Berkeley Man Found Dead on Infamous Downieville Downhill Trail


The man, identified as Joel Lusk, was set to embark on a mountain bike and camp trip to the Gold Lake Basin area over the weekend.

He had arrived at Packer Saddle by shuttle from Downieville on Friday morning but failed to check in with his wife.

By Monday, the Sierra County sheriff’s office was called and confirmed Lusk had arrived at his starting point and that his vehicle with his camping gear was still parked in Downieville.
The following morning, search and rescue teams from Marin County and Nevada County assisted the Sheriff’s Office in the search for Mr. Lusk.

Multiple teams scoured the trail throughout the morning, and the California National Guard provided valuable support by deploying a Blackhawk helicopter despite the stormy weather conditions.
Just before noon, the sheriff’s office says, “Searchers discovered Mr. Lusk’s mountain bike 100 feet below the trail, near the top of a large cliff and a box canyon. After finding the bicycle, several specialized search and rescue rope teams rappelled down the cliffs and into the Pauly Creek drainage. Using a drone, search team members located Mr. Lusk, deceased, about 900 feet downstream. With the help of the National Guard helicopter, Lusk’s remains were recovered.

Condolences have been shared with Lusk’s grieving family and friends, and the Sheriff’s office thanked the assisting agencies for their swift response in locating Mr. Lusk.

This has been the third death along the trail in the past three years, the last occurring over the 2022 Labor Day weekend. One LA Times columnist said your ride down the tail will “flirt with deadly cliffs.”


Photo courtesy Sierra County Sheriff’s Office