Northern California

El Dorado County, California

Sutter-Ione Rd

RIDE IT on a PASHNIT TOUR

15 Miles - Length
El Dorado - COUNTY

 Smooth two-lane- PAVEMENT
CA Foothills, sharp, sudden, banked, - CURVES

El Dorado Hills, Pilot Hill, Georgetown - GAS

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Quick Ride: Quick blast of a quintessential Foothill road, curvaceous, fast, fun, and likely deserted. Build this one into the day's ride, or make it a leg in your route up through the Sierra Foothills.

Holy Grail Triad - Part I

Ever stumble onto a local road and it quickly becomes a personal favorite?

Sutter-Ione Rd is found along Highway 124 north of Ione and south of Plymouth, and as the name implies, it connects the small foothill towns of Ione with Sutter Creek with Ione, known best for the historic Preston Castle, aka Preston School of Industry. Dating to 1890, Preston Castle was a reform school for young boys and was active until 1960. Merle Haggard, the country-western singer was a guest. Sutter-Ione Road heading up hill to Sutter Creek is one of these rides you will want to turn around and ride it again the opposite way. It's short, at just under 7 miles.

Combined with Willow Creek Road (1-mile north), it has become one of my all-time favorite short rides in the entire state.  20 minutes at a brisk pace, this back road is usually deserted and has some very fast corners, some headed up, some headed down.  The elevation is pure foothills as you leave the Central Valley behind and head up towards the crest of the Sierra. Highway 49 is the main artery this road makes for; these roads are tracing the original path of gold seekers as they poured into the foothills 170 years ago.

North of Ione, make the turn onto the well-marked Sutter-Ione Rd and begin the ascent. The ride starts out with several fun sweepers along Jackass Creek, then past Goffinet Reservoir at Paine Road. Paine Road connects to two other dual sport roads for the adventure riders that love the ranch roads. Paine Road is paved here but not for long. It connects north to Tonzi Road

Tonzi Rd incidentally is worth mentioning as a single lane paved ranch road starting at Willow Creek Rd, cross Hwy 124, and running parallel to Sutter Ione Rd all the way to the Hwy 49 bypass. If you like one-lane roads, Tonzi Rd is for you.  It is so narrow in some portions; it resembles a bike path rather than a paved county road. Pavement is so poor in some stretches; you may rattle a few teeth loose.

 

The short stretch of Hwy 124 to the Paine Rd intersection is not paved. Bumpy in parts, bring the suspension travel. Varia Ranch Road does continue northeast to Drytown, but is a dirt ranch road for the duration.

Beyond the Paine Rd junction, Sutter-Ione Rd heads up hill.  Then downhill.  Then uphill.  Very fun stuff.  Road conditions can be bumpy but generally are excellent with a center line.  Wide smooth pavement and minimal traffic. 

Sutter-Ione Rd is the northern-most part of the Holy Grail Triad: Stony Creek Road & Pool Station Road are nearby roads strikingly similar and found at similar elevation. These short rides have no switchbacks or hairpin corners.  This is pavement that gradually heads up hill.  This recipe can create the perfect curvaceous ride.  Forget about canyon riding.  You aren't high enough into the mountains yet.  Instead these three roads snake and twist across the land adhering to its natural shape.  Nature itself created these roads.

Do you ever get that feeling when everything is working in perfect harmony?  All your reflexes are right there- you're at the top of your game- you can feel every bump in the road, anticipate your next move- you've got your line all picked out.  You and the bike become seamless.  It all falls together.  Just you and the bike.  It doesn't matter what the road throws at you- you're at the ready.  Brake, accelerate, shift, lean, repeat 

Sutter-Ione Rd hits the Hwy 49 bypass at the top of the hill, a newly constructed mini-freeway that allows quick travel around the small gold rush towns of Amador City and Sutter Creek. In the olden days, i.e. about 10 years ago, Hwy 49 connected each of these small towns and provided ample tourism dollars. Each is still worth the visit. While CalTrans was building this bypass, the 2006 recession hit and CalTrans ran out of money and work halted. The road sat unfinished for several years before the local economy began to recover in 2009 and the bypass was completed. A decade later you’ll wonder how we ever lived without this quick shunt around the small towns.

Sutter Creek is small gold rush town of about 2500 residents with a gorgeous downtown lined by 2nd story covered porches. Initially known for ample placer gold being pulled from area creeks, rivers, and ravines. In 1851, quartz rock was discovered with gold trapped within, and the hard-rock mining boom started. Shafts were sunk into the ground reaching the 2300 ft mark by 1932. Gold mining was the center-piece of the local economy for many years. Hard-rock mining lasted all the way until WWII when gold was declared non-essential to the war effort and mining stopped, then briefly resumed after the war and permanently ended in 1951.

In Sutter Creek, Volcano is due east and three different roads run up to it. The northern most road- Shake Ridge Road, has the better pavement, and more traffic.  The Chaw-se Indian Grinding Rocks State Historic Park is right outside of Volcano.

East to West:  If you're headed downhill on Sutter Ione Road, you'll have to locate Spanish Street on the north side of Sutter Creek. 

 

Southbound, you can ride to Ione, and take Buena Vista Road out of town, across Highway 88, and several uneventful miles to Stony Creek Road on the north side of the Pardee Reservoir.  Stony Creek Rd is Holy Grail Part II.

When you hit Jackson, a few feet away to the south will be Clinton Road.  I've mentioned Pool Station Road, that's Holy Grail Part III.  That's several miles away down Hwy 49 in San Andreas. Ride all three.

 

Sutter-Ione Rd - Photo Gallery

MORE INFO: Sutter-Ione Rd

RIDE IT on a PASHNIT TOUR
6.5 Miles - LENGTH


Very good, can be patched & bumpy - PAVEMENT
 Quite a few - CURVES

 Ione Sutter Creek, Plymouth - GAS

Sutter Creek - LODGING

 1188 ft- PEAK ELEVATION
 


GPS LOCATION
38°23′35″N 120°48′09″W - Sutter Creek
8°21′10″N 120°55′58″W - Ione

LISTED CONNECTING SIDEROADS:
Paine Rd (mostly paved)
 

RELATED INFO:
Preston Castle - Preston School of Industry

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About Pashnit:

Tim Mayhew has devoted nearly 30 years to photographing and writing about California roads. His tireless efforts on the California Motorcycle Roads web site have spread across the globe becoming the encyclopedic guidebook for motorcycle travel in California. As of 2020, Tim has been designing & leading professional motorcycle tours across California, Oregon & Nevada for the last 17 years.
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