When the air cools, the Highway 20 corridor is a special place with interesting color, low angle light and shadow that produce a spectacular combo, especially for mountain bicyclists. Utilizing segments of an early emigrant wagon road, several historic ditches and other old roadbeds the forested Pioneer Trail is a route back in time.
Historic uses of the land are evident throughout the length of the trail including features constructed for mining, logging railroads, wagon roads, ditches for mining, agriculture, hydroelectric uses and telephone lines.
Although the forests were all heavily cut down in the 1800s, large trees, many 40-inches in diameter are common. The trail closely follows the route of Highway 20 from the Five Mile House, five miles east of Nevada City, to Bear Valley where the trail follows the old Tahoe-Ukiah Highway route to Bowman Lake Road. From this point the trail leaves the highway, dropping into the South Yuba Canyon and then climbing up to the Spaulding Lake Trail, the eastern terminus of the trail.
Five miles east of Nevada City, beginner level mountain bicyclists can access the first 10 miles of the Lower Pioneer Trail beginning at Harmony Market. Elevations range from 3,400 to 4,200 feet.
For a more moderate 10-mile ride at elevations of 4,330 to 5,000 feet, access the Upper Pioneer. The Upper Pioneer Trail parallels Highway 20 on the south side and drifts farther from the highway than the lower section. Ride to Skillman Campground and back, or for a longer ride, to Chalk Bluff Road and back. The trail is fairly rugged and mildly technical single-track, offering more challenging riding than the lower section. This trail can be linked with the Lower Pioneer Trail for a longer ride.
Learn more at: http://www.sierrasoftware.com/MtnBiking/rides/