Circle the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range

Updated: Aug 27, 2018

Come ride on a Pashnit Motorcycle Tour.


When was the last time you got on the bike and just left?


No plan, no direction. Just a couple bucks for gas money and a block of time to do nothing but just ride. You remember it as glorious! Rolling through wide open countryside, with nearby mountain peaks offering endless curves to fill the day. It was relaxing, carefree and just the medicine you needed. You rode off into the horizon to decompress, decommission, and it delivered.


That was one of the best rides you ever did.


How long ago was that? 5 years? A decade?


Remember what you said?

You swore you'd do it again first chance you got.

But then life got in the way, schedules, deadlines, expectations, someone to answer to. Progress reports, TPS Reports, The Boss. What have you done for me lately? What are you going to do for me tomorrow? What are your projections for what you're going to accomplish in the next quarter, next month, next cycle?


Ready to leave all that behind?


We too. And we've got just the thing.


“You swore you'd do it again first chance you got.”

Ready to leave all that behind? Ready to get back to Glorious? We too. And we've got just the thing. Circle Sierra reaches out and gives the Sierra Nevada mountain range a generous hug, taking in the very best roads and some new ones we have not done before. Open desert, mountain passes, views that stretch for miles and to top it off, we'll head into the bowels of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. It's the ride you've been longing for. The escape you've been dreaming of.


Leave TPS Reports behind and come ride with us, feel the open road, the endless road, the majesty, the camaraderie of friends who share The Love of The Ride as much as you do.


"no traffic, no people, no bosses, no expectations"

This ride starts in the Sierra Nevada Foothills and rides up and over the Sierra Nevada Range falling off into the wide-open spaces of the Eastern Sierra. There is no traffic, no people, no bosses, no expectations, just endless scenery.


The group meets in Angels Camp and rolls up and over Ebbetts Pass and Monitor Pass, then along Mono Lake. It’s a taste of open high desert, wide open spaces and wide-open road.

Sagehen Summit. 8139 ft.


It doesn't sound all that impressive. Sagehen? Never heard of it. We know it better as the Benton-Crossing loop. It's remote, deserted, and fantastic! A picture-perfect image of the eastern Sierra high desert. With elevations averaging above 6000 ft, a treeless landscape of sagebrush, salt plains and jagged peaks draw the scenery with a paintbrush across the horizon. And the whoops... Bonus! To finish it off - a view of Mono Lake.


...White Mountains


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 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 past 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 we're going to ride to the top, making our way up to the 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 high into the White Mountains and once you roll past an elevation sign of 10,000 feet and we're still headed up - you've truly made it to the roof of the Sierra Nevada.

3000 Years Ago

And the top? A Bristlecone Pine Forest - 3000-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 some of oldest living organisms in the world, with lifespans of nearly 5,000 years.

Ever heard the term Spider Roads? Decidedly Pashnit? Whitney Portal Rd is one such road, a dead end that detours off the main route like the legs of a spider.


MT Whitney is the highest peak in the Lower 48. As we ride partway up to the staging area, the valley floor drops away and it feels like we’re headed straight up the mountain side. Feels that way because we are, switch-backing up the side of the mountain climbing rapidly. The view is amazing. But this one’s a dead end and we’ll need to back track to get up and over the Sierra Nevada and over to Lake Isabella.


Bella's Lake

On the east edge of Lake Isabella is one of most unknown but most amazing roads in all the Sierra Nevada range. Previous tour groups have marveled at the twists and swoops and the lack of opposing traffic. One of our all-time favorites, it will require a pause at the summit to catch our breath before we drop into Bodfish.

Just south of Bodfish is what looks like a cattle ranch road, complete with gate and cattle guards. This is Breckenridge Rd and our road is visible in the distance weaving straight up the edges of the mountain range in front of us, it’s narrow bumpy, sandy and fit only for goats. But it’s paved for the duration and leads up to a fire lookout and appropriately, cattle. Lots of them.


Breckenridge Road

It’s become a favorite on the Southern Sierra tour but we never ride the full length of Breckenridge, today we get to immerse ourselves in this remote mountain range as our route pushes up and over Breckenridge Mountain and drops us back into the Central Valley. The only activity up here is a cattle ranch and road names like Cow Flat Rd. Seems appropriate.

Breckenridge Rd is a deserted ranch road that widens, twists and narrows with impunity. Bumpy, sandy, the usual goat trail attributes are always possible and the dirtiness of the road is cyclic with the seasons. With elevations approaching the 7544 ft at the crest of Breckenridge Mountain, get ready for a dramatic change in terrain and vegetation.

Breckenridge Road takes on a meandering cut through the rolling hills, always climbing in elevation. The road is what you would expect, paved, bumpy, but sometimes smooth and a competent rider on the right bike will maintain a brisk pace through the smooth corners. Endlessly twisty, it commands your ful attention and delivers a raucous fun ride descending back into the Central Valley and Bakersfield.


Unknown Road

So here's the juice on Kern County. But, answer this one question first... Why is it worth noting that it's possible to ride 200 miles of twisty road, but not come in contact with a single gas station? Is this Nevada, Montana, the western desert? No, not at all. It's worth mentioning because in a state that boasts 38 million residents, that's the very last thing that should be possible. Where are all those millions? Not here. There are no people. There are no towns of significance, this region is just plain remote. It means little other traffic, people. And the plan is to head into the heart of this remote region. This is a unique corner of California that few motorcyclists know exist. It's a playground. And oh how we like our playgrounds.


Several years ago, I got lost. Ever been out riding and had no idea where you were? Where the road goes, or even how long it'll go for? My ride went something like this: It was one of those "Wonder where this goes sort of days." Or rather the road is paved, so far... don't want to go back. I've got a full tank of gas, I have a general idea of where I am and haven't lost my sense of direction. At least not yet. All that and a motorcycle.


Portuguese Pass


The day I rolled into Sugarloaf Mountain Park, it wasn’t even on my map. The road became narrow, then narrower until it was single lane, but paved. At the summit was Portuguese Pass, and I stumbled onto the much-vaunted Forest Rd 23S16.

We are on one of the most unknown paved roads in all the state of California riding atop the spine of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It's narrow, sandy, bumpy and requires your full attention. Yet the road has its share of surprises and opens up into broad mountain meadows and a brilliant sight envelopes the senses. Staring straight down into the Kern River Valley a thousand feet below, the ride is a delight to the senses.

It’s then time to check out giant sequoias as the Trail of a 100 Giants comes into view. Giant Sequoia’s if you’ve never seen one defy the senses. Enormous, these trees can live for thousands of years growing bark a foot thick. One of them in this grove recently toppled over a few years ago and we can climb atop it marveling at the massive roots and attempting to take in the sheer size. Tree hugging is perfectly okay in this place.


Twistiest Road in all the State


The Sierra Vista Highway has a self-explanatory title, and clue as to what’s in store. A smooth relaxed ride leads into one of the twistiest stretches of mountain road in the state as we drop out of the Giant Sequoia National Monument onto Hwy 190 into Springville. Due north is Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon.


Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Park


Climbing up from Three Rivers in the valley below, Morro Rock comes into view and makes for the perfect destination. Standing atop this 6500 ft tall granite dome and staring into the valley below is an experience one has to taste in person. All that space. It's worth the steep climb up and back, no other view is quite like this.


Kings Canyon National Park eludes to what's in store with the title. Descending 5000 feet into a narrow river canyon on a road cut into sheer granite walls. This isn't the Bolivian Death Road, but it could be a distant cousin. Switchbacks flow into the deep valley while road cuts carve directly into the granite walls of the canyon. Mountain Peaks frame the scene until we reach a rushing mountain stream and Boyden Cave.


Join us for our Circle Sierra Pashnit Motorcycle Tour, experience the Sierra Nevada Mountains in a different way, ride our favorite mountain pass, experience the high desert then the 10,000- foot heights of the White Mountains. Top is off with two of our favorite National Parks sitting right in our backyard. Sign up and join us Labor Day Weekend.


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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 2021, Tim has been designing & leading professional motorcycle tours across California, Oregon & Nevada for 18 years.
Learn more about riding with Tim on a  
Pashnit Motorcycle Tour in 2021.

 

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