Touring - San Francisco to Lake Tahoe
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I am looking for my next tour.
Since I live in San Francisco, and have been both north and south on the coast, I thought that a run east might be a good idea. The plan would be to ride from San Francisco (Vallejo, actually) to Lake Tahoe, or thereabouts. I have the Adventure Cycling Western Express maps that contains a route from SF to near Lake Tahoe (Carson City) that parallels Highway 50.
Has anyone done this ride? If so, what advise might you have for me.
I would like do this trip in September.
07-25-06, 07:26 PM
I know of no route on or near Highway 50. What's more, they used to allow bicycles on Highway 50 but most of it is freeway or near freeway now. You could probably ride from Hangtown but you wouldn't enjoy it especially on those damned cliff overhangs where the cars have inches to spare and are traveling at 80 mph.
There's the bike path that parallels 80 over the hill. At the far end of that road you have to slip your bike under the fence and usually you'd have to take all your stuff off to do that and then repack on the other side. I'm not sure why they didn't put a bike gate in there.
Then work your way across the flats to Davis where you can take your first break.
Ride from Davis to Ione via 104.
Ione to Sutter Creek and the backroad (Ridge Rd?) to Volcano. Then up Rams Horn Grade and onto Highway 88. There's places to camp off of the road up near 89 or you can go over Luther Pass to Pioneer or even South Lake Tahoe if you like. From Ione to South Lake Tahoe is about 105 miles via bicycle route. Most of 88 is OK and quiet but there are a few sucky places.
The route around Lake Tahoe is 72 miles so while you're there leave EARLY in the morning and do a clockwise loop. Coming down from Spooner Grade on Highway 50 there is a parking lot to the right. Inside on the rail there is a button that you push which flashes some lights and tells cars that there's a bike in the tunnel. If you're clear behind you might just as well go for it since the tunnel is only 100 feet long or so and you'd be doing 30 mph. You have to be VERY careful of the killer snow drains on the shoulder and out 3 feet into the "slow" lane where traffic often exceeds the speed of light.
The routes up along Highway 80 are difficult at best. You CAN come back over Highway 80 but you have to take all of the backroads and get on at Donner Lake Rd and off again at exit 161? Lots of pain in the butt riding to get back into Auburn and then it's OK though trafficy to Sacramento.
The Adventure cycling route is to go to Davis from Vallejo on local roads. Davis to Folsom is done on bike paths. Then, it follows Green Valley road to Placerville. From Placerville, you take Carson road to Pony Express Trail to Ridgeway Dr., all of which parallel Highway 50. Then, at Pollack Pines, you turn off to Jenkinson Lake and meet up with the Mormon Emigrant Trail, which becomes Highway 88.
Any thoughts on this route?
07-25-06, 09:38 PM
I'm not sure about the Vallejo part, but there are lots of two-laners going into Davis from the Fairfield area and from there on the routes sound correct to me. The bike paths are fine, especially from Sact out to Folsom. The Mormon Emigrant trail is a nice ride climbing up to meet 88 and then it is beautiful descending down to Silver Lake, past Kirkwood and Caples Lake.
You might want to reserve a room out at Sorenson's or Markleeville (where there are hot springs) for one night. it is beautiful country. Might be fun to continue on to Hwy 4 and back down into the valley that way - another gorgeous ride. As you are probably aware, this area has a lot of climbing, and some of these passes are part of the Death Ride, so pack light and drink lots of fluids as it will be hot if you go this time of year.
07-25-06, 10:05 PM
In my opinion, anybody that rides a bike on 50 is a madman. (Or 49.) From Discovery Park in Sacto follow the American River trail to Folsum, then the Auburn/Folsum Road to Auburn. There's back roads till Colfax, then I-80 to Cisco Grove, which is a pretty road to Truckee, then to Incline Village, down to Reno on 431.
How many days?
Remember that its just not the climbs but the elivation taht will get you.
Expect it to be much harder than you think it will be. The ACA tends to do a decent job of routing you. They shouldn't put you in any dangerious spots.
I followed the ACA route last year in June from SF to Pollock Pines. The mormon immigrant trail was closed due to snow so I took highway 50 from Pollock Pines to Lake Tahoe. I didnt find the traffic bad at all or the highway particularly scary, and found it a pretty pleasant ride all round, although it was freezing cold at the top and at Lake Tahoe
YOu can read about it here - chris.crazyguyonabike.com
07-26-06, 10:14 PM
I wouldn't consider that route you outlined as a "Highway 50" route. It is really a nice Highway 88 route and probably about as good as the one I wrote about.
Consider riding from Vallejo to Davis, Davis to Volcano and Volcano to Tahoe. You can stay here: http://yp.yahoo.com/py/ypMap.py?Pyt=Typ&tuid=10160777&ck=89400276&tab=B2C&ycat=7737307&city=Volcano&state=CA&uzip=95689&country=us&msa=0000&cs=4&ed=iu6vn61o2TwZ7NCHu.eI_EzunIbN_IwY_Ui090vRI7znsw--&stat=:pos:0:regular:regT:1:fbT:1
60 mile days are really long in this kind of terrain.
Find the Kreb's Bicycle maps of N California [at a bike shop near you or online]- SF Bay Area;Gold Country and Tahoe area. Very detailed with excellent routing on less traveled roads.
I am thinking of riding from the east bay area to south lake tahoe at the end of june, but If I do it, I need to do it as quickly as possible, so I was looking for the shortest reasonable way to do it.
Would the following be a reasonable route?
Take BART to Pittsburg, from there sr160 to sr12 to sr88, and take sr88 all the way to south lake tahoe. So basically I am thinking of taking sr88 all the way.
05-06-07, 09:19 PM
Unfortunately, from what I hear, McGary Road is still closed between Vallejo and Fairfield so you have to go via Herman Lake and the I-680 service roads - - bleah!! It's been a couple of years since I was there, but you would THINK that they could reopen McGary at least for cyclists. Or you can ride across the Carquinez Bridge to the Carquinez Scenic Road (including the closed section) and take the Amtrak Capitol to Fairfiled from Martinez station (roll-on, roll-off bikes).
If you do the Western Express, you can hit Lake Tahoe taking Hwy 89 north - 10 miles east of Carson Pass. Once you hit South Lake Tahoe it gets hectic. Hwy 89 around the western shore is narrow, but drivers are expecting cyclists.
Consider taking the rail trail along the Truckee River then Hwy 89 north to Hwy 49 and come back thru the Yuba River Valley - light traffic. Just past Camptonville take Marysville Rd past Bullards Bar Reservoir and to Marysville. From Marysville you can return via Colusa (hiker/biker campsites), Clear Lake and the Napa Valley - - or more directly via Woodland.
PS - If you are coming back via Woodland and Davis - why not head out there via the Delta instead of Sacramento??
Thanks for the reply, jamawani.
I only need to ride to South Lake Tahoe one way. I'll be meeting with some friends there, and they will drive me back to the East Bay (I should have said this in my first post).
It seems like the Western Express is much longer than the route I suggested that's why I am interested in this one. This would start from Pittsburg (so I won't be riding through Vallejo or Fairfield), and go over the Antioch bridge (which I believe is bicycle friendly) to Hwy 12 and take it to Hwy 88 which goes almost all the way to South Lake Tahoe. From previous posts I got the impression that Hwy 88 is a good choice for the last part, so I was wondering if it's nice from the beginning. Also, how is the Hwy 12 section between Hwy160 and Hwy88 (i.e. between Rio Vista and Lodi)?
I know I won't have a problem finding a place to stay for the first part of the course, but will there be options say on the last 80 miles of Hwy88?
05-07-07, 12:27 AM
Highways 160, 12 and 88 are all poor choices.
Remember - the most direct route is the one cars will take.
Here are pictures of the Antioch Bridge -
Two-lanes with a concrete divider in the middle preventing cars from going into the other lane.
Narrow shoulder, high bridge, plus strong side winds. Very tricky.
Highway 12 in the Delta has more than 10,000 vehicles per day.
Many of those pulling boats - out partying. Avoid weekends for sure.
Caltrans website shows Highway 88 between Lodi and Jackson to have very heavy traffic.
A lot of stretches 15,000+ vehicles - ughhh!
After Jackson - Highway 88 drops to 4000-5000 AADT -
Not great, but better.
05-07-07, 12:33 PM
A few notes that might be of interest:
From Vallejo to Fairfield: there is a bike path that parallels 80, along the south (eastbound) side. It is separated from the freeway, and it's not a bad ride at all. I picked it up just before the hill begins (the hill between Vallejo and Fairfield). There is a nice, long descent on the other side. At a certain point, there is a locked gate. You can see where riders have gone around it to the left, through some weeds. (This was summer of '06.)
There was another bike path that I picked up at a college on the western outskirts of Fairfield-Cordelia (Solano Community College?). It ran along the other (westbound) side of 80, and was also separated from the freeway and made for very nice riding.
There are various options for getting from there to Vacaville (Spanish for 'village of the cows'....).
(I took Airbase Parkway to Peabody and Leisure Town Road, and it was ok; there are other options too.)
From the east (or northeast) end of Vacaville, you can follow quiet little farm roads to Davis (I did this on the north side of 80; I don't know about the other side).
Davis is a great bike town, if you need anything, or if you are interested. The Bike Barn on campus is an interesting shop and student-run bike co-op sort of thing. There is also a large natural foods co-op in town.
From Davis, you can follow a bike path into Sacramento (again separated from the freeway) along the north edge of I-80.
There is a fairly short section of sketchy neighborhoods for a few miles on the western side of the Tower Bridge, as you approach downtown Sacramento. Maybe I should say 'very sketchy' -- I wouldn't r e c o m m e n d riding this section at night....
As soon as you get over the bridge, things change completely, and it is fine.
At that point, over the Tower Bridge, you are very close to Old Town Sacramento, which is where [I]a beautiful, long, paved bike path begins. It goes along the American River for about thirty-two miles, all the way to Folsom Lake. (It is best ridden on weekdays -- it is more crowded on weekends; but it is still not usually (and not for long stretches) terribly crowded even then.)
If you are interested in making a loop, or if you are interested in an alternate way, there are some interesting options:
From Davis, head north toward Yuba City and Marysville, rather than going into Sacramento.
The most direct way is to ride along Pole Line Road (any bike shop in Davis can direct you to it). If you look at a map, it is the straight shot north from Davis toward Yuba City, through Knights Landing.
It has a good shoulder, and isn't a bad road. There is some traffic, but usually not too bad. It runs through farm country. In September, you should be able to snag some great figs along the way, growing along the roads and otherwise going to waste.
You can get onto a quiet backroad (the Garden Highway) along the western edge of the river for the final miles of the approach into Yuba City. Beautiful orchards along that road.
(You can also take this route in reverse, coming back out of the Sierras....)
It helps to have good maps or directions through Yuba City and Marysville -- otherwise it can be a bit confusing. There are some very good bike paths and routes through the area, but they are not always obvious -- it helps to know what to look for and where.... It's a piece of cake if you do.
There are several options for getting up into the Sierras from there.
One is to take Hammonton-Smartville road, which skirts Beale AFB. You might see some U-2's milling about overhead. Beale was the home base for the SR-71, and U-2's still fly there.
Then you can work your way up to Hwy 49, going past Lake Wildwood, Bridgeport (great swimming holes upstream from the bridge -- there is a path along the south side of the river -- it's level and less than a mile), and French Corral. You come out onto 49 near the small town of North San Juan, where you can visit the world headquarters of the Xtracycle. There are some small eateries there, and a natural foods store about two miles out Oak Tree Road.
From there, it's a beautiful ride on 49 all the way up and over Yuba Pass. There is a huge, beautiful swimming hole at the bottom of the hill, as you ride out of North San Juan on 49. (There is an old wooden covered bridge visible just upstream from where 49 crosses the Middle Fork of the Yuba River; the swimming hole can be accessed from either side of Oregon Creek -- the creek that runs under that covered bridge.) This portion of 49 does not have much traffic, especially on weekdays. The lakes around Sierra Buttes are beautiful. There are hot springs in Sierra Valley, just over the pass. From there you can get to Tahoe. (Or you can come back down from Tahoe this way....)
[hope these notes are useful to someone out there...]
I originally posted this in July, 2006. Since then, I did this ride and have written a journal for it. You can find the journal here: http://www.myfacilitate.net/ray/SF2CarsonCity/index.htm
By the way, it was a very nice ride, even though I had to sleep on a rock floor after a full day of climbing.
05-08-07, 10:16 AM
Here's a cue sheet to go from Martinez Amtrak to Sacto Amtrak, put together by Steve Lombardi. I found the Antioch Bridge to be a straightforward crossing.
Martinez AMTRAK to Sacramento AMTRAK via Antioch Bridge and Sacramento River
START Martinez AMTRAK
0 0 South - Castro St. from AMTRAK parking lot
- L - Ward St.
- R- Court St. - becomes Pine St.
0.8 0.8 L - Pine at Jones, jog right, becomes Pacheco
0.8 continue south on Pacheco
5.1 4.3 L - Blum (just north of Hwy 4 overpass)
5.4 0.3 R -Imhoff, becomes Arnold Industrial Hwy; continue east
9.0 3.6 R- Port Chicago Hwy
9.0 Enter Hwy 4 East and continue on Hwy 4 East
10.8 1.8 Exit Willow Pass Rd.
10.8 L - Willow Pass Rd. at bottom of ramp.
10.9 0.1 R -Evora
13.0 2.1 L - Willow Pass Rd., continue east
17.5 4.5 Take Railroad St. overpass north
17.6 0.1 R - Central Ave.
17.8 0.2 R- Solari becomes E. 14th St. becomes Pitts-Ant. Hwy, continue east
20.9 3.1 L- at "tee", A St., Antioch
20.9 - Immediate R on 9th St. becomes Wilbur, continue east
23.9 3.0 Enter Hwy 160 toward Sacramento (water and rest rooms, north end of toll plaza building)
31.9 8.0 Brannan Island Rec. Area, water and rest rooms
35.9 4.0 Hwy 12 junction. Go straight on 160.
39.9 4.0 pass through town of Isleton
41.4 1.5 L - cross bridge and continue on 160 on west bank
Alternate: go straight at bridge and remain on east side of river on county road.
51.4 10.0 town of Walnut Grove, Rest Stop
58.4 7.0 R - cross bridge and continue on 160 on east bank
59.4 1.0 town of Courtland
63.9 4.5 town of Hood
71.9 8.0 L - cross Freeport Bridge
71.9 - R - South River Rd. (E9)
78.9 7.0 River Rd. turns into Gregory and drops off levee
79.9 1.0 R - Jefferson
83.3 3.4 R - 15th St., West Sacramento
83.4 0.1 L - South River Rd.
83.6 0.3 So. River Rd. jogs right and circles around east side of Raley Field
83.9 0.5 R - Capitol Ave., cross river on Tower Bridge
84.0 0.1 L- Cross Capitol Ave. at east end of bridge and enter Old Sac.
84.0 - continue north on Front St.
84.1 0.1 R - L St.
84.2 0.1 L - 2nd St.
84.5 0.3 2nd and I St., enter bus parking lot under freeway.
84.6 0.1 AMTRAK Station is on your right through the bus parking lot
Cross Hwy 12 bridge at Rio Vista and make a right onto Hwy 84 (Ryer Island) at west end of bridge.
Follow Hwy 84 to Ryer Island ferry.
Left after crossing ferry on 84. Continue to north end of Ryer Island and cross bridge to
continue on 84. Becomes Jefferson Blvd.
Continue on Jefferson and pick up route above at mile 79.9 into Sac.
This segment is a total of 35 miles, i.e., 15 miles shorter than the river route.
Thanks a lot for the suggestions. I understood that my shorter route should be avoided, so when I do this, I'll follow your suggestions. Since I have to do it quickly, I might take Amtrak to Davis, and start from there. I'll report back when I do the ride, probably end of June.
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