Search

Lower Bear River Back Country Ride (All Paved)

Pioneer, California

Bill Condrashoff, Foothill Cyclists


When the weather gets too warm to ride in the foothills, I like to head up to Lower Bear River Reservoir where the weather is usually perfect on those days. Drive about 2 miles on Bear River Road off of Hwy 88 down to the dam and park there.


I almost always ride to the south over the dam on South Bear River Road and either make a small scenic loop out of Cole Creek Road. Or take Spur 19 down to the really cool flume flowing water out of Salt Springs Reservoir. In the spring of a wet year, you can sometimes time it to see the water spill from Salt Springs Dam. The spillway is a natural rock surface and it is quite the sight to see on a hot spring day.


The Cole Creek Road loop takes less than an hour without stops. But there are some nice places you’ll want to stop and view the Mokulumne Canyon from above. The road is not perfect but there’s not too much to complain about. There are cows roaming in the area and you might run across a group of them. I just keep moving and make sure they know I’m coming. You never want to surprise one when you’re close to it.

SALT SPRINGS RESERVOIR


You’ll be able to see Salt Springs Reservoir in the canyon below. If you want to go down to the lake, make sure you have good working brakes on both wheels cuz you’re going to need them. You might even consider stopping to let your rims cool on the way down. Spur 19 will take you down to Salt Springs Reservoir Road. The descent is steep and there can be obstacles like rocks, logs and cow pies on the pavement. Its only one lane wide so remember you may encounter a car around one of the many turns. Be careful!


To get to the spillway and lake, turn left at the bottom of Spur 19. There is a sign there that will help you in case you’re not sure. The lake is an out and back and it will take a least an hour to get back to Spur 19. The flume is about 1⁄2 mile down the road on your way to the lake. As you get near the dam, keep a look out for the spillway on your right across the river. If it’s operating, you won’t miss it. It’s uphill to the top of the dam and it gets steep in a few spots.

If you are at all worried about making it out of the canyon under your own power, don’t do the out and back to the lake. Instead, you can just go to the flume and turn around or turn right at the bottom of Spur 19 and ride out on Ellis Road up to the Hwy. Whether you ride to the dam or not, I recommend taking Ellis Road up to Hwy 88. Spur 19 is very steep and unrelenting and it’s going to hurt you if you trying riding up it.


Ellis Road has a mostly even grade and it is a very long climb. You can enjoy that time watching the flume and river canyon slowly sink away from you. The bottom part of the ride up Ellis is exposed and allows for good viewing. However, because of the exposure, it will be hot down in the canyon when the sun is high. On hot days, I recommend only climbing out of the canyon in the morning or before sunset.


When you get back to Hwy 88, turn right and go a little over 1 mile back to Bear River Road and coast down to the dam where you parked. A small scenic add-on option is to continue on Hwy 88 about 1 mile to the view point overlooking Lower Bear River Reservoir. Be very careful on Hwy 88. The shoulders are minimal in a few sections.


An option I like to ride to save as much energy as possible for the climb out on Ellis is to short cut the Cole Creek Road part by taking Bear River Road direct to Spur 19 then to Ellis. That’s about a 20 mile loop with a lot of climbing. Allow 2-3 hours for this ride.










Upcountry Road Improvements in Calaveras County




On September 9, 2015, east of the California foothill town of Jackson in Amador County, a PG&E power line came into contact with brush and sparked flames that grew into a wildfire that jumped the Mokelumne River into Calaveras County. That fire, known as the Butte fire, eventually killed two people, destroyed nearly 1000 structures, and burned over 70,000 acres across two counties. The impacts to Calaveras citizens, economy, and landscape were devastating.


The Butte Fire caused significant damage to road segments above Highway 49 in Mountain Ranch, Sheep Ranch, Railroad Flat and along Jesus Maria Road. These small county roads are the life-lines for the tiny rural communities in the mountains, and Calaveras County Public Works is currently spending $14.6 million dollars to repair and repave at least 24 county road segments that are within the Butte Fire burn scar or were damaged by emergency access use.


The road repairs make bike riding in these upcountry communities more accessible and desirable. These upcountry roads have been popular with cyclists since the late 1970’s, but, poor road conditions have discouraged cycling tourism. The current road improvements will make Calaveras a go-to cycling destination for cyclist and bike tour companies.


San Andreas and Mokelumne Hill are centrally located at the base of upcountry hill climbs allowing avid cyclists access to the rolling foothills with hill climbs, descents, and of course, spectacular scenery. Traffic on upcountry roads is light, although cyclists should be cautious when riding.


Calaveras County Upcountry

Seven Routes, 200 miles of roads, 18,700 feet of climbing


San Andreas, Jesus Maria Road and Old Gulch Road (Loop)

Jesus Maria to Whiskey Slide to Mountain Ranch (Out and Back)

Calaveritas Road to Old Gulch Road(Out and Back)

Calaveritas, Fricot City Road to Rite of Passage School (Out and Back)

San Andreas, Hawver Road to Jesus Maria Gravel Ride

San Andreas, Pool Station Road (Out and Back)

San Andreas to Angels Camp and/or Murphy’s



Jesus Maria Road

http://bestrides.org/jesus-maria-road/



Please review this showcase area and tell us what you think!


Are these the popular bike routes you like to ride currently?

What bike destinations or routes would you like to visit/ride to in the future?

Do you have Safety concerns within any Showcase Area?

Do you have any ideas for supportive amenities (signage, repair services, bike racks, etc) that would encourage bike riding in the Showcase Areas?

Email comments to rob@calbike.org


The road improvements identified in the list below will be completed by fall of 2023, based on available funding.



Calaveras County: SR-4 Murphys - Arnold Corridor



Murphy’s Grade from Angels Camp


The segment of State Route (SR) 4 stretching from Murphys to Arnold offers access to multiple tourism destinations ranging from caverns to wine tasting rooms. This focus area has the opportunity to consider long term improvements to a state route that also serves as an alternative “main street” for these smaller communities, as well as identify potential side routes and paths for bicycle tourists who may be seeking quieter roadways. SR-4 already has a reputation among cyclists for scenery where it crosses Ebbetts Pass and links to Alpine County, and the focus area is also developing a positive reputation among local gravel and mountain bike enthusiasts


Sonora High School Mountain Bike Club


Please review your county’s showcase area and tell us what you think!


Are these the popular bike routes you like to ride currently?

What bike destinations or routes would you like to visit/ride to in the future?

Do you have Safety concerns within any Showcase Area?

Do you have any ideas for supportive amenities (signage, repair services, bike racks, etc) that would encourage bike riding in the Showcase Areas?



LOCAL RIDE SUGGESTIONS FROM DR. David Ritchie

https://motherlodebike.org/2020/06/04/calaveras-county-ride-list/