Ride from Sierra Nevada Range to the Pacific Coast
Fifteen years ago, I designed & ran a 4-day tour through the northern Sierra Nevada range, across the Trinity & Marble Wilderness regions near the Oregon border and on over to the Pacific Coastline returning back south along the ocean. We did this tour a single time and I had long since forgotten about this route as it was nearly two decades ago. Tour groups were small & cozy back then, six bikes. Not like it is today where twice that is our average tour group size and new tours sell out in a single day.
Sierra Pacific Tour...
Why haven’t we run this tour again, I’m not sure, things got busy with other activities in Pashnit Land. The following year, I organized two large gatherings of 100 people each that all met through the Pashnit website for a chance to picnic, camp and ride dirtbikes. Some of the kids that came to that initial gathering are now out of college.
I organized a Pashnit Trackday renting Thunderhill Raceway for a day and Pashnit Members got a chance to ride on the racetrack all day. We even did a 9-day motorcycle tour that year to the MotoGP Races at Laguna Seca Raceway (now known as WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca) where we had a booth at the races and enjoyed talking about tour and travel all day long while the racers zoomed on by.
In the early winter, we had a booth at the International Motorcycle Show in the San Francisco Bay Area which was an eye-opener. I was mobbed and show-goers patiently stood in long lines just to shake my hand. I had written hundreds of travel articles by then, and I came to realize people actually read my wordy ramblings about encouraging riders to explore California Motorcycle Roads.
Over the coming years, I designed over 40 more guided motorcycle tours, but never ran this 4-day NorCal Tour a second time so it seems that a 15-year hiatus is a long enough time to let this tour marinate.
This tour spans the 4-day Memorial Day Weekend and begins in Nevada City, California. A small town filled with Victorian gingerbread houses and steeped in Argonaut history. Nevada City is surrounded in Gold Mines. To the south, Empire Mine in Grass Valley is said to have pulled almost $11 Billion (with a B) in gold (in today’s dollars) from up to a mile down beneath the earth’s surface. To the north, Malakoff Diggins miners washed away entire mountains to get to the gold in turn creating one of the worst ecological disasters in modern history.
Some of these gold mines along Highway 49 evolved into beautiful state parks like the aforementioned Empire Mine & Malakoff Diggins, others become tiny towns like North San Juan and still others became ghost towns like French Corral barely recognizable as a place for civilization to grow save for a label on a map, possibly a building, are all that remain.
Yuba Pass is a local favorite, but we’ll skip north instead to ride a mountain pass even more remote. La Porte Rd was only paved two decades ago and some of my older paper maps still label this as a dirt road. Today’s a gleeful playground of adult frivolity with smoothly banked corners and broad views across the northern Sierra. The North Complex fire in 2020 burned through the Plumas and Lassen National Forest spanning 330,000 acres in this region, burning nearly 2500 structures. We’ll flow through the burn scar into Quincy. The mountain town of Quincy was saved the same fate as nearby Paradise as the flames came within mere miles of the city limits. La Porte is a super-fun motorcycle road and includes everything you could ever wish for, deserted, excellent pavement, broad views across mountain terrain and unknown to most.
Trekking gradually north gets us close to our very own active volcano known as Mt Lassen. Ask yourself how many places in the continental United States can you view an active volcano. Now kids, there are no active lava flows like in the movies, those were 10,000 years ago to the north at a place called Glass Mountain. However, Mt Lassen last erupted in 1917 and the boiling mud pots are here plus the mountain side produces a stinky rotten egg smell heavy in the air as sulfur gasses escape from the earth beneath our feet coming up from deep fissures below the mountain. Roads atop Mt Lassen punch up to the 8511 ft summit and are endlessly twisty while overlooked by a snowcapped peak that can stay white well into July. Lake Helen near the summit may get 40 feet of snow each winter season.
The best is yet to come as we ride Highway 36 across the state, often regarded as one of the best motorcycle roads on the West Coast of the United States. Combined with Highway 3 Scott Mountain Summit, we can ride over 250 twisty miles across the Trinity Alps. Add the Klamath Wilderness, the Marble Wilderness to that list, there’s a lot of wilderness up here and not a lot of people.
Happy Camp allows us to get a picture with an 18-ft tall steel Bigfoot that lies in the center of town. Wandering through Far North California, by now, you may have noticed signs for The State of Jefferson everywhere.
In October 1941, the Mayor of Port Orford, Oregon, Gilbert Gable, said that the Oregon counties of Curry, Josephine, Jackson, and Klamath should join with the California counties of Del Norte, Siskiyou, and Modoc attempting to form a new state, later named Jefferson, after Thomas Jefferson.
Gable was motivated by the belief that these heavily rural areas were underrepresented in state government, which tended to cater to more populous areas.
On November 27, 1941, a group of young men gained national media attention when, brandishing hunting rifles for dramatic effect, they stopped traffic on U.S. Route 99 south of Yreka, the county seat of Siskiyou County, and handed out copies of a Proclamation of Independence, stating that the State of Jefferson was in "patriotic rebellion against the States of California and Oregon" and would continue to "secede every Thursday until further notice."
The timing of their declaration could not have been worse for their proposed movement as days later the United States entered WWII and the idea was shelved. You still see signs for the State of Jefferson even today along Highway 96 and as far south as El Dorado County (east of Sacramento) as numerous attempts have attempted to gather fruition to little avail. The idea centering around unconstitutional imbalance of representation refuses to die, and as recently as 2017, legislation was introduced to push the issue of succession much like West Virginia succeeded from Virginia. You may note there is no state of East Virginia.
Dropping into Willow Creek offers a chance to visit the Bigfoot Museum and head for a favorite motorcycle road we have not ridden in a few years. Known simply as Forest Road 1, this ride stretches 54 miles atop a mountain ridgeline tossing out broad views of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest to rejoin with Highway 36 at Mad River.
We’re not quite done yet. Nearby is Bridgeville, CA the town that back in 2002 was sold on Ebay.com for 1.8 million dollars, the price included three cows, eight houses, and a post office. It was the first time such a thing has ever happened. The former owners, packed up and moved to Fortuna. In 2007, the very same town went on the prowl once more for an owner.
Running the length of Highway 36 gets us to Fortuna and nearby Ferndale clear across on the other side of the state from where we started as we pivot south and begin our trek towards home.
Gaining access to Ferndale offers Mattole Rd as an attractive offering to take on. It's known quite affectionately as The Lost Coast because it's the last piece of California Coastline that remains virgin, undeveloped. It was named the "The Lost Coast" after the area experienced depopulation in the 1930s. In addition, the steepness and related geotechnical challenges of the coastal mountains made this stretch of coastline too costly for state highway or county road builders to establish routes through the area, leaving it the most undeveloped and remote portion of the California coast .
The Lost Coast is Big Sur on steroids. Back in the 1960’s when the final northern stretches of Highway 1 were planned, the northern Mendocino and Humboldt County coastlines were thought to be so rugged, they simply detoured around it (& created the much-loved Leggett Section of Highway 1). Most of the region's coastline is now part of either Sinkyone Wilderness State Park or King Range National Conservation Area. The Sinkyone Wilderness State Park along the Pacific Ocean is known as one of the most remote areas of California few people have ever heard of.
With no paved roads, and found at the end of a long dead end road it is one of the least visited state parks in California. We'll top this tour off by heading home down Highway 1.
15 Years later, this tour has returned. It was awesome the first time, it’ll be super-awesome the second time.
Four days of riding the Northern California Motorcycle Wonderland?
Where do I sign?
Tour: May 28-31, 2021
Meet: Nevada City, California
Arrive: 7:00 AM, Safety Brief 7:30, Depart 8:00 AM
Cost: $520 per rider, $119 Passenger
This tour includes narrow single lane paved mountain roads. The ride includes steep grades to 20% 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.