Highlights: Glacier Point • Yosemite Valley • Highway 120 Tioga Pass • Mono Lake • Bodie SHP • Highway 108 Sonora Pass • Highway 4 Ebbetts Pass • Highway 89 Monitor Pass • Ice House Rd • Big Hill Fire Lookout • Wentworth Springs Rd
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite is a place with many phrases attached. John Muir, Ansel Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, even Robert Redford has oft repeated phrases attributed to them regarding Yosemite. Naturalists, conservationists, park superintendents and others have uttered quotable phrases that belong on plaques and refrigerator magnets.
But, here’s the takeaway. None of those flowery unicorns & butterflies statements mean anything if you haven’t actually gone to the valley and experienced it in person. Feel-good sayings, photos, even video won’t suffice. This is a place you have to see for yourself.
What you truly must experience is the sense of scale. It defies your ability to process it. While the valley floor rests at a mere 4500 feet, the walls of the canyon, or rather the rock formations of Half Dome and El Capitan, extend 5000 feet straight up.
Pashnit Tours is headed for our favorite playground, the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. This guided tour highlights Yosemite National Park, four mountain passes to elevations of 9624 feet, Bodie Ghost Town, and finishes up descending out of the Sierra Nevada foothills near Placerville.
Edge of the Sierra
We'll meet in Oakhurst on the very edge of the Sierra Nevada Foothills. The Sierra Range awaits, and the group will quickly make its way out of the foothills, diving deeper into the Sierra Nevada range via the south entrance of Yosemite National Park. The south entrance allows the group to ride straight into the park for Glacier Point. Half Dome dominates the view here and a short-distance away is an overlook to stare straight down 3200 feet at Curry Village. People below look like little ants scurrying about.
The Incomparable Valley
But that was just the opener, the goal of our day is even more impressive. Yosemite National Park is a sight to behold and one of the most impressive parks in the United States. Massive granite monoliths fill the view- impressive, massive and awe-inspiring.
After lunch at the Ahwahnee Hotel, we'll ride over to Tioga Pass taking in Olmstead Point, Ellery Lake, Tuolumne Meadows and life at nearly 10,000 feet. Mono Lake overshadows our evening and if time allows, we'll ride down to the lake shore of Mono Lake.
You hear so much about Mono Lake because its salinity is three times greater than the ocean. If you see Save Mono Lake bumper stickers in the area, it's because the water level has dropped as much as 46 feet, to half of its original level. Mono Lake's entire ecosystem was slowly being destroyed to provide water for the Los Angeles basin. In turn, Mono Lake became the poster child for water activists across the nation.
If we have time, we'll visit the south shore via the eastern leg of Highway 120. Strangest of all, are the millions of alkali flies coating the shore black. The shore of the lake, with alkaline water 3x more salinity than the ocean, is completely black, and moving. These are alkali flies that feast on the salt, millions of them cover the beach. The water feels like soap due to the salinity.
Imagine the perfect day. That sums up our ride today as we leave Mono Lake and first take a short detour over to the ghost town of Bodie. Bodie is purported to be one of the best-preserved ghost towns on the West Coast sitting atop an 8375 ft mountain top at the end of a dead-end road. Once a rambling boisterous town of the Gold Rush, it's deserted now, but great fun to explore.
The ghost town of Bodie is currently in a state of arrested decay, a term coined by the park service. The park service maintains the buildings, but keeps them looking like it’s still 1880. A well-traveled author once remarked after visiting over 500 ghost towns in 12 states that Bodie is the best of them all. It’s not uncommon to see some sort of upkeep on the buildings, a roof being shingled, or general maintenance. If shingles need replacing, they are identical to how they looked in 1880.
Then making our way west over Sonora Pass, one of the Sierra's highest mountain passes at nearly 10,000 ft, there's much to see, with snow capped mountain peaks nearby and a thrilling vista at every turn. There will be plenty of time to take in the sights, shoot some pics, and enjoy the ride.
One of our favorite roads tucked away is Big Hill to Middle Camp Rd, a ride that offers up a taste of the Sierra Nevada Foothills. This is backroad riding at its best, twisty, rather deserted and of course no ride through the foothills would be complete without popping over the top and seeing that view that always has the tour guide belting out Handel’s Messiah inside the helmet.
A few miles north and then we'll make for Ebbetts Pass which has some stunning scenery and will climb to 8730 feet nearly two vertical miles above the Central Valley.
Ebbetts Pass actually has two summits with a saddle like depression in the middle. This is the Sierra Nevada at its best, and a great way to escape the summer temperatures. Highway 4 even has a section of road at the crest with no center line, narrow, twisty and incredible vistas.
As we descend towards the eastern side of the Sierra up and over Monitor Pass, it's time to park the bikes and bask in that sensation of glee that only motorcycle riding can produce.
Ice House Wilderness...
Sunday is a fun day of frolicking too. After a hearty breakfast, we'll rev up the motorcycles and head north through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Ranging in elevations up to 8300 feet, these twisty roads are remnants of the Gold Rush of the 1850s.
The order of the day is to ride northward towards Placerville. You can spend days exploring this region of California adjacent to Highway 49, so named for the Argonauts who came seeking golden riches in the placers of the surrounding mountain rivers and streams.
Doesn't matter which route we take, each road is one joyous blissful set of twisties one after the other. It's a land where no matter where you are, you can always see the next curve.
We've spent the entire tour over 5000 feet and today is much of the same as we make our way over Monitor Pass, through Markleeville, and over Mormon Emigrant Trail.
Big Hill Lookout...
Mormon Emigrant Trail & Silver Fork Rd offer up a northerly trek through the Sierra Nevada in the shadow of Lake Tahoe, we'll ride Ice House Rd on up to the Big Hill Fire Lookout at 6500 feet. The view here is a 360-degree panorama of the Crystal Range that borders the western side of the Lake Tahoe Basin. To the west, on the clearest of days, we can see clear across the entire state to the San Francisco Bay Area.
On previous tours, we've toured the fire lookout, gotten personal tours of the firefighting helicopter (the pilot rides and is a Pashnit member) and flat out marveled at the view. No description can begin to capture the sensation of a place like that. You just need to be there.
It's been another weekend of great riding, and this may be some riders 2nd or 3rd tour with us. We'll be looking forward to riding with you again. This tour finishes up near Placerville.
Tour: June 17, 2022
Meet: 40208 Highway 41, Oakhurst, 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 mountain grades to 26% and negotiating tight hair-pin corners. All roads on this tour are paved except three miles of hard pack into Bodie SHP.
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.