Mountain Biking

The mountain biking program at Shaffer’s High Sierra Summer Camp has turned into one of our “signature” activities. And it’s no wonder, with the Camp located in the heart of some of the most epic rides in the United States. (Plus, we think we have some pretty amazing staff!)

You can enjoy our mountain biking program as either a regular camper or, if you're staying at least 2 weeks, can't get enough riding and want to improve your technique, through our Mountain Bike Program Track. So whether you’re interested in going on just a couple rides, or you can't get enough riding, there's a program for you!

Mountain biking at summer camp

The Mountain Bike Program Track

Here is how our Mountain Bike Program Track works:

The first week is dedicated to getting your legs. You'll learn mountain bike riding techniques for a variety of conditions, from dirt roads to steep single track, from sandy conditions to rocky and technical courses. You'll also learn trail etiquette, how to ride with respect for nature and other people.

And you'll learn some basic maintenance and emergency repair. But let's not forget the riding! You'll start out with easy trails so you can get used to the altitude and the bike, and we get a chance to see how you do. You'll then progress to intermediate trails, which are longer, steeper, and may have some short uphill stretches.

The second week we ride, and ride, and ride! We'll have the choice of many of the epics, including Butcher Creek Trail (used for the famous Downieville Downhill Classic race), Pauly Creek, Mills Peak, and Stampede Reservoir. These are longer trails, up to 14 miles (22 kilometers) of mostly single-track, and some with descents of up to 4,000 feet (1400 meters)! You'll see amazing country and be treated to one of the best swimming holes we know of, complete with its own natural waterfall slide!

But even if you're not able to attend for 2 or more weeks, or you just want to go on a couple of rides, that's no problem. You'll be able to go on all the rides that lead up to the epics, plus you'll have the opportunity to ride the Butcher Creek Trail (assuming you're up for it!). Space is limited, however, and preference is given to those enrolled in the Mountain Bike Program Track.

The summer camp provides all the equipment you will need. However, if you would like to bring your own equipment you are welcome to do so.

Program Philosophy

Mountain biking perhaps best illustrates the Camp's Challenge-by-Choice philosophy. You can choose to ride less demanding trails, or progress to more challenging rides all the way up to our most challenging ride. It's entirely up to you. You will get all the encouragement and guidance you need without being forced or compelled to go on a ride. We're just happy to have you join us!

Skills Development

Even if you're not enrolled in the Mountain Bike Program Track, you'll start out with a clinic for a quick review of the basics, including bike inspection, gear changing, braking, seat adjustment, and safe-riding rules. On the trail, you'll also cover more advanced riding techniques, such as seat adjustment for maximum power when going up hill or for maintaining balance when descending steep trails, body positioning for balance, braking on steep trails, threading rock studded technical trails, "reading" a trail and riding different terrain, and passing/getting passed on trails. Riding etiquette with an eye to minimizing trail impact is another important component of the program.


The Camp, situated in the Tahoe National Forest near the Sierra Buttes, is in the midst of terrific mountain biking terrain, with lots of great trails from introductory to black diamond. Here is a description of a few of our trails:

Mountain biking in Lincoln ValleyLincoln Valley

Your first ride will be in Lincoln Valley where the Camp is located. It is a gently sloping valley that is heavily forested and has a couple of streams. It provides a great warm up to help you get used to the elevation (approximately 6,500 feet or 2,100 meters). The trails are generally fire roads and old logging roads.

Mountain biking down Chapman CreekChapman Creek

This is our favorite intermediate ride. It consists of a single track trail of 2-3 miles (4-5 kilometers) round trip and is an excellent introduction to trail riding. It follows a dirt trail with a moderate slope and very little technical terrain along a very pretty creek.

Summer camp mountain biking on Mills PeakMills Peak

Some on our staff like this trail even more than Butcher Creek. You'll start near the Forest Service look-out tower and descend about 10 miles (16 kilometers) of varying single-track trail, ending on the outskirts of Graeagle.

Mountain biking summer camp rides include Butcher Creek TrailButcher Creek Trail

This is our preeminent ride. It follows the same trail that the pros ride on the world famous Downieville Downhill Classic mountain bike race. You have to earn this one by demonstrating sufficient skill and the ability to follow directions. The shuttle will drop you off on Packer Saddle at about 7,200 feet (2,400 meters), on the shoulder of the Sierra Buttes. You'll then descend approximately 4,000 vertical feet (1,400 meters) over 14 miles (22 kilometers), most of which is single track trail. Over the entire trail, there is less than 1/4 mile (1/2 kilometer) of uphill. You'll ride along beautiful rivers and through splendid forests. The trail ends in Downieville, a delightful old Gold Rush town that lost to Sacramento in becoming California's state capitol by just 10 votes in 1852, where the shuttle will pick you up.

Packer Saddle loops - a summer camp favoritePacker Saddle Loops

Packer Saddle Loops is situated at the top of the Butcher Creek Trail. It is about a mile-long section of single-track, switchback loops, where riders get the thrill of powering through back-to-back banked turns. And then we ride it again! And again!

The summer camp mountain bike program track includes a Northstar Bike Park day pass!

Northstar Bike Park Day Trips

One-day trip to Northstar’s bike park is included when you enroll in the Mountain Bike Specialized Program Track. Northstar is northern California's largest mountain bike park. It has miles and miles of trails for all levels, from green trails to double black diamond trails. Download the trail map.

It's hard to get more riding in in a day (though we may do it on our Downieville Downhill ride)! The trip is led by one of our qualified staff members with up to 6 riders of similar ability. (This is an optional activity requiring an additional fee; subject to weather and minimum and a maximum number of riders.)

Make your reservation today!

If your plans change, you can get a refund before May 1st less a cancellation fee. And if you enroll after May 1st, you may still cancel and receive a refund if you notify the Camp within 7 days of your enrollment, or the start of camp for your child, whichever comes first, less a cancellation fee.  (See our Refund Policy.)

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