Beyond Whistler: 4 Epic Downhill Destinations You Must Ride
Some things are just too fun to feel legal, and downhill is one of them. If you’ve got a taste for the sport, you’re probably always hungry for incredible new trails to ride. Today we bring you three of the most epic downhill destinations in North America — as well as the best bikes to ride them on.
1. Snowshoe, WV
There’s a reason the World Cup randomly landed on this mountain tucked away in the Appalachians: it’s just plain awesome.
West Virginia’s motto is “wild and wonderful,” and Snowshoe is no exception. With 800 feet of vertical on its east side and 1500 in its Western Territory, this mountain truly gives riders anything they could possibly want.
Its flow trails are fast, divinely sculpted, and full of big booters that send you flying through a fern-covered deciduous forest. Its technical trails feature some of the gnarliest roots and rocks on the circuit, as well as gorgeous wooden features on its eastern side. And if you’re after steep, rocky challenges, well, all we can say is welcome home.
The Best Bike for Snowshoe
Anyone who thinks a true downhill bike is an extravagance has not enjoyed one on a mountain like Snowshoe. The Specialized Demo Expert takes the prize as the ultimate bike for this mountain. Its dual-crown plushness and 200mm of travel will gobble up those slimy rocks and keep you as dominant as Danny Hart.
2. Downieville, CA
This list wouldn’t be complete without the mention of Downieville, CA. Downieville is a must ride destination nestled in California’s gold country, just west of Lake Tahoe. With miles and miles of delicious singletrack sculpted by the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, this place will have you grinning ear to ear.
Hop in a shuttle van with one of the two outfitters in-town for a 50 minute drive up historic highway 49 to Packer’s Saddle at the foot of the Sierra Buttes. Now, this is where the fun begins.
With many options to bring you down we’ll talk about the classic, the Downieville Classic that is. What’s ahead you say? How about 14 miles and 5000’ of elevation drop sound? You’ll start along the Sunrise trail just as day two of the decades long race has started for years. This swoopy purpose-built flow trail with crafted berms and jibs will bring you to the Butcher Ranch Trail. Now it’s time for the chunky stuff! Butcher Ranch is a high speed, loosy-goosy, rock fest with creek crossings, gnarly rock gardens and the famous waterfall section, choose your lines wisely. Give your forearms a rest at the Pauley Creek Bridge and enjoy the southing river.
Just a short climb passing the Second Divide Trail, but if you’ve never been before, just a little further up is the blazing fast Third Divide Trail. This is hands down a full speed, gorilla grip decent that never gets old. Make sure you have good eye protection because you’ll be tearing up the whole way down to First divide. This flume trail above Lavezzola and Pauley Creek will wind along the narrow cliff contour crossing Lavezzola Road bringing you right back into Downieville. Now kick up your feet and enjoy a frosty beverage at the confluence of the Yuba and Downieville rivers along with your best buds after one epic ride.
The Best Bike for Downieville
The Santa Cruz Hightower C S will give you all the squish and rock rolling capability you need. The Hightower’s 29-inch wheels providing roll-over-anything confidence. A flip-chip lets you adjust the height of your bottom bracket and head tube angle, and the FOX 36 Float Performance fork couples with a RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ rear shock to gulp down whatever roots and rocks stand in your way. Get back to the top of the mountain with the ultra-smooth and efficient SRAM GX 12-speed drivetrain.
3. Killington, VT
The Beast of the East lives up to its name in more seasons than one — this is a bike park for the ages. With multiple lifts and a gondola servicing the mountain’s various personality traits, this place is true season-pass material.
If you drool over Whistler’s A-Line, Killington will dazzle you. Its jump trails like Blue Magic, Black Magic, and JumpStart feature some of the most incredible no-brakes launches on the east coast. If gnarly rocks are more your style, ask a local to get you to the secret entrance to the Cable Trail...and check out some of those crazy wooden/rock features while you’re at it.
But if you’re an all-around lover of downhill and can have fun on anything, well, this is the mountain for you. It’s big. It’s challenging. It’s tons of fun.
The Best Bike for Killington
The Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01 Coil Reserve is exactly what you want in a bike at Killington. Like most single-crown enduro-style bikes, it can handle just about anything and is as nimble as a bunny. Throw in 170mm of suspension and aggressive geometry, and you’ve got the ultimate park bike.
4. Squamish, BC
Due north of Vancouver is one of the world’s most unbelievable downhill destinations: Squamish. This small community hosts some of the most hairball downhill trails ever conceived, all set on a beautifully forested mountainside overlooking the harbor below.
That means you’re biking to the top either by access road or a delightful little climbing trail. But once you get up there, you’re in for the time of your life.
Every north shore feature you ever dreamed of is tucked away in the woods, waiting like sleeping monsters to send you to Shredtown. There are some 40-foot ladder bridge gap jumps, massive drops between goal post trees, and rolling wooden skinnies, but don’t worry. There are plenty of incredible wooden features built for mortals as well.
We’re also talking about massive, unending berm/jump trails, loamy descents thick with boulders and roots, and overall just some of the most fun trail designs on earth. Bring a tent and camp on-site or stay in a charming local inn.
The Best Bike for Squamish
The best bike for Squamish is the Specialized Turbo Levo.
While everyone else is wheezing their lungs out to get their fourth run in, you’ll be chattering like a bird as you whiz past them to get your umpteenth one. And on the downhills, what else could you want? We’re talking 150mm of suspension front and rear, supremely light carbon and overall weight, and aggressive geometry that’ll handle all of the gnars you throw at it.
About Mike’s Bikes: Mike’s Bikes is a growing family of local bike shops, all with a singular purpose - to get as many people on bikes as possible. We locally own and operate twelve wildly successful stores in Northern California. In addition to our brick-and-mortar shops, mikesbikes.com is one of the top online bicycle retail sites in the country.