North American Bike Park Review Tour

NORTHSTAR BIKE PARK

As our long summer of riding bike parks closes to an end we’ve got just 3 parks left. Before returning home to ride our home park of Mt. Bachelor in Bend, Oregon we diverted south to California. Northstar Bike Park in Lake Tahoe, California is a park we were excited to visit and after spending a few days riding their rough ‘n’ rowdy trails, our expectations were met. That doesn’t mean Northstar Bike Park will be everyone’s cup of tea however as it’s a very raw park with challenging terrain and a high-priced ticket to ride. Here’s what we think about Northstar at Tahoe.

THE TRAILS

Northstar Bike Park recently hosted a round of the EWS (Enduro World Series) and in preparation for the event, Northstar had two new trails built. We thoroughly enjoyed both of the new trails and they serve to bolster the mountain’s already hefty black diamond offerings.

North American Bike Park Review Tour - Northstar Bike Park

If you’ve never heard of Northstar, it’s famous for two things – dust and raw, rocky trails. The park has a pretty impressive offering when it comes to black and double-black diamond DH trails. If you love steep, technical riding with rocky chutes and big chunky rock gardens, you’ll be in hog heaven. For the jumpers out there, some attempts have been made, and strong attempts we might add. Livewire is their fully irrigated jump line and it’s a blast to ride. Although we must admit, we only rode it about three times as were just having way too much time leaning off the back of our bikes, surfing down the axle deep chutes on TNT and River Sticks.

For the beginners, there’s not really a lot to get excited about here at Northstar. The dry, powdery terrain is challenging enough to navigate but when you throw in large boulders and a small trail crew, you’re just not really setting yourself up for a great time. Don’t get us wrong, Northstar values their beginner riders, there just isn’t quite a full menu of trails on offer.

Northstar has a really great Specialized Academy program where new riders can get hooked up with all the essentials and a guide to ensure a fun and safe day is had. Academy pricing is actually cheaper than just a ticket price and Northstar does this to further incentivize riders to sign up for a lesson and guided ride down the hill. They can also set you up with protective gear and bike rentals if needed. We highly suggest this if you’re newer to riding or bringing someone who is. This mountain is not forgiving and if you get on the wrong trail, you’ll be in for a long day.

Another great feature of Northstar is their ebike acceptance. They’ve got a dedicated climb trail for ebikers and a free “Pedal Pass” available to anyone who wants to sign the waiver and get on the hill. They’ve got some longer trails available that lead off the mountain and make for some epic ebike rides if you’re looking for more than just chairlift runs all day.

North American Bike Park Review Tour - Northstar Bike Park

ON-SITE ACTIVITIES AND FOOD

We’ve been to Northstar a few times over the years, although it’s been at least five years since our last visit. The village is clean, pretty and up to date, however there aren’t a ton of offerings when compared to a place like Whistler. Still, they’ve got more in terms of dining and commodities than say Mt. Bachelor, Bogus Basin and some others.

We opted to stay in Northstar so we regularly found ourselves eating breakfast at the local grocery store and café as the food was decent and not too expensive. There’s also a coffee shop, pizza place, bars and some other options for mid-day or dinner time eats. Overall though, we spent most of our time heading to Truckee for meals.

Northstar also has a few family friendly activities to keep kids entertained while you do your thing. A movie theater, skating rink and mini golf course are just a few.

WHAT BIKE TO BRING

Bike selection is a tough choice for Northstar. If you’re solely riding the bike park then bring a DH bike. If you’re an explorer and like riding local trails off the mountain then you’ll want a 160mm bike at the very least. There are tons of great places to ride in the Tahoe area. If you want to pedal or shuttle, you’ve got options and we’d highly suggest bringing two bikes if you’ve got ‘em. The views and solitude found on the local Sierra trails are truly spectacular.

North American Bike Park Review Tour - Northstar Bike Park

WHERE TO STAY

A common theme held by locals and employees is that Northstar’s pricing and attitude has gone nose up thanks to the swarms of Bay Area visitors. We were given a discount to stay at some condos in Northstar off Coyote Fork and were pretty blown away at the still extremely high price and low quality accommodations. Our condo unit had uncomfortable beds, mold in the shower curtain and was generally run down and looked as if very little had been changed since the 90s. There are plenty of nicer spots to stay in the Northstar village, like the Ritz Carlton and Northstar Resort, however we’re not sure just how affordable that is for most visitors.

Our best recommendation would be to look in King’s Beach or Truckee. Granted there’s always camping as an option and plenty of places to do that if you’re looking to sleep under the stars. Truckee is a really cool town with some old time history and plenty of great restaurants and bars. Next time we go back to Northstar we’ll be looking at Truckee as the place to stay.

North American Bike Park Review Tour - Northstar Bike Park

LOCAL INFO

A visit to Northstar wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Lake Tahoe. It’s an incredibly beautiful lake with an amazing shoreline and vistas. If you’d like to take a break from the bike park, there are marinas on Tahoe that rent boats, wave runners and other watercraft for the day. Crystal Bay and Kings Beach are the closest towns on the water and have plenty of options for lodging and restaurants as well. Truckee also has some outdoor dining areas, a little mall area the historic downtown and hosts the Truckee Bike Park. We definitely suggest a stop by the public park as it’s a real fine example of what can be done when passionate people work with willing municipalities.

North American Bike Park Review Tour - Northstar Bike Park

THE WOLF’S LAST WORD

Overall, Northstar at Tahoe was a great stop for our crew, and we had a lot of fun riding there. We spent a full day shuttling and riding some of the local trails after shredding our brains out for two full days in the bike park. Northstar is a very challenging park for beginners and intermediate riders so be aware that you will be faced with lots of rocky terrain and a pretty ungroomed experience. Unless of course you stick to riding the couple groomed runs. The bike park staff is quite small for the size of the park and when combined with the lack of rain, it makes for some unfiltered terrain. If you are relatively new or not very advanced, we suggest taking Northstar Bike Park up on their Academy discount.

If you live for high-speed rock gardens, steep dirt surf sessions with a bit of jumping mixed in, Northstar will deliver. While we absolutely love the raw terrain, challenging rock gardens and overall raw nature of Northstar, we’ve got some things to bring up. Northstar Bike Park’s ticket prices are higher than Whistler Bike Park and yet they have fewer trails, a smaller variety of trails, less trail maintenance and generally less to offer than Whistler. Their prices are higher than many of the parks we’ve visited this summer in fact, and the high ticket and lodging prices combined with unmaintained trails account for a major ding to the park’s overall rating. While we may love the unpredictability of ever-changing rock gardens, we understand a majority of riders probably will not. Nevertheless, we left Tahoe very stoked on the riding and will definitely be back.

For more info visit northstarcalifornia.com

THE FINAL SCORE
Trails: 7.5/10
Affordability: 5/10
Food: 7.5/10
Nightlife: 7/10
Lodging: 7.5/10
Camping: 9/10
Off Mountain Activities: 8/10

North American Bike Park Review Tour - Northstar Bike Park

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