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Big Boulder Trail

Trail Comments: I like to ride this trail as shown on my map. Starting at the staging area you ride on Gold Valley Rd., then Pauley Creek Trail, Big Boulder Trail, Third Divide Trail, and then Lavazzola Rd or the First Divide Trail back to Downieville... this is the combination we call the Big Boulder Trail. Big Boulder is also referred to as one of the "Downieville Downhills". Don't let it confuse you into thinking its all downhill though, there is 1600 ft of climbing and more than 5000 ft of downhill in about 20 miles! There are lots of vista views because you are riding the ridge top on parts of the ride before the Third Divide Trail. Of course the begriming of this trail is the same as the Pauley Creek Trail ride.

Getting There: From Downieville take Hwy 49 north pass Sierra City to Bassetts Station. Take a left on Gold Lake Hwy. After 1.4 miles take a left on Salmon Lake Rd. Then in 3 miles turn right on Packer Lake Rd. After 2.5 miles the road splits, keep to the left on Packer Saddle Road {USFS 93}. The next 2 miles are steep and narrow. After Packer Saddle the road veers to the right and you crest the ridge. After cresting the ridge the road flattens out you will see a parking and a shuttle drop spot on the left at the road intersection. Start there... this is also the shuttle bus drop spot. If you camped up by Gold Lake you might want to ride over the hill to the trail. This is not an easy access though because of the rough and steep 4WD roads over the ridge.

On The Trail: From the parking area you will take the paved road {USFS 93} across from the start spot{west}. Ride down this paved road and at the first intersection {1/10 mile} you will take a right. The pavement ends and you pass the Butcher Ranch Trailhead on the left. Continue on this Gold Valley Road {93-3} about 3 miles. You pass a two lefts as you ride this section of good fast dirt road. There are great views of the canyons and the Sierra Buttes and the surrounding mountains on this easy rolling section of road.{ I also like riding USFS 93-31 to Gold Valley Road.}

After 3-4 miles you will come upon a main left. Take a left here. {If you continue straight instead, you would notice because this road is the steep uphill grade over to Gold Lake.} You will also notice that there are trail signs for Gold Valley and Pauley Creek posted high in the trees after you make the left turn. From here its a rocky descent on a 4WD road. After a mile you keep to the right at the first intersection. {There is a gold mine to the left.}The next mile is a steep descent, with a small creek crossing and "baby head rocks", on the descent. Look for a left where the road flattens out. {If you ride past this left turn you will notice a small group of Aspen trees on the right and if you continue the road will start climbing.}On the map I show the Pauley Trail in orange starting here even though its still a two track at this point.

The left takes you west on the double track, crossing a small creek and then a much bigger Pauley Creek. I usually am able to ride across the creek although my shoes usually get wet because it's almost a foot deep. {During spring snow melt the creek could be to high to cross.} Shortly after the creek crossing you will come to a road on the right going to Smith Lakes and Big Boulder. Take this right. This is the Big Boulder section of trail and at this point the trail is still a 2 track OHV road and you might see the sign up the road 80 ft. on the left and stuck on a tree for Smith Lake OHV Trail. You are about 7 miles into the ride at this turn.

This is a steep section of dirt road. There is a little patch of meadow on the right as the road winds up to the ridge. After a half mile and 360 ft. of climb you will come upon a split in the road keep to the left here. {The right takes you down to Smith Lakes.} After a mile and 600 ft of climb you might see the mine road on the left with a few logs across it, keep to left on the obvious road. You do 2 short downhills and a climb then pass a rock face. At 2.5 miles {on Big Boulder} you will want to keep to the right at the "Y". You might see a broken off trail sign that's been propped up that says Downieville Downhill. There are chunks of quartz rock strewn around and a pile of boards where the old cabin was. There is a good view site here too off to the right on some rocks.

After the split there is a little more climb then a steep descent and you will pass Big Boulder Mine on the left. Singletrack begins after the mine and you ride downhill before you hit a short steep torn up section that you will have to push your bike up. This is the last real uphill and at this point you probably have a 1000 ft of elevation gain on the ride in 10 miles.

After that steep climb you dropin on some sweet singletrack with a moderately steep incline at first then getting a little steeper. You are riding on the side of a ridge with views of the Lavazzola watershed while descending through the trees. About .4 miles down this you will pass a slide area. You continue, dropping through the twin pine trees and passing through a couple of large rock outcrops, on a singletrack descent to intersect the Third Divide Trail. You have ridden 13.5 miles with 1000ft. of gain.

Well at this point you could Drop down the Third Divide or the Second Divide Trails. On my map I show the trail down the Third Divide. Of course the Third Divide Trail is the 3 mile downhill roller coaster ride. For those folks who want more cross country, the Second Divide Trail is 2 miles longer but has a bit of uphill too. Those folks wanting to ride the Second Divide will take a left at the intersection, climb over the ridge and then take a right at the big tree, which is the intersection of Second Divide and Butcher Ranch Trails. Don't ride this trail if you feel tired.

Anyway the drop down the Third Divide Trail is a very fast steep 3 mile roller coaster descent down a thickly forested trail. The second wet spot you pass is a spring on the left where I like to enjoy a cold drink before heading down the trail. There are some big air jumps right pass the spring. After a rock jump and a paver descent on the other side you cross Lavazzola Creek footbridge and pop out on the Lavazzola Road dirt road.

You will want to take a left on Lavazzola Road and it is 5 miles to Downieville town. After crossing the bridge the First Divide Trail takes off on the right. There is a sign for it and if you want a little more singletrack this is the way to go to town. If you are feeling tired you should just continue into Downieville on Lavazzola Road. See my First Divide Trail map for more info on this ride and the ride to town.

Hope you enjoy the trail, The Fish

Big Boulder Trail Pictures 1 Big Boulder Trail Pictures 2

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