Cycling in the Lost Sierra | The long, lonely road to nowhere

Starting up the climb on a biker’s dream of a road.

One of my favorite places to spin my bike wheels is the Sierra Valley. It’s a vast expanse of big-sky ranch lands surrounded by mountain peaks that unfold before you just 25 miles north of Truckee in Sierraville. The valley is laced with lightly traveled roads, passing by old barns and marshy areas filled with a cornucopia of birds including sandhill cranes, yellow-winged blackbirds and a steady supply of hawks.

Along the route I found views
of snow-capped mountains, craggy volcanic outcroppings and endless expanses of
rangeland dotted with cattle.

I’ve ridden a number of great routes in the valley, but last fall tried a new one. It takes off from the northwestern edge of the valley in Beckwourth, just down the road a piece from Portola, and it combines a beautifully paved road and little traffic – a biker’s dream.

EXPLORE more of Tim’s favorite rides in the Sierra Valley:
The Valley Loop, Frenchman’s Lake & Gold Lake Loop

Beckwourth Genesee Road travels past a few campgrounds and several off-the-grid residences tucked among the trees, but it’s a recently repaved road with a wide bike lane that travels mostly through forest and ranch land on its way to pretty much nowhere.

Along the route I found views of snow-capped mountains, craggy volcanic outcroppings and endless expanses of rangeland dotted with cattle. But the most exciting part of the ride for me was the fauna. I passed at least a half dozen low-flying hawks, a mountain bluebird and a few snakes slithering across the road. (They must have been aghast to encounter a human on their sunning grounds.) There were also deer aplenty and — the pièce de résistance — a bobcat. As I struggled up the long uphill, the bobcat crossed the road in front of me, then scampered into the woods long enough for me to get a good look. But not long enough for me to get off my bike and snap a picture.

Sally Peak on a ridgeline to the west of the Beckwourth Genessee Road.

Did you notice I snuck the word climb in there in the midst of all that bobcat talk? Yes, there is a good climb on this ride. It’s several miles long and ascends about 1,000 feet from the valley to a highpoint at just under 6,000 feet. From there you get several miles of gentle downhills, followed by a small climb, before a steep drop into some wide-open ranch country that will make the lightly populated Sierra Valley seem like a busy metropolis. My turn-around point was at the junction with Crocker Mountain Road, where Beckwourth Genesee Road turns to dirt. Crocker Mountain Road is also paved at the start, but I didn’t ride it to find out how far the hard surface would last. Eventually it becomes Primary Forest Route 70, which ends in Milford near Honey Lake — a long ways away.

If you’ve been keeping track, you know the ride back includes a good climb, followed by rolling terrain and then a lovely descent back to Sierra Valley. It’s always nice to have a ride end with a downhill. I rode 33 miles by starting about 5 miles south on Beckwourth on County Road A-23. Looking for a shorter route? Start at the beginning of the Beckwourth Genesee Road in downtown Beckwourth to lop off 10 miles or so.

Looking for a longer ride? Start in Sierraville, which will eliminate about 30 miles of driving, and bring the riding total to a hefty 60-plus miles — with most likely a good headwind coming back. But it’s an awesome ride.