One of my favorite motorcycle rides in the Sierras is a loop from South Lake Tahoe to Downieville to Donner Lake. The 260-mile loop not only includes scenic beauty but some of California's most historic areas. You'll pass the east and west shores of Lake Tahoe, the beautiful Sierra Valley, the old mining Town of Downieville, Nevada City, Old Highway 40, and Donner Lake. Read on for a description of this route, photos, and video clips of sights along the way.
The Sierra-Nevada Range
The Sierra runs 400 miles (640 km) north-to-south, and is approximately 70 miles (110 km) across east-to-west. Our playground in the Northern Sierras include Lake Tahoe - the largest alpine lake in North America, and Yosemite Valley, sculpted by glaciers out of 100-million-year-old granite. Then there are the "foothills" of the Sierras, which are not nearly so well known, so you can ride in a relatively "cage-free" environment. Enjoy!The stories listed on this page show you some great roads and destinations in the area. Coming from the Bay Area? Here are a couple of nicer routes: Highway 4 or Highway 88.
Yosemite is a favorite destination for locals and a must-see for travelers to California, and there are plenty of great motorcycle roads in the area. I hope you get a chance to visit, and to stay a while to stretch your legs and breath in the scent of the mountains, enjoying the sounds and the silence of the pristine wilderness. Soon the area will be snowed in, but you're probably thinking about your motorcycle destinations for next year, anyway. Here's some food for thought, and some winter reading.
Nicole Espinosa and I were caught on camera in the parking lot of the Montbleu Hotel and Casino in South Lake Tahoe, headquarters for the first annual Lake Tahoe Adventure Motorcycle Ride & Rendezvous. We had a lot of fun there, and I hope to see you there next year.
Go get a cup of tea, sit back, and watch this video by adventure motorcyclist, photographer and multimedia developer John Beck. Experience the American West from Utah through Nevada to the Sierras and Lake Tahoe, on and off-road. Guaranteed to create a new dream or two.
The first annual Lake Tahoe Adventure Motorcycle Ride & Rendezvous was held from August 24-26, 2012 in perfect riding conditions whether you prefer tarmac, dirt, water, gravel, rocks, sand, or all of the above. “The more dirt on your bike, the better,” was the mantra, but my personal goal was to not fall down on my new-to-me KLR dual-sport.
Rising 14,179 feet out of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and just 50 miles south of the Oregon border, the almost 600-millennia-old stratovolcano known as Mt. Shasta is an imposing, grand, and intriguing sight. It is the second highest peak in the Cascade Range (Mt. Rainier in Washington tops it by 232 feet) and the fifth highest out of a dozen California ‘fourteeners' (mountains over 14,000-feet tall). This dormant northern California volcano with its four overlapping volcanic cones, seven named glaciers, and fumaroles (steam or gas-emitting holes) is expected to erupt sometime during the next ‘several hundred years.' While it would be cool to explore this multi-faceted hunk of rock by climbing to the top, let's explore the terrain that lies below the snow line, at the 5,000-foot (or so) level—you know, the part of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest that is amenable to dualsport riding… Download the map and GPS waypoints and get the rest of the story by Amy Holland in Friction Zone's August 2012 issue.
The Lake Tahoe Adventure Motorcycle Ride & Rendezvous has given MotoSFO and MAD Maps a free pass for two with lodging for a motorcyclist like you! Just write an essay between 300 and 500 words on how much fun you have getting your bike dirty! We want to know why, when they're polishing their bikes, you're riding yours through the gravel, mud, and dirt, or why you want to.
The Sierra Nevada is big. Bigger than the Swiss Alps or the Austrian Dolomites where you might be able to ride eight passes in one day, scathingly fun but one almost indistinguishable from the other. The roads in the Sierra Nevada are much longer and each road reveals a different aspect of the range's personality. While the Alps are stately and majestic, the Sierras are brash and wild, and Monitor Pass is the penultimate cherry on top of your day in the Sierra Nevada.
At Overland Expo this year I met Tad Haas and Gaila Gutierrez from Seattle, Washington, who chucked it all for a year and are in the early stages of Overland Now, a year-long journey through the Americas. They're in MotoSFO territory - the Sierras - which is really just opening for summer traffic in May.
There's something about the way Highway 120 rises above Lee Vining that immediately leaves an impression. It may be the backdrop of Yosemite, or it just may be the sheer immediacy of its rise into something we simply can't see from our vantage point. During our night's stay by Mono Lake we certainly had the next day's crossing over Tioga Pass on our minds.