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Cycling in the Motherlode



There are very good reasons why cyclists ride in the Motherlode and Sierras.

The winding, narrow, quiet roads are perfect for bike riding. The scenery is superb, ranging from High Sierra pine trees, to shady oak forests at lower elevations; from rolling meadows of grasses and wildflowers to wild rivers running through deep, steep canyons.

The Motherlode is steeped in the colorful history of California’s Gold Rush. Featured in this post is a 35 mile route starting in San Andreas and climbing Jesus Maria Road to Mountain Ranch. The ride passes through several Gold Rush towns offering cyclists a glimpse of the historic past of Mother Lode mining and settlement. In fact, one of the roads you’ll travel, Jesus Maria Road, was named after one of the original settlers, a Mexican farmer who supplied produce to local miners.

And best of all, several roads on this loop have recently been resurfaced, and the smoother surface and sometimes wider shoulders make road riding pure bliss.


A Hill Climbing Beast of a Ride!

Jesus Maria Road Hill Climb and Old Gulch Descent

36 Miles; 4,745 Elevation Gain; Jesus Maria Grade: 6.5%

This is one of the classic rides of the Motherlode, which takes in a legendary climb on the backcountry road, Jesus Maria.

This bike route is not for beginners. You will need a good level of fitness and a good attitude—including a fondness for climbing and descending—to enjoy this challenging bike ride.

Start and end your ride at the San Andreas Government Center. It’s a good staging area with ample parking and a public bathroom at the Calaveras County Library during business hours. Leave time to stop at the Red Barn Museum to enjoy their exhibits of agricultural history in the Mother Lode. After the ride there are several restaurants in San Andreas or only 8 miles north in Mokelumne Hill.

The first 10 miles of the route head north along Highway 49 to Highway 26. At the hilltop market in Mokelumne Hill, take a right on Highway 26 and ride about two miles to make a right on Jesus Maria Road.

This road has been used by cyclists for over 40 years and recently was resurfaced. The 12 mile road is uphill and views of Valley to the west and the Sierra to the east reward cyclists when they take a break from climbing.You’ll probably want those rest opportunities: the average grade is 6.5% and several 8-12% grades will make your legs burn. Strava segments range from 49 minutes to 90 minutes along this 12-mile epic hill climb.

The ride from the top of Jesus Maria Road ends at Rail Road Flat Road, where you’ll hang a right towards Mountain Ranch Road and the small community of Mountain Ranch. This historic town is a good place for a mid-break stop. Stop for a snack at Sender’s Market or Heart of Gold Cafe, and take a picnic to the county park where you can see the memorial to the victims and survivors of the Butte Fire that swept through this small community in 2015. Leaving Mountain Ranch, spin through town and cross Mountain Ranch Road to make a left onto Michel Road. You’ll pass through open ranch land on the ride to Old Gulch Road; they might remind you of many of best bike roads in Europe.

After about 2.7 miles, take a slight left onto Old Gulch Road. Old Gulch is not signed. It’s an unmarked Y; take the left arm of the Y If you find yourself at Michel Road and Mountain Ranch Road, turn around and go back to the Y!

Old Gulch Road was recently resurfaced, and the descent is heavenly. . At the bottom of Old Gulch Road, turn right onto Calaveritas Road to return to the San Andreas Government Center.

Location of San Andreas

More San Andreas Road and Gravel Bike Routes featured soon!

Jesus Maria and Old Gulch Loop

Calaveritas Road to Angels Camp

Calaveritas to Sheep Ranch and Murphy’s

Pool Station Road

Gold Strike

Mokelumne Hill to Jackson

Government Center Bike Trail

Gravel Road Routes

Hawyer Road to Jesus Maria

East Murray Creek Road


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