Biking 4 Life
Bay Area - Modesto - Yosemite
Has anyone rode to Yosemite from the Bay Area? Or perhaps from near Modesto to Yosemite? I am in Modesto, and was wondering if anyone has experience with being able to find a place to camp somewhere between Modesto and Yosemite.
Used to be fast
I rode the other way. Started in Mammoth, over Tioga Pass, then spent a few days in the valley. From there I took 140 down to Maripossa, then to Merced and down to Chowchilla for a few days (my Grandmother lived there). Yosemite to Chowchila was one day, but lots of downhill wilth a small amount of climbing just before Maripossa. That section was beautiful. From there I took 152 over to the coast (Watsonville) and then to Monterey. After that I headed down the coast. All in all it was a great ride. I have to say that most people would avoid 152, but that section (2 days) was probably the most interesting of the trip. I could tell you hours of stories about those two days. Enjoy your trip.
Years ago (1984) I followed CA 120 from Yosemite Valley to the East Bay, overnighted somewhere in the Central Valley. Lots more climbing than 140 but much more scenic and (back then) less traffic to contend with. If you follow this route from the central Valley to Yosemite you'll be going downhill through all the tunnels between Crane Flat and the Valley floor, so you can get through them faster. You still should have lights for the tunnels, though.
Biking 4 Life
My concern is that I won't be able to make the trip from Modesto to Yosemite in one day. I think it's something like 90 miles. So I will need to stop over somewhere, either camp out, or spend the night in a motel.
Originally Posted by markf
Although I live in Wyoming, I've biked into and out of Yosemite at least a half dozen times. There are three main options from the Central Valley. Hwy 120 comes in from the west via Manteca, Hwy 140 comes in from via Merced, and Hwy 41 comes in from the south via Fresno. Modesto is kinda in between the first two.
Hwy 120 and Hwy 41 have a LOT more climbing. They get to more than 6000 feet before dropping dramatically into Yosemite Valley at 4000 ft. Hwy 140, on the other hand, follows the Merced River up into the Valley with a big climb just as you enter the park. Also, Bay Area folks usually use Hwy 120 and Southern Calif folks use Hwy 41, so Hwy 140 usually has much less traffic.
Hwy 120 - about 13000 west of Don Pedro, about 4000 east of Don Pedro.
Hwy 140 - about 5000 west of Mariposa, about 2000 east of Mariposa.
Hwy 41 - about 18000 west of Oakhurst, about 5000 east of Oakhurst.
If you make a loop. it would be easier heading into Yosemite on Hwy 140, then heading out on Hwy 120 - but there are tunnels and a huge climb heading west out of the park on Hwy 120. It is really hairy going uphill thru those tunnels. Also, it really sucks losing all of the climb on Priest Grade while you are smoking your brakes. Of course, it really sucks worse climbing Priest Grade. I haven;t ever ridden Hwy 41 - I might ride the section within the park one day - but not as a way of getting into the park.
Other options? Hwy 132 east from Modesto is an option, although I'd take back roads to La Grange. East of La Grange Hwy 132 only has about 2000 vehicles per day. Then you can cut south on Hwy 49 from Coulterville to Mariposa and catch Hwy 140 into the park. Or do it backwards. J-16 to Hornitos is really nice, then Hornitos Road and the Old Toll Road to Hwy 49 just outside Mariposa. From Merced, you can get off of Hwy 140 onto the Old Highway at Catheys Valley. This road is a gradual climb to Mariposa with very little traffic and nice shade.
Camping? Make sure to use the backcountry campground (Not Camp 4!) in Yosemite. The park does not advertise, but persons entering the back on a bicycle are eligible to use this car-free campground on a bend in the Merced River. Also, many temporary personnel are unaware of this. I received written confirmation from the head backcountry ranger. Really nice camping in to park. Outside the park there are National Forest and BLM campsites on most routes - although in the canyons there isn't any level ground for camping.
Here are two forest service maps - -
Feel free to ask me any other questions.
Best - J
This may be a little off topic but I grew up in Modesto and traveled via car (never by bike though) up HWY 108 to the Pinecrest area many times so I know the area very well. My parents still live there so I visit a few times a year. As you know, HWY 108 and HWY 120 split off before Sonora with HWY 108 going to Pinecrest and Strawberry and eventually over the Sierras at Sonora Pass and HWY 120 goes to Yosemite. I don't know the HWY 120 area after the HWY 108 and HWY 120 split all that well though since I've only been to Yosemite a few times.
Technically HWY 108 is McHenry Ave until Kiernan Road (near the Al's Furniture store). HWY 108 and 120 merge in Oakdale. There are several back road options to get to HWY 108 without going through Oakdale. Just get a map of Modesto and take what looks like the quietest road. It is so easy to navigate those country roads, they are all straight and the area is flat. A great shortcut is the road (I cannot recall the name) which goes past the Oakdale Airport, totally bypasses the 108/120 merge zone.
There are lots of places with campgrounds in this area. New Melones Lake, Don Pedro Lake, and Knights Ferry all have campgrounds. All those are closer to Modesto than Yosemite though with Knights Ferry being the closest but still about 30 miles away. I stayed at Don Pedro several years ago but cannot recall much about it.
If I had the time and lived there, I would like to tour up HWY 4 to Murphys, Arnolds, some great wineries, Angels Camp, and the Caleveras Big Trees. You could do this and then use HWY 49 to go through Columbia, camp at New Melones and pick up HWY 108/120 to go back to Yosemite or go back to Modesto making a big circle/square of the area. To get to HWY 4, just head north on Mchenry through Escalon and keep going north, it dead ends like 15 to 20 miles past Modesto at HWY 4. HWY 4 takes you to Bear Valley, might be more busy in the winter with the skiers if there is any snow this year.
A few years ago I saw a grizzled tourer with a white pony tail and beard on a recumbent in Escalon, must have gone to the Sierras. Ahh, the life. I should have talked to him.