Exploring Downieville, CA as a non-biker


I’m blessed to be living in California: nature abounds in different terrain here. We have beaches, mountains, forests, and deserts. Living in Sacramento means that Lake Tahoe is pretty much my backyard and we try to go as much as possible. However, we never considered going to Downieville until this past Friday.

We went to Downieville because one of Cecilio’s oldest friends, Nathan, got married on a 7000 ft. mountain. Which requires hiking or biking to the top. Cecilio and I have been hiking sporadically, but we both did not have the stamina to be able to trek that high up. My in-laws tried to hike, and they made it halfway through but eventually gave up and met us later on.


Downieville is a tiny town with a population of fewer than 300 people and an elevation of 2,966 ft. It is located in Sierra County near the Yuba River and in Tahoe National Forest and a 2-hour drive from Sacramento. It is a popular destination for mountain biking and hosts Downiehill Classic, an annual race with a 15-mile downhill race with a drop and a 26.5 cross-country race. Nathan and his wife are hardcore bikers and met during one of the races in this location, so it makes perfect sense as to why they wanted to get married there.

Even though we couldn’t get to witness their vows to each other, we still got to celebrate later on!

Meanwhile, we were exploring this little town and literally walked around it at least five times. It’s that small. Here are some snippets of what we did and what you can do to kill time even if you don’t mountain bike…

Things to do in Downieville, CA as a non-biker

Lunch at Two Rivers Café

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Cecilio and I ate at Two Rivers Café, an order-at-the-counter American restaurant that serves burgers, pizza, and sandwiches. I ordered the guacamole burger and a beer. The portions were HUGE and I was struggling to finish it. My guac started falling apart! But no worries, I used it as dip for my fries 😉 We actually came back a second time with Cecilio’s family because they were hungry after the hike, and we just shared onion rings with them.

Taking in the sights

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Jersey Bridge

So while Cecilio, his family, and I were waiting before the reception, we walked around the whole town. We walked across Jersey Bridge, as pictured above. This steel bridge was built in 1938, but actually not the original bridge! The original bridge was wooden and built in 1875 but collapsed after the 1937 Downieville Flood. After we walked across the bridge, there was a pathway downhill where we took a bunch of photos.

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Not-so-fun fact: Josefa Loazia (known as “Juanita”) was executed in Downieville. She was hanged for murdering a man who attempted to assault her the night after 4th of July in 1851. Pictured above is a plaque commemorating her execution. She was the first and only woman to be executed in California.

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Downieville’s Bell Tower

Visiting Downieville Museum

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Downieville model
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Kitchen and household items from the 1800’s in the Downieville Museum
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Makeup organizer and hairbrush from the 1800s

The Downieville Museum is usually open only on weekends, but the kind volunteer decided to open it up for the day! It is a tiny museum and actually was originally a convenience store. Here, there are artifacts, recordings, and photos from residents living in Downieville over the past 160 years. There is also a model that shows what Downieville used to look like at the turn of the 20th century.

Dinner at La Cocina de Oro

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Last but not least was Nathan and Ashley’s reception dinner at a Mexican restaurant, La Cocina de Oro Taqueria! Ya girl loves Mexican food, so I was really happy when we read the invite a few months ago stating that we would be celebrating here. I would say that there were about 40–50 guests that were here. The reception was casual (no seating chart!) and fun. There were tables inside and a deck outside so there was room for everyone, and there was a simple flower centerpiece on each table. I loved the food too: every table had chips and salsa, so we all downed that. We also had a buffet with chicken and beef tacos, veggie enchiladas, and more guac!

Overall thoughts about visiting Downieville, CA

Downieville is a cute little town surrounded by trees and stunning views. But would we go back? Probably not, because 1. we’re not mountain bikers, and 2. It was extremely difficult to get there and to get out. Yes it’s on a mountain and the roads are winding just like Lake Tahoe’s location, but at least in Tahoe, there are a decent amount of people to follow. And there are more lights. Getting out of Downieville was pretty scary because for a while there would be no other cars and we had to keep our high beams on. After this getaway, I am raring to go back to Lake Tahoe. But I am happy we went: it was just the little getaway I absolutely needed after a lot of stress from work!

If you happen to stop by Downieville, these are the things you can do if you’re not a biker! Walk around the town and take in the beautiful trees and sky…oh…did I mention it snows in the winter too? 😉

Hannah is a travel writer, graphic designer, and the founder/editor of Hannah on Horizon. She is based in Sacramento, California, living with her husband and two adorable dogs. She shares tips on how to experience luxury travel on any budget, and how to maximize time at each trip or destination, no matter what your budget or amount of vacation time at work. She enjoys making you feel like you have visited each destination with her through her storytelling and informative writing style.

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