Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Riding the Mills Peak Lookout Trail in Graeagle

The Mills Peak Lookout Trail was built in 2008 with mountain bikes in mind. It’s an 8.5 mile trail that winds through the pine trees and connects with a few logging roads on the way to Mills Peak at 7,300 feet. The strenuous, moderately technical, and predominantly singletrack trail begins in Graeagle at 4,500 feet.
The summit of Mills Peak.

The trail is easy to follow except for two key intersections where the trail leaves a paved road (Summerhouse Mohawk Chapman Road) at mile 1.5 and where the trail meets a fire road at mile 3.7. The trail cuts to the right and uphill at both of these intersections
The trail is fun to ride because it maintains a fairly consistent grade all the way to the top. When the topography gets really steep, the trail goes to rideable switchbacks. There are no boulders, drop-offs, or waterbars to stop your forward progress. Traction is not a problem.

Fire Lookout.
The view from the peak is of course spectacular. Mills Peak Lookout is a working fire lookout that was built in 1932.  An operator is stationed there every day during the fire season. When I visited the lookout, Mike was eager to talk to visitors and explain how he did his job as a fire spotter.

After a brief stop at the top, the real fun begins. The 8.5 miles down is a high speed roller coaster ride that has some hard braking with some sharp turns and a few rock gardens. The sight lines are good, so you can ride it fast even your first time down. Much of the trail has a good “flow” to it. 

View towards Sierra Buttes.
My ride to the top took 2 hours with 3 or 4 stops for food/drink and scenery viewing. The trip down was just under 45 minutes with 3 stops to savor the thrill of the ride. 

Trail Head:

The trail starts 1.5 miles south of Graeagle on Hwy. 89. Park in the dirt area off Hwy. 89 at Gold Lake Highway.  Some riders will want to drive to the top and only ride the downhill. You can do this by driving up Gold Lake Highway to Church Meadow Road and on to Mills Peak Road to the lookout. The trailhead is next to the picnic table at the top.

For comparison, the Downieville Downhill race course is 13.8 miles long and begins at 7,000 feet and ends at 3,200 feet. The fun factor at Downieville and Mills Peak Trail are similar.

Check my ride data and map for the Mills Peak Lookout Trail on Strava.

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