The ride to
Highlighted Roads: Wards Ferry Rd • Smith Station Rd • Priest Coulterville Rd • Old Priest Grade • Hwy 49 The Little Dragon • Triangle Rd • Bass Lake Rd • Mammoth Pool Loop • Mile High Vista • Italian Bar Rd • Watts Valley Rd • Highway 245 • Elwood Rd • East Trimmer Springs Rd • Maxon Rd • Burrough Valley Rd • Tollhouse Rd • Auberry Rd
Unnoticed between Yosemite NP & Sequoia NP is a swath of roads that roll & heave, making up the central portion of the Sierra Nevada Range due east of Fresno. Paled by their nearby neighbors of Yosemite to the north, and Mt Whitney to the south, this is a mountainous region often overlooked that pushes up a vertical mile into the sky.
The Ride to China Peak...
Mapping programs are one of my favorite things to play with. Trying to find the right balance between twisty backroads, avoiding towns, and balancing out the mileage is a worthy challenge. Hours are spent trying to achieve that balance, while magically arriving at our evening host hotel at just the right time. We’ve got something new in store, more amazing motorcycle roads, at just the right time of year.
Spring is a special time for motorcyclists in California. We look forward to this narrow window of time all year long. The temps are perfect, the rolling hills are covered in brilliant green grass, and the summer heat hasn’t arrived yet.
Avoiding the Golden Chain...
This tour starts from Jackson in the heart of the Sierra Nevada Foothills. Highway 49 is numbered after the "49ers", the waves of immigrants who swept into the area looking for gold, and it is known as the Golden Chain Highway. However, our real goal is to avoid Highway 49 as much as possible. If you like exploring, you have to get off the main roads, and that’s just what we’re going to do on this ride to China Peak.
In the Sierra Nevada Foothills, there’s a sequence of roads we call the Holy Grail Triad. Three roads all parallel to one another, the same elevation. We’ll ride two out of three, starting with Stoney Creek Rd. After a quick stop at the Pardee Reservoir Overlook, we’ll take on Pool Station next, then past Tulloch Reservoir.
What these name-drops all have in common is the elevation. The Sierra Foothills are known for rolling hills, often treeless, covered in brilliant green this time of year. The sequence leads to Jamestown, home of Railtown 1897, a small train museum likely most famous for being the site where they filmed the train sequences for the Back to the Future movies.
Graffiti Bridge is a bridge over the Tuolumne River. It’s also famous for being covered in graffiti from end to end. The artwork changes through the years, and a stop here is a chance to take in the ever-changing color on the bridge. What makes this destination even more fun is the ride to get there. Wards Ferry Rd is single lane, zero guard rails, and a long way down into the canyon. Super fun ride with endless twists and turns.
The goal of our day is to make it to Bass Lake, one of our favorite lodging establishments. Based along the shores of Bass Lake, this place makes you want to come here over and over.
Mile High Vista...
Bass Lake is next to the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway. This is a remote 82-mile loop, flowing into the Sierra National Forest over to Mammoth Pool Reservoir and the well-known Mile High Vista.
The Sierra National Forest is a mountain playground spanning over 6,000,000 acres of terrain cut and diced by roads that were carved out in the late 1950s for hydroelectric power.
Multiple large reservoirs were created at mountain heights of 5 to 6000 feet & built at multiple levels, so the water would flow from one reservoir to the next, each time generating power. In order to create these reservoirs, engineers also created an amazing system of roads that hugs and follows the contours of the land- a time when words-'road straightening' didn't yet exist.
And our loop? Forest Rd 81, aka Minarets Rd, aka Mammoth Pool Rd - take your pick: and the California Motorcycle Roads website even called Mammoth Pool Rd one of the top five roads in the entire state of California- a bit too deserving perhaps?
That's quite a title to assign a road. Does it deserve this lofty title? Well, that's what we are here to find out. We'll make the run from Grizzly Meadow Road at the Mammoth Pool Reservoir riding downhill past Mile High Overlook, and then back into North Fork along the edge of our mountainous ridgeline. We'll come out at North Fork, the geographical center of California.
The Climb to China Peak...
Auberry lies along the very northern edge of Fresno County- but this 'edge' is actually a mountain canyon-ready for a brisk descent & climb? It's fast right out of the canyon- but keep your eyes on the road. Long way down!
Fresno County has some of the best motorcycle roads in the state, but we won’t tell if you won’t tell. We’ll ride the highlights reel: Tollhouse, Pittman Hill, Watts Valley, Trimmer Springs, Maxon, Burrough Valley and on up to Shaver Lake.
We climb out of the valley via Highway 168 to Huntington Lake at 7000 feet and the China Peak ski area on the south side of the lake. Huntington Lake is actually part of a system of three lakes, six dams and 43 miles of tunnels driven through granite. It drops water from the Sierra backcountry down 6,000 feet, where it is converted into electricity for Southern California. The lake was created in 1912 and 1913 to provide electricity for fast-growing Los Angeles, 300 miles to the south. Huntington Lake is also on the southern edge of the Kaiser Wilderness, established in 1976 and spanning 22,700 acres.
We all know about the fantastic mountain roads that California has. Our time together will ride some of the best before heading back to Bass Lake to spend an enjoyable evening together.
Tour: Friday, April 14, 2023
Meet: 11248 Old Ml Ln, Jackson, CA
Arrive: 7:00 AM, Safety Brief 7:30, Depart 8:00 AM
Cost: $460 per rider, $109 Passenger
This tour includes narrow, steep single lane paved mountain roads. Mountain passes include steep grades and negotiating hair-pin corners. All roads on this tour are paved.
EXPERIENCED RIDERS ONLY:
This mountain tour is not recommended for beginner riders or Very Large Motorcycles. Riders are expected to have at least several years of enthusiastic experience on their motorcycle riding remote challenging paved mountain backroads along with at least 5000+ miles of concurrent recent experience.
This tour is limited by the amount of rooms at our host lodging. We have booked rooms months in advance and our tours sell out by the end of January. Get on our mailing list to be the first to know about new rides. Tours are planned & announced in the late fall of each year.
Book early to ensure a spot on this new ride. Check with us to see if any available spots are open. Some of our rides may have waiting lists to be able to join the group.