Although off-road mountain biking is prohibited inside the national parks, there are plenty of opportunities to test out your knobby tires in nearby national forests. Some of the most famous places for mountain biking are in the eastern Sierra Nevada, especially around the all-seasons resorts of Mammoth Mountain and Lake Tahoe, where you'll find hundreds of miles of tempting single-track trails.
More rough-and-ready national forest trails are scattered across the entire region, including just outside Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Quality rental bikes can be hard to find locally, so it's best to bring your own. South of Yosemite National Park in Oakhurst, Yosemite Bicycle & Sport is a well-equipped bike shop offering sales, rentals, and repairs. Staff can arrange guided rides and one-way shuttles to trailheads. Drop by the shop to pick up trail maps and get advice about current trail conditions. For more information, including rental rates and seasonal opening hours, visit www.yosemitebicycle.com or call (559) 641-2453.
Around Mammoth Mountain
Among the eastern Sierra Nevada's premier four-seasons resorts, Mammoth Mountain is known mostly for its skiing and snowboarding. But when all the snow melts by early summer, it's time for mountain biking. The Mammoth Mountain Bike Park has a huge variety of trails, from groomed dirt trails scaled for beginners to free-ride trails with names like "The Twilight Zone." A gondola shuttles mountain bikers up to the start of downhill runs, and the views are incredible.
Bike rentals are available at Mammoth Mountain Resort and in some of the surrounding communities. If you'd rather not pay for resort trail access, a killer variety of routes, ranging from gentle trails to challenging runs, can be found on nearby national forest lands, including the expert single-track Lower Rock Creek Trail and the much easier, dirt-road Inyo Craters Loop.
Farther afield but still worth any drive, Lake Tahoe is one of Northern California's mountain-biking meccas. Some of the ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe region are transformed into mountain-biking parks with chairlifts during summer, including Kirkwood and Northstar at Tahoe. All along the lakeshore, state parks and national forest lands more offer trails for mountain bikers of all skill levels, even along sections of the spectacular 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail.
For mountain-biking experts, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is a downhill run just outside the village of South Lake Tahoe, where you'll find bike shops offering rentals, gear, trail maps, and shuttles. Starting from Spooner Lake, the Flume Trail is another trip for diehard mountain bikers, with bike rentals at the trailhead and commercial shuttles back from the trail's end at Incline Village.