Ride the top of the world
Highlights: Highway 190 • Sherman Pass Rd - Kennedy Meadows Rd • Nine Mile Canyon • Mt Whitney Portal • Horseshoe Meadows Rd • Highway 168 • White Mountain Rd • Lower Rock Creek Rd • Manzanar War Internment Camp
Riders rarely mention the Southern Sierra Nevada. Why you ask? It's remote, deserted, endlessly twisty, and the middle of nowhere. But located on the southern edges of the Sierra Nevada range is the very last mountain pass up and over the range. Eclipsed by its famous neighbors to the north. This 9200 ft pass is our destination.
Our tour begins from Lindsay in Central California & at the edge of the Sierra Nevada Foothills. We're going to head straight for one of the twistiest mountain roads in all the state, a few miles away.
Highway 190 is a special road. Commonly referred to as the Western Divide Highway, it leaves the Central Valley behind in hurried, convoluted sequences of curves that will have you begging for a straight section of road. Didn’t think that was ever possible? After riding 250 curves in 25 miles, you will. And we haven’t even made it to lunch yet.
At the top of our spirited introductory ride is Trail of 100 Giants. Massive Sequoia trees defy senses and our perception of normality.
Dropping into the Kern River Valley, the traffic is all headed south. You and I though hang a left & begin climbing the mountain side ascending thousands of feet in minutes, nearly 2 miles into the sky reaching 9200 ft. This accent to the top of the range folds in on itself, bending one switchback into the other. Sherman Pass Road is used by few, but provides access to the Kern Plateau. Even fewer people live up here. Electricity hasn’t even reached the Kern Plateau yet. Population? 28. As in 28 people. The Kern Plateau has never had major commercial recreational development, and it shows. Wired phone service was only installed a few years ago.
Kennedy Meadows sits on the Pacific Crest Trail, 703 miles from the trail's southern terminus (at the Mexican border). The porch of Kennedy Meadows General Store is often littered with USPS boxes of people pre-mailing supplies to the store for hikers that will be passing through. Hikers walking the 2650-mile-long Pacific Crest Trail stop here to pick up their packages.
The beauty of the Kern Plateau is there is nothing up here. 5 people per square mile. Which is perfect. Just you, the road, and those mountain peaks harmonizing a symphonic serration that cuts the sky in the distance. The way it should be when you're on top of the world. You have to actually come here and ride Sherman Pass to get a sense of how vast and open this region is.
Sherman Pass & Kennedy Meadows present a relaxed, meandering ride across the roof of this 400-mile long range of tall peaks. This portion of the Sierra, the Kern Plateau, is a flat region at 6200 ft at the very top of the Sierra Range. The Kennedy Meadows region is actually flat at the top, a table-top in the sky and just one paved road, just the motorcycle beneath you humming along, leaving your life behind. Immersed in Pashnit Alternate Reality. You can find it up here.
What goes up must come down. The Sierra Range is only 50 miles wide here. Nine Mile Canyon descends into the rain shadow of the mighty Sierra, into the Owens Valley. Keep your eyes on the road, lean left, lean right as we lose elevation rapidly. Go straight, and you will ride right off a cliff into the canyon. No guard rails here, it is straight down to the Owens Valley below.
The Eastern Sierra Nevada might not rank high on your choice list for a motorcycle tour. It's in the rain shadow of the range, i.e. high desert. And the roads are long and straight. Doesn't sound fun?
But there's something unique and special about the Eastern Sierra. Wide open spaces, but punctuated by mountains peaks on both left and right. It's beautiful. Majestic.
And we're going to ride to the top, making our way up to the second highest paved road in the Sierra Nevada. Doesn't ring a bell? That's because you'd never know it's even there. But Hwy 168 leads to White Mountain Rd and once you ride above an elevation of 10,000 feet, and we're still headed up - you've truly made it to the roof of the Sierra Nevada.
And the top? A Bristlecone Pine Forest - 2000-year-old trees - fascinating stuff! These trees have a remarkable ability to survive in extremely harsh and challenging environment. In fact, they are believed to be one of the oldest (non-clonal) living organisms in the world, with lifespans of nearly 5,000 years.
Look closely at the photos at right. Do you see it? You're level with the adjacent mountain tops of the Sierra Nevada range. Not far is Mt Whitney, the tallest peak in the Lower 48. It's stunning and a marvel to behold.
Manzanar War Internment Camp...
It's worth mentioning Manzanar War Internment Camp. Located near Big Pine, thousands of Japanese - Americans were interned here during World War II. It's not till you walk the internment camp and enter into a recreated bunkhouse that you step into their world.
And it's our backyard. Manzanar is one of those places every person should visit.
North of Manzanar are several options we can ride in the Eastern Sierra. What you quickly realize about this region along the Nevada border is how start and placid this area is.
It will leave you wanting more.
Tour: September 08, 2023
Meet: 218N Highway 65, Lindsay, CA
Arrive: 7:00 AM, Safety Brief 7:30, Depart 8:00 AM
Cost: $460 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.