Mile high Xtravaganza
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 & Sequoia is a swath of roads that roll & heave, making up the central portion of the Sierra Nevada Range. 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.
MILE HIGH Xtravaganza
Explore & Ride Central California Motorcycle Roads
Let's do that!!
Basing in Turlock places us right next to the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway which starts from Bass Lake. This is a remote 82 mile loop into the Sierra National Forest over to Mammoth Pool Reservoir and the well-known Mile High Vista.
This ride delves heavily into the Sierra National Forest, a playground of over 6,000,000 acres of mountains cut and diced by roads that were carved out in the late 1950s for hydroelectric power.
Mile High Vista...
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. Many people don't realize California has very few natural lakes compared to other states. But in order to build these reservoirs, they also created an amazing system of roads that hugged and contoured against the land- at a time when the 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- keep your eyes on the road. Long way down!
It's time to climb out of the heat from the canyon floor 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 back country down 6,000 feet, where it is converted into electricity for Southern California. The lake was created in 1912 and 1913 to fuel fast-growing Los Angeles, 300 miles to the south.
We all know about the fantastic mountain roads that California has. That's a given. But what no one tells you is there's an elevation band between 2-4000 feet that holds fantastic roads!
Roads like Auberry, Tollhouse, Lodge, Burroughs Valley & Trimmer Springs just to name a few.
A succession of backroads leads us to Hwy 245, a hidden surprise in the Sierra Foothills. Hwy 245 is one of the twistiest roads in the state, and it was recently paved creating a ribbon a joy. Saturday is an intense day of non-stop twisty roads and mountain peaks. We cap it off with our beloved foothills!
Land of the Giants...
Sunday morning, it's time to get an early start and beat the tourists into Sequoia and Kings Canyon before any traffic builds. The Generals Highway lies in waiting, and we’ll ascend over 5000 feet (1500 m) in a few short miles, climbing back into the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
This became the second national park -1890- in the entire U.S. (after Yellowstone in Wyoming). The two parks combined are about 66 miles long and 33 miles wide. Plus, nearby Mt Whitney reaches an elevation of 14,505 feet, one of the highest peaks in the lower 48.
Morro Rock punctuates this amazing place where we'll stand over a mile in the sky at 6725 feet and look down on California's Central Valley at nearly sea level. Top of the world, Ma.
Here we’ll see several groves of sequoia trees. Just looking at the roots of the toppled sequoia, you might get a glimpse of their size. These amazing trees will leave you struggling to comprehend the sheer size of their mammoth proportions, said to be the largest living things on earth. One massive Sequoia, General Sherman, is said to be 2700 years old.
It's fascinating to grasp that it is fire- as in forest fires- that enable the seeds to germinate. The fires clear out the underbrush and provide a fertile soil bed to grow. Each year, a giant sequoia may produce up to a half million seeds- per tree.
But the shallow root system that spreads out and not down can be the undoing of these trees. Wind, soil erosion, and other forces can topple the trees. With no tap root, it's essential these trees grow in groves where their roots can grow together providing strength.
It's up to you how much time you want to spend in the park - some of us have to head home. There are twisty mountain roads in every direction.
Tour: Friday, October 02, 2020
Meet: 2012 E Canal Dr, Turlock, CA
Arrive: 7:00 AM, Safety Brief 7:30, Depart 8:00 AM
Cost: $425 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.