Monday, March 3, 2014

Touring the Sierra Nevadas on Motorcycle

motorcycle sonora pass
SR-108, Sonora Pass, June 2011
Some of the most amazing motorcycle riding in the United States lies in California, along the Sierra Nevada mountain range. 

Numerous state highways cross over the nearly 400 mile long range starting from SR-178 in the south to SR-36 in the north. In between there a number of highways that take you up over 9,000 feet elevation, including the very technical, single laned, Ebbetts Pass.

For the most part, you'll find smooth pavement along a number of highways, with sweeping curves, tight twisties, and gorgeous vistas that beckon you for panoramic shots.

My friend Larry and I took a 3-day weekend in June 2011 to ride several of these passes on our sport touring bikes. We started from the south in Temecula, CA and went as far north as Topaz Lake by the California/Nevada stateline.

Tent camping was the planned accommodations, with the first night in Mammoth Lakes off of US-395, and the second night at Dos Pedros Reservoir off of SR-49.

The route also included a tour along the Gold Country Highway (SR-49), into gold mining towns of Coulterville and Mariposa.  It takes a scenic bypass through the western foothills of the Sierra Nevadas past tiny towns of Bass Lake, North Fork, and Auberry, before dropping us into the San Joaquin Valley.

Then we made our way back up into the Sierra Nevadas, into Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park, before we finally finished the tour with a long trek back to home via freeways.

  • Day 1, Temecula to Mammoth Lakes
    • Temecula to Hesperia, I-15
    • Hesperia to Mojave, SR-138, SR-14
    • Mojave to Caliente, SR-58
    • Caliente to Kernville, Caliente Bodfish Rd
    • Kernville to Mammoth Lakes, SR-178, US-395, SR-203
  • Day 2, Mammoth Lakes to Jamestown
    • Mammoth Lakes to Topaz, SR-203, US-395
    • Topaz to Woodfords, SR-89
    • Woodfords to Jackson, SR-88
    • Jackson to Angels Camp, SR-49
    • Angels Camp to Topaz, SR-4, SR-89
    • Topaz to Jamestown, US-395, SR-108
  • Day 3, Jamestown to Temecula
    • Jamestown to Oakhurst, SR-49
    • Oakhurst to Bass Lake, SR-41, Bass Lake Rd
    • Bass Lake to North Fork, Bass Lake Rd, Malum Ridge Rd
    • North Fork to Kerkhoff Lake, Rd 222
    • Kerkhoff Lake to Auberry, Powerhouse Rd
    • Auberry to Sanger, Auberry Rd, SR-168, Academy Rd
    • Sanger to Kings Canyon National Park, SR-180
    • Kings Canyon National Park to Sequoia National Park, SR-180, SR-198
    • Sequoia National Park to Exeter, SR-198, SR-65
    • Exeter to Bakersfield, SR-65
    • Bakersfield to Santa Clarita, SR-99, I-5
    • Santa Clarita to Temecula, I-210, SR-57, SR-73, SR-60, I-215
Passes we crossed over:

caliente bodfish road
Day 1, Caliente Bodfish Road in Kern County is laden with oaks and gets very twisty.
kern river brewing company
Day 1, Me and Larry at Kern River Brewing Company, Kernville, CA
Lake Isabella
Day 1, Lake Isabella along Sierra Way
shady rest campground mammoth
Day 1, Camping at Shady Rest, Mammoth Lakes, CA
slocums grill bar
Day 1, Relaxing with a beer at Slocum's Grill & Bar, Mammoth Lakes
us-395 motorcycles
Day 2, Larry following behind along US-395 north of Mammoth Lakes
monitor pass
Day 2, Monitor Pass, SR-89, east of Topaz Lake
carson pass highway 89
Day 2, heading up Carson Pass, SR-89
highway 4 california
Day 2, Larry leading the way up SR-4 towards Ebbetts Pass

ebbetts pass
Day 2, Ebbetts Pass, SR-4, a single lane serves both directions of traffic, and gets very twisty.
sonora pass california
Day 2, SR-108, Sonora Pass, one of the most beautiful vistas along the Sierra Nevada highways.
highway 108 california
Day 2, along SR-108 west of Sonora Pass
camping don pedro reservoir
Day 2, Larry and I putting up our tents at Don Pedro Reservoir, just south of Jamestown, CA
willow steakhouse saloon jamestown
Day 2, relaxing with a beer at Willow Steakhouse Saloon, Jamestown, CA
kings canyon national park motorcycle
Day 3, SR-180 through Kings Canyon National Park.
kings river kings canyon
Day 3, Larry sucking down a beer along Kings River in Kings Canyon National Park
sequoia national park highway 198
Day 3, SR-198 through Sequoia National Park


  1. Great post and pictures... I will have to add this to the bucket list...

  2. Just curious, I noticed that there is deep snow in a couple of those photos. How can you be confident that there isn't ice or slush on the road? Stunning scenery!

    1. @The Peanut, the State will close down a road if there's enough ice on it. Otherwise, if it's open, you can pretty much count on it being clear. Sherman Pass Road however, which I'm keeping for a future article, is an exception.

    2. Ah I see. I live in Canada so there's no guarantee of clear roads anywhere between November and April. Here's hoping for spring!

  3. Fantastic photos Steve. Would have loved to ride on these roads, looks like they'll have to go on my bucket list.
    The scenery is stunning.

  4. Steve, this looks like a fun trip...the photos were great. Almost makes me wish I lived in California. I really enjoy reading about your adventures!


    Live Free. Ride Hard. Be Happy

  5. Now those roads look like a lot of twisty fun. And just a days ride away too. Very nice.

  6. Really nice photos of the area. One of the nicest areas in CA. I used to ski and hike all over the area. Thanks for bringing back pleasant memories.

  7. The pictures are outstanding. California has many great roads to ride and I will have get over there to try some of these that I haven't been on yet..

  8. You will love Sherman Pass. We do it several times a year. It is a great ride when it is 110in the valley.


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)