Journey to the
Largest Trees in the world
Highlights: Round Mountain Rd • Woody Rd • Old Stage Rd • Granite Woody Rd • Highway 178 • Highway 155 • Yokohl Valley Rd • Highway 180 • Highway 198 • Elwood Rd • Trimmer Springs Rd • Maxon Rd • Borroughs Valley Rd • Lodge Rd • Auberry Rd
I've got a hankerin'...
Hankerin. It means strong desire or want. I had to look it up in Hickapedia just to make sure. And the word is Dutch. Who knew? Sequoia National Park popped into my brain along with that word hankerin’. We have got to go there. And lately, I’ve had this hankerin’ to ride through Sequoia National Park.
My hankering had me wondering if you have ever been riding past something for a long time – decades even, and never stopped to check it out. Every time I mention national parks, I run into local riders who’ve never been to these national treasures. My brother lives two hours from Yosemite Valley and it took 20 years before he headed over to check it out to see what all the hubbub is about.
Sequoia National Park is a bonus two-for-one deal. Sequoia occupies the high country, but pop over the backside of the mountain and you’ll be descending 5000 ft. into Kings Canyon. The ride into the canyon is delightful, descending over a vertical mile to the river bottom. Endlessly curvy road, multiple switchbacks, all the while steadily losing elevation, falling into the canyon.
We’re getting ahead of ourselves…
Our tour begins in Lindsay. Never heard of it you say? No one has. Centrally located in the Central Valley and possibly considered the middle of nowhere. But the perspective of the hungry motorcyclist is a bit different... over yonder in the distance the southern foothills lie in wait. California has an elevation band stretching 400 miles long from north to south that holds a special quality.
This narrow elevation band spans generally from sea level on the valley floor up to 4000 feet where the forests begin melding into the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range.
Here's the punchline before we get to the pitch......
When I first planned this tour route, I thought I'd hit the jackpot. The tour concept seemed simple upon first glance. Non-stop twisties through sparsely populated rolling ranch land capped with two national parks to boot. Our ride day starts with grassy rolling hills that heave and sigh. Where road crews cut around hilltops instead of through them. This is a place where roads are allowed to cling to the contours of the land.
I then realized I'd plotted out a 200-mile stretch of backroad riding with nary a gas station in sight for the length of the ride. That may seem an insignificant detail, yet it's a juicy clue to what's in store when we ride...
Every pitch has a problematic issue it must solve. In this case, it's the conundrum of Fresno & Tulare County. See... we've ridden this region before, but we keep missing roads. Point A to Point B just isn't cutting it. That one over there is awesome. That other one is great too. And that sweet ribbon of blacktop over there also- you have to ride that! Can't be missed. But why pick and choose? Why can't we have it all? Right here. Right now. Well kids, so glad we had this talk. It's settled then. We'll do that. We'll ride them ALL.
What makes this narrowband of Southern Foothill elevation unique is the type of roads it produces. Creek bed roads that aptly follow the contours of the Fresno River in a gently swaying motion. Each river feeds into a cache of water - Hensley & Millerton Lakes, plus several others. In turn, these waterways produce super fun roads.
Here's the juice on Tulare & Kern County.
But, answer this one question first... Why is it worth noting that it's possible to ride 200 miles of twisty road, but not come in contact with a single gas station? Is this Nevada, Montana, the western desert?
It's worth mentioning because, in a state that has 38 million people, that's the very last thing that should be possible. Where are all those millions?
Not here. There are no people. There are no towns of significance, it's just plain remote. It means little other traffic or people. This is a unique corner of California that few motorcyclists know to exist. It's a playground. And oh, how we motorcyclists like our playgrounds.
There's a quiet roar of excitement when we plan out a new tour. What surprises our riders the most is how remote these regions are. Name a place, in California, where you can ride a 60-mile stretch of twisty road and see almost no one. Yet, in the Southern Foothills, it can easily be done.
We use multiple platforms to carefully plan out a sequence of roads, the result is a tempo of fast-slow, energetic speed, then a stretch of blacktop that demands all your senses. And once the sequencing is complete, we can feel it's something special.
There are only a few places in California where you can plan that sort of intensity. We have come to that place. This region of California is a place to be immersed in excitement, relief, and joy. They are all different emotions. Yet, for the rider, they can all be combined into one.
Springville is not a town. Well sort of. It's tiny. Just a small general store and fuel station. Think ice cream stop. What makes it a motorcycle destination is what's around it, and more importantly, what's behind it. A low range, and then rapid elevation climbs upon switchbacks that fold in on themselves.
Line in the Sand...
And stop fretting you with the tiny 100-mile range tank. We're not going to ride that distance. We can't.
We're going to drop the tour group out of the foothills, head for the closest happy juice we can find, then turn right around and skedaddle back to our playground. And there's a reason why there's always gas somewhere. Because there are people to support that station. But not here. And that's why we are here.
So now that we've wet your whistle, teased you, and made you chew wistfully on your bottom lip, here's the pitch since we incensed you with the punch-line long ago in our author’s diatribe.
Regions of northern Kern County in spring are unlike any other region of the state. The terrain is largely rolling hills, ranch land. With real-life cowboys, the sort with wide-brim hats, astride a horse named Chuckles and clinking spurs too. Maybe even a swagger and a set of bow-legs here and there. A muddy pickup is certain.
What makes this narrowband of elevation unique is the type of roads it produces. Creek bed roads that aptly follow the contours of rivers in a gently swaying motion.
It's a great day spent in the southern foothills, but our ultimate destination is Sequoia National Park. The Park spans over 400,000 acres, 84% of which are wilderness regions. There are no roads, except Highway 198 which loops through the park boundary south to north along with a dead end spur into the canyon known as Highway 180.
The first order of business is to climb up 351 steps to 6700 feet atop Moro Rock, a massive granite dome with 360-degree views. The stairs were built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and are a pleasure to climb. The view at the near 7000 ft elevation encompasses much of the park, including the Great Western Divide. Just out of view is Mt Whitney, the tallest mountain peak in the contiguous United States. The stairway is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Nearby is the Tunnel Tree and groves of massive Sequoia Trees in the Giant Forest.
The giant sequoia is the world’s most massive tree and is regarded as the largest living organism on earth. While the coast redwood is taller, the baobab tree can grow wider, and the Great Basin bristle cone pine is older, sequoia trees can grow over 2000 years old and can have a circumference over 113 ft or more. The giant sequoia is among the tallest, widest, and longest-lived of all organisms on Earth. The trees defy the senses and need to be experienced in person to be believed.
The Park also contains more than 270 known caves, including Lilburn Cave, which is California's longest cave with nearly 17 miles of surveyed passages. New caves are discovered every year in the park, with the most recently discovered major cave being Ursa Minor in August 2006. While we won’t be entering into any caves on this journey, your curiosity may be sparked to re-visit the park to experience the interior of one of nearly 300 known caves in the park. Crystal Cave is the most visited and located in Kings Canyon.
Imagine yourself descending a vertical mile, into a deep canyon twisting and cavorting upon sinuous blacktop along sheer granite walls on one side, and a sheer drop into a deep canyon on the other side surrounded by several 14,000 ft high peaks. Kings Canyon is characterized by some of the steepest vertical relief in North America, with numerous peaks over 14,000 feet on the Sierra Crest along the park's eastern border, falling to 4,500 feet in the valley floor of Cedar Grove a mere ten miles to the west. Kings Canyon is a u-shaped valley carved by glaciations during successive Ice Ages over the last 2.5 million years. Further downstream, the valley is more of a traditional V-shape where the massive amounts of ice and snow that filled this valley did not reach. Ice Age glaciations did not extend to the confluence of the Middle and South Forks which created the u-shape of the valley further into the center of the Sierra Range much like its cousin to the north, Yosemite Valley, also a massive u-shaped valley carved by glaciation.
This is Highway 190 dropping into Kings Canyon which spans 5250 ft deep. Kings Canyon National Park was created in 1890, renamed in 1940, and while the road was paved into the canyon, it was never completed out the other side to Independence to create another Sierra Nevada Mountain pass.
However, you can hike over the Sierra Range via Bishop Pass, Taboose Pass, Sawmill Pass, and Kearsarge Pass. All of these passes are above 11,000 feet in elevation. But for the motorcyclist, Highway 180 is a dead-end with its terminous deep in the Sierra Nevada only a few miles away from Onion Valley Rd and the tiny city of Independence rests just on the other side of the Sierra Range. The single road and lack of touristy activities other than backpacking and camping enable Kings Canyon to be the least visited of the major Sierra Nevada parks.
Descending out of the mountains back into the foothills, which this time of year are glowing in green grass. Foothills roads are the best this time of year, temps are perfect and the skies are crisp and clear.
The sequoia trees are one of the eighth wonders of the world, but we’re not done yet. Nearby is one of our favorite resorts at Bass Lake, and our final dinner together will be at The Pines Resort on Bass Lake.
Tour: April 08, 2022
Meet: 218N Highway 65, Lindsay, CA
Arrive: 7:00 AM, Safety Brief 7:30, Depart 8:00 AM
Cost: $440 per rider, $119 Passenger
This tour includes narrow single lane paved mountain roads. The ride includes steep grades and negotiating tight hair-pin corners. All roads on this tour are paved.
EXPERIENCED RIDERS ONLY:
This 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.