Updated: Sep 18, 2022
One of my long-time pet peeves is riding past a road for years on end, and never knowing about it. This problem has gotten better through the years as our available technology has improved. Years ago we didn't have handy planning tools like satellite imaging of roads and Google Street View, which I use copiously. Despite all that, twenty years just went by. Twenty! And I've been missing this one road all this time.
But I still love the low-tech hunt. It wasn't until I was conducting a grid square by grid square search of the state using the most detailed paper maps available while planning a ride across Northern California did I stumble on to this short little squiggly line. It was solid denoting it was paved. That's paved? What is that? Pulling up satellite imaging of the road a few seconds later, sure enough, pavement. Never would have guessed. Never would have even noticed it. And to make it worse, this short spur is along one of Northern California's most beloved motorcycle roads.
How many times have we stopped at the top of the South Fork Mountain Summit along Hwy 36? How many times have I ridden right past this little gem. Twenty plus years is the answer, and that's why this website exists. Because if I don't tell you about this, you're going to ride past this for the next twenty years on top of my twenty years and not know about it. Forty cumulative years in the dark? We can't let that happen, now, can we?!
“Because if I don't tell you about this, you're going to ride past this for the next twenty years on top of my twenty years and not know about it. Forty cumulative years in the dark? We can't let that happen, now can we?!”
NF 23 is a paved fire road that extends 6.5 miles south to an open saddle, presenting a wondrous view of the Ruth Valley below. Elevation extends to 6000 feet and a recent wildfire has razed an opening into the forest providing an unhindered view that stretches for miles across the ridge lines that make up this region of Northern California. There is an even higher viewpoint five miles ahead by continuing up NF23, but it's a gravel road for here.
At the South Fork Mountain Summit along Hwy 36, you can find the marked NF 23 on the south side of the road adjacent to the viewpoint. I wonder where this goes? We need that curiosity.
The ride is one-lane but considering the remoteness and lack of use, the pavement is in decent shape. A thin layer of chip seal that's been pounded down is all there is, but it's enough to provide a paved road generally cut right up the ridgeline. Halfway up are some wonderful views eastward. Seeing the region from this new vantage point makes you truly appreciate local motorcyclists love for Hwy 36 which is the road you are overlooking from this vantage point.