The "Downieville Downhill"


Butcher Ranch & The Third Divide Trails

Comments: The combination of Butcher Ranch Trail and the Third Divide Trail and then Lavazzola Road {or the First Divide}to Downieville, is the "Downieville Downhill". This is the most downhill with the least amount of uphill dropping into Downieville... and the most popular trail route to Downieville because of that. These trails will appeal to intermediate to more advanced riders. This is a very remote area once you drop into the the creek canyons, so be safe and prepared. There is almost 5000 ft. of descent and 400 ft of climb in the 16 miles to Downieville.

Access: From Downieville take Hwy. 49 north and take a left at Bassetts Station on to Gold Lake Hwy. After 1.4 miles take a left on Salmon Lake Rd. then in 3/10 mile 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 the steep and narrow. After Packer Saddle the road veers to the right and you crest the ridge. After the road flattens out you will see a parking and a shuttle drop spot on the left at the road intersection. Start there...

On the Trail: From the staging 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 road continues descending and after it turns to dirt and in 2/10's mile keep a eye out for the Butcher Ranch Trail on the left. {If you pass the trail you will start to climb after passing by the Butcher Meadows on the left.}

The trail starts as a jeep trail dropping into the edge of the meadows. Follow this double track through the meadows and some small creek crossings. Keep to the left at the "Y". The trail turns to singletrack after crossing a small ravine. There is lots of water on the trail and fast bumps and jumps as you descend, winding through the trees next to the rushing creek.

Pauley Creek Trail comes in on the right... you may not notice if you are going fast, but it is nice to take a right here to see the confluence of Butcher and Pauley Creeks and the footbridge.

Continue straight through the Pauley intersection and you descend deeper into the deep canyon winding above Pauley Creek. You pass a few cabins on the right and you might notice a bus stop sign on the tree. {So I call this the Bus Stop.} There is a bit of a rise as you pass the Bus Stop and round the corner and continue to descend steeply with 3 switchbacks to the next footbridge crossing Pauley Creek. After the bridge there is a 200 foot climb out of the canyon to the top of the ridge. Before the top of the ridge you will pass the Second Divide on the left. {I cover this trail on my Pauley Creek Trail.} Continue, keeping to the right on the Third Divide Trail, to the top of the ridge. This is a good spot to recover from the climb as you ready yourselves for the Third Divide downhill.

The Third Divide is a very fast 3 mile downhill through a old growth forest corridor to Lavazzola Road. Big Boulder Trail comes in on the right as you drop off the ridge. There is a spring barrel on the left at the second wet spot a mile or so down the hill. I drink this water... but I can't say for sure it is safe, but its had a cup there forever. A cool place to stop and cool off. After the spring there are some big jumps as you continue descending. You start to see Lavazzola Creek on the right, then there is a quick climb with a steep paver drop on the other side. A little past this you will cross Lavazzola Creek on a footbridge, climb a little rise and "T" into Lavazzola Road. Take a left here and it's 6 miles to Downieville. Lavazzola Road a fast dirt road after passing Empire Ranch on the right. You pass the First Divide and Third Divide Trails on the dirt road to town. Keep the speed down coming into town and stop at the stop signs, please.

If you are looking to ride more trail after coming off the Third Divide take a left on Lavazzola Road. Then after the bridge take a right onto the First Divide Trail. {Check out my First Divide Map for more detail.}

The Fish

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