting place is Visit Truckee-Tahoe’s biking page.



Alex Silgalis

Alex founded Local Freshies® in 2014 to be the #1 website providing the “local scoop” on where to eat, drink & play in mountain towns throughout North America. When he’s not writing and executing marketing strategies for small businesses & agencies, he’s in search of the deepest snow in the winter and tackiest dirt in the summer.

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