72-Mile Pines to Mines Trail Will Connect Truckee and Nevada City With High-Quality Singletrack

As a lover of long squiggly singletrack connecting A to B, I was stoked to see this press release from Tahoe National Forest. A 72-mile uninterrupted trail connecting the mountain town of Truckee with the historic Gold Country town of Nevada City? Yes, please!

The Truckee Trails Foundation, in collaboration with Nevada County, completed its environmental assessment for the project in March 2024. Construction is ready to start! Of the project’s 72 total miles, 50 miles follow already-existing trails. That leaves 22 remaining “missing link” miles that need to be built from scratch through the mountains, which is no easy task.

The trail’s name, Pines to Mines, highlights its linkage of Truckee’s mountain conifers with self-proclaimed “California’s best preserved Gold Rush town.” (Nevada City, despite the name, is indeed in California.) I’ve spent enough time in this pretty region to know this project is worth keeping an eye on, and I can’t wait to enjoy it when it’s ready.

The only question in my mind is: which should I do first, backpack it or bikepack it?

About the Trail

The 72 miles of Pines to Mines will stretch between Truckee, deep in the Sierra Nevada mountains to the north of Lake Tahoe, and Nevada City on the western foothills. Here’s a map from the Pines to Mines website:

map from pinestomines.com

Truckee sits at an elevation of 5800 feet while Nevada City is down around 2500, which is surely one reason this trail is called Pines to Mines and not the other way around! Heading from Truckee westward will offer net downhill, but don’t expect easy going.

I don’t know what the trail’s high point will end up being, but I do know Hole in the Ground Trail — one of the existing segments — tops out above 8000 feet. So there will be plenty of climbing too!

Heading directly out from downtown Truckee, two miles on paved Trout Creek Canyon Trail lead to the start of Donner Lake Rim Trail. A mountain biker on MTBProject describes this trail as “an absolute work of art!” Then it’s time for Hole in the Ground trail, a 7.5 mile section known for the technical challenges it poses to bikers (hikers won’t find anything too crazy).

Here begins the 22 miles of missing trail that will, when complete, “take adventurers into stunning rugged backcountry terrain of Red Mountain and beyond.” An alignment is already planned and work is scheduled to begin this year, pending available funds.

Connecting to the other end of the missing section, a few miles on Grouse Ridge Trail and Spaulding Lake Trail lead to the start of Pioneer Trail. This 25 mile section is likely one of the milder parts of the route and stays fairly close to Highway 20, so thru hikers and bikers of Pines to Mines are likely to feel that the most rugged and remote parts are over. But the trail is still pleasant, and a final 5 miles on Willow Valley Road leads into picturesque Nevada City with its well-preserved Victorian-era homes.

Who’s It For?

The Pines to Mines Trail will be multi-use, welcoming “equestrians, pedestrians, bicyclists and Class 1 e-bike users.” The USFS article devotes an entire paragraph to defending the e-bike decision, saying “Studies completed during project analysis indicated that Class 1 e-bikes are similar to traditional mountain bikes in terms of components, relative speeds and impacts to trails.”

Perhaps most notably in a region where this isn’t always the case: the trail is not open to motorbikes. This is obviously nice from the perspective of those seeking peace and quiet on the trail.

Why I’m Excited

Why did this project catch my eye, and why am I excited about spreading the word? A few reasons:

The 72-mile length falls within a range I’d love to see more of. A thru hike would take most people 4 – 8 days. As a bikepacking trip, it’s an overnighter or long weekend. We could all use more of these short adventurous getaways, just long enough for a proper reset but short enough to be accessible.

I’ve spent a bit of time in this region, most memorably during the Bones to Blue bikepacking event. The trails and terrain are excellent! They are also, for lack of a better term, totally legit. Mountain bikers will find technically challenging singletrack and hikers will enjoy engaging and wild-feeling trail.

Bikepacking a section of technical singletrack (ok I’ll admit, I walked it) near Hole in the Ground, a segment of Pines to Mines.

The full trail will lie almost entirely within Tahoe National Forest. If you’re a backpacker or bikepacker, you know the words “National Forest” mean one important thing: dispersed camping! This trail will be perfect for sneaking off into the woods and finding your own free private campsite every night.

Lastly, there are some excellent connection opportunities especially at the Truckee end. Bikepackers can head south from Truckee to circle Lake Tahoe on the Tahoe Twirl or slightly more technical Bones to Blue loops, both of which incorporate parts of the famous Tahoe Rim Trail. To the north, the newly released Lost Sierra Bikepacking Route beckons.

When tackled as a thru hike or bike, setting up a 2-car shuttle would be quick and straightforward (assuming you have a group of people and 2 cars, of course). The distance between the two towns is an easy one-hour drive. My initial glance at public transport didn’t look that promising — possible but indirect and time-consuming — but more research is definitely needed on this point.

Help Make It Happen

The Pines to Mines project seems to be at a pivotal juncture. The last few years have been spent on planning and analysis, collecting public input, and conducting an environmental assessment, which was finally completed in March 2024. According to an excited update on the Truckee Trails Foundation website, “the Pines to Mines Trail … is ready for construction!”

The project appears to have some good momentum behind it based on the organizations involved. In addition to Tahoe National Forest, the press release names Bear Yuba Land Trust, Bicyclists of Nevada County, County of Nevada, Gold Country Trails Council, Truckee Donner Land Trust, Truckee Trails Foundation and Trust for Public Land.

In summary, this project looks sweet and has a ton of potential. There are 22 missing miles of trail still needing to be built, and progress “is contingent on available funding and resources” according to the USFS press release. So let’s make it happen!

If you’d like to see this project completed, send Pines to Mines a donation!

About the Author

Hi there, I’m Alissa, founder of Exploring Wild. I’ve traveled over 20,000 miles by bike and still can’t stop planning my next ride (and helping you plan yours). Pavement and panniers or singletrack and seat bag, I love it all. On my bike I feel free. Learn more about me here.

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