Motorcycle Routes from Northern California

There’s a huge choice of motorcycle routes to get to Carson Valley, Nevada. Twisty, scenic backroads lead here from most of the major population centers in the West. Wherever you are, there’s probably a great ride that will get you here.

Here are some of our suggested rides from the Bay Area and Northern California.

Motorcycle Routes from the San Francisco Bay Area

Carson Pass, State Route 88

One of our favorite motorcycle rides from the Bay Area is California State Route 88. This route crosses the Sierra Nevada at Carson Pass at 8,574 feet (2,613 meters) above sea level. Carson Pass is one of the more dramatic trans-Sierra passes, has relatively light traffic, and is mostly open year-round. It closely follows the Emigrant Trail used by overland wagon trains headed for California beginning in 1848. More than 250,000 people crossed over the Sierra Crest between 1848 and 1869, when the Transcontinental Railroad opened. The new cross-country train trip only took seven days and cost about $69. The earlier journey, typically walking alongside a covered wagon loaded with a family’s household goods, took about six months.

The Carson Pass route offers spectacular views of several High Sierra lakes, volcanic rock formations near Kirkwood Ski Resort, and the rugged terrain around the Silver Fork of the American River and the North Fork of the Mokolumne River. State Route 88 begins at State Route 99 in Stockton, California and ends right near our headquarters in Minden, Nevada.

State Route 88 on Google Maps

View of Red Lake from just off State Route 88, at Carson Pass. One of the best motorcycle routes in the Sierra Nevada.

View of Red Lake from just off State Route 88, at Carson Pass.

 

Ebbetts Pass

State Route 4 over Ebbetts Pass is one of the most beautiful motorcycle routes in the Sierra Nevada. It is also one of the least traveled of all the trans-Sierra passes. The road climbs to 8,736 feet (2,663 meters) above sea level. Pick up the Ebbetts Pass route in Copperopolis, California and ride it 113 miles to our headquarters in Minden, Nevada. The Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway will make up 61 miles of your ride. The road was originally surveyed in the 1850s as a potential crossing for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad Company. It became a booming toll route in 1861 filled with silver miners headed eastward for the Comstock Lode in Virginia City, Nevada. Today the highway is still raw and rugged, at times too narrow to support a painted center stripe. For more watch our Ebbetts Pass video, and see the Ebbetts Pass Scenic Byway Association at scenic4.org.

Ebbetts Pass Route on Google Maps

Ebbetts Pass, California State Route 4. A great motorcycle route over the Sierra Nevada

Ebbetts Pass, California State Route 4 over the Sierra Nevada

 

Donner Pass

Most of the traffic over Donner Pass is on Interstate 80, one of the main east-west highways in the US. Although it has some great Sierra Nevada views, it would not be our first choice of roads. But some of the best motorcycling in the area is right nearby, on old US 40, another beautiful and historic road.

In 1844, the Stevens-Townsend-Murphy Party crossed the Sierra near what would later be known as Donner Pass, becoming the first group to bring wagons over the mountains. The party was led by Elisha Stephens who eventually settled near what is now Cupertino, California. Stevens Creek, and by extension Stevens Creek Boulevard, are named for him, although with some creative spelling along the way. Another leader of the group, Dr. John Townsend, also settled in the Bay Area. He was the first licensed physician in California, and served as Alcalde of San Francisco. Townsend Street, adjacent to the train station in San Francisco, is named for him.

From the west, access the old Donner Pass route via Hampshire Rocks Road at Cisco Grove, just off Interstate 80. The road ends near Donner Lake, in Truckee, California.

Old Donner Pass Route on Google Maps

Motorcycle riders on old Donner Pass highway, above Donner Lake. One of the best motorcycle routes in the Sierra Nevada.

Motorcycle riders on old Donner Pass highway, above Donner Lake.

 

Echo Summit, US 50

Driving US 50 over Echo Summit is the most popular way to get to the south shore of Lake Tahoe. It’s a beautiful road with some very dramatic views. On summer weekends, particularly on Fridays, it is often choked with cars and RVs headed for the mountains to escape the city life of the Bay Area or the heat of the Central Valley. If you can get away another time, this can be a very pleasant motorcycle route.

US 50 begins just west of Sacramento at Interstate 80. It ends more than 3,000 miles to the east in Ocean City, Maryland, on the Atlantic Ocean. The portion of US 50 that crosses Nevada is most famous as “The Loneliest Road in America.” If you are headed to or from Carson Valley across the Great Basin, this is an excellent motorcycle route. The road closely follows the route of the Pony Express that carried the mail between California and Missouri from April, 1860 to October, 1861. Genoa, on the western edge of Carson Valley, was the site of Station 165 of the 184 Pony Express stations along the 1,900-mile route. Woodford Station, in Woodfords, California, just to the south of Carson Valley, was Station 167.

Our preferred US 50 motorcycle route crosses the Sierra Nevada at Echo Summit (7,382 feet; 2,250 meters), then detours on State Route 89 over Luther Pass (7,740 feet; 2,359 meters) to avoid the thickest Lake Tahoe traffic.

US 50 and State Route 89 on Google Maps

Luther Pass is a great way to avoid Lake Tahoe traffic congestion on a US 50 motorcycle route.

A quick break on a motorcycle ride over Luther Pass, on State Route 89.

 

Great Motorcycle Event, Lower Prices

After our inaugural motorcycle event at Lake Tahoe in 2012 we got lots of great feedback. Suggestions and ideas for improvement came in from motorcyclists who came up to the mountains to ride with us. And from riders who were not able to attend. One of the recurring themes of that feedback was, “Great motorcycle event, needs lower prices.” You spoke; we listened. And we’re hard at work to make the 2013 Carson / Tahoe Adventure Moto another great motorcycle event, with lower prices.

Carson Valley / Lake Tahoe Adventure Motorcycle Ride. A great Nevada motorcycle event, with lower prices.

A great motorcycle event, with lower prices. In Carson Valley, Nevada.

 

We started by lowering the four-day registration fee to $225. Then we added in a pretty significant discount schedule to make it easy for you to decide to ride with us. That means you can save as much as $80 off the full four-day registration fee. Our 2013 motorcycle event is August 22-25. And we want to make it easy for you to plan your summer riding early. So we’re offering the biggest discounts for the earliest reservations. Here’s how it works:

  • Register by May 18, pay $145, save $80.
  • Register by June 11, pay $165, save $60.
  • Register by July 9, pay $185, save $40.
  • Register by August 6, pay $205, save $20.

Your four-day registration fee includes our welcome reception Thursday afternoon, the Friday night dinner, all the educational seminars, post-ride beer-and-bullshit sessions (free beer!), morning pre-ride coffee and donuts, ride route maps, admission to the vendor display area, and a souvenir motorcycle event t-shirt and sticker.

Want to bring along a pillion rider? Easy; that’s just $99 for another person for everything above, including another t-shirt.

Can’t be here for the entire motorcycle event? How about a day pass for Friday or for Saturday at just $95?

It gets even better. Our new location in Carson Valley means we can offer you really nice accommodations at really nice rates. And you can get your Carson / Tahoe Motorcycle Event tickets and book your hotel room right from our registration system.

Remember, you’ll get the biggest discount by booking as early as possible. So do it now and c’mon up and ride with us.

 

 

We’re Now the Carson Valley / Lake Tahoe Adventure Moto

Yup, we have a new name. We’re now the Carson Valley / Lake Tahoe Adventure Moto. You knew us last year as the Lake Tahoe Adventure Motorcycle Ride & Rendezvous. That’s a mouthful. We think the new name is better.

And we think the new location is great. We’ve moved the headquarters for our event from Lake Tahoe to the Carson Valley, just a few miles away. But we haven’t turned our back on the lake, so we kept that in our name. If you’ve ridden up twisty Kingsbury Grade from Stateline, Nevada, and admired the view when you got to the top at Daggett Pass, then you are already familiar with the Carson Valley.

 

Welcome to the Carson Valley / Lake Tahoe Adventure Motorcycle Ride

Welcome to Carson Valley, Nevada

 

Why did we move? And how will this change the event? We love Lake Tahoe; it’s beautiful. The “Jewel of the Sierra” as Mark Twain is often quoted as saying, but didn’t, actually. And like Mr. Twain’s not-quite-a-quote, the truth about motorcycling at Lake Tahoe reveals itself to those who look for it. The best motorcycle riding at Lake Tahoe isn’t actually at Lake Tahoe. We know that because we live here. And we ride here, a lot.

The best motorcycle riding around these parts is on the hundreds—thousands, really—of miles of fantastic, twisty, scenic, uncongested roads in the mountains and valleys all around Lake Tahoe. On summer weekends the roads right at the lake are more likely to be jammed with rented motorhomes driving 15 miles an hour under the speed limit and struggling to stay within the lane lines. Riding a motorcycle with that sort of traffic is not a lot of fun. That’s the sort of local information you would expect to get from a friend who knows the area. And that’s what we want to share with you.

Our favorite rides head up into the Sierra Nevada and out into the Great Basin. Big wide-open skies, dramatic scenery, great roads, and not a lot of tourists. We shared a lot of those routes with you last year. We’ll have more again this year. And our new location means you’ll actually be closer to those routes. About a half-hour closer, in fact. So that means an extra hour of great riding each day. And a lot less time looking at the back bumpers of motorhomes.

Our friends at the Carson Valley Visitors Authority have helped us out a lot. We’ve got some great hotel options, with a lot more attractive room rates than we could find up at the lake. If you want to camp, there are lots of great choices right nearby.

So come on up and ride with us, August 22-25, 2013, from our great new location in the beautiful Carson Valley. Head over to our registration page and book both your event tickets and your accommodations in one place. We’ll show you some of our favorite roads.

 

Chasing Spring in the High Sierra

It’s spring here in the High Sierra. The mountain passes are beginning to open up after their annual winter weather closures.

Monitor Pass (State Route 89) opened on April 10. Sonora Pass (State Route 108) opened on April 24 and Ebbetts Pass (State Route 4) opened up on April 25. Tioga Pass (State route 120) usually opens much later in the year and is still closed for the winter as of today, May 7, 2013. Actually, Monitor, Sonora, and Ebbetts passes are all temporarily closed at the moment as a late-spring snow storm is blowing through the mountains. Weather up here is a bit more dramatic than it is down in the flatlands. We like it that way.

 

Motorcycle riding on Monitor Pass in the Sierra Nevada

Motorcycle riding on Monitor Pass in the Sierra Nevada

 

If you haven’t had the chance to spend much time in the Sierra, you might be wondering what these mountain pass closures are all about. These are public roads, right? Shouldn’t they be open any time you want to use them?

That would be great. But the mountains, and the weather, have their own way of doing things. The Sierra Nevada has some of the most dramatic and severe winter weather on earth. The deepest snowfall ever measured in North America was at Tamarack in the central Sierra. In March of 1911 the snow on the ground there was 451 inches deep. That’s more than 37 feet, or 11.45 meters. The winter of 1906-1907 brought 884 inches (73.67 feet, 22.45 meters) of total snowfall, according to wunderground.com. Tamarack is just off State Route 4 on the Ebbetts Pass ride.

The Sierra Nevada stretches about 400 miles north to south and divides the Central Valley in California from the Great Basin of Nevada and Utah. The mountains are higher on their southern end than in the north. Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the contiguous US at 14,505 feet (4,421 meters), is about 180 miles south-southeast of Lake Tahoe. The lowest point in North America is at Badwater Basin, in Death Valley National Park, just 85 miles from Mount Whitney. This is a land of extremes.

In that 400-mile length of rugged mountains, only 12 paved roads cross the Sierra crest. Eight of those passes are above 7,000 feet and periodically closed by winter weather. In one stretch of 120 miles on the southern end of the range no paved roads cross the mountains at all.

So how do those of us who live in the Eastern Sierra get our stuff delivered in the winter? Caltrans, the California Department of Transportation, attempts to keep some of those passes open year-round. Interstate 80 at Donner Pass, US 50 at Echo Summit, and State Route 88 at Carson Pass are open most of the time. During a winter storm the roads may be temporarily closed due to heavy snowfall. And shortly after a storm they might stay closed while Caltrans uses explosives and heavy equipment for avalanche control. When you ride over Carson Pass look east for the howitzer mounted at Red Lake and aimed up toward the highway. There’s another one visible from US 50, just below Echo summit. Yes, the state fires artillery shells so we can drive over the mountains. Pretty cool, no?

Caltrans even publishes the dates the seasonal passes open and close. But one of their coolest tools is the QuickMap, an interactive map showing live data from highways around the state. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this to know when all the passes are open.  And you can use it to help figure out the best route to come on up and ride with us. Our 2013 event is August 22-25. Have you got your tickets yet?