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Sierra Cascades: South to North or North to South?

Old 10-15-11, 09:09 PM
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Sierra Cascades: South to North or North to South?

I have been interested in taking this tour for some time now.

I picked up the book: "The Pacific Coast Bicycle Trail" back in the early 1990's, which was based on a book from 1981, Bicycling California's Spine, Touring the length of the California's Sierra Nevada. We (Adventure Cyclists) now know it as the Sierra Cascades route. Funny thing is that both show opposite directions. The book from the 90's shows it runnning north to south and adventure cyclists show it south to north in their supported tour.
Love to hear from someone who has done it and what they recommend. I figure its major hill climbing in either direction. Also, any highlights to the trip would be appreciated. Last time I road my bike out of Yosetmite I did it in the middle of the night with a full moon to avoid the heat.

Since I live near San Francisco my plan was to take a cheap bus to Lake Tahoe and head south through Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks and hop on a greyhound around LA for the trip back to SF.

Is it like the coast trip where there is a prefered direction? (north to south due to head winds, and better shoulder size)

Thanks and all stories welcome,

Liam
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Old 10-16-11, 08:24 AM
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Not sure if there is a preferred direction wrt to wind. It seemed like a mixed bag when we did it.

I 'd say either go N-S as late in the season as you can get over Tioga Pass, or S-N as soon as possible after it is open in the Spring/Summer. The key thing in my mind beyond the passes being open is to try and avoid the worst heat in the southern portion of the route, it can be absolutely brutal especially given the amount of climbing on this route.
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Old 10-16-11, 08:27 AM
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Just finished (most) of the Sierra Cascades route north to south. You're talking map 4 and part of 5. The good news for you is that you're not on Hwy 89.

Frankly, for the sections you are considering, I don't think it will make much difference which direction you go. However, there is major construction in Sequoia NP just north of Three Rivers, and if you can't get a lift, you would much rather do this descending (north to south).

There's a good bit of climbing at 4 mph for 7 hours then descending at 30 mph for 1 hour. Only to repeat it the next day. Traffic was merciful in the parks, but would be more aggressive between towns. I don't remember the shoulders being a huge problem. Lots of homeless / displaced persons in the campgrounds. Make sure you carry plenty of water because in places services are scarce.

In Yosemite Village, camp at the hiker / biker campgound (Pine something). The cold-eyed rangers at the visitors center told me (at dusk) to ride 15 miles out of the park and disperse camp on USFS land, which of course, I didn't do. No mention from them of my option at the hiker / biker site.

I also noticed that ACA has scheduled a guided tour south to north next year. My bet is that the attrition rate will be huge. The route is doable only for extremely fit, experienced cyclists and the most physically challenging part of the route will be the first 10 days out of San Diego. The fitness levels and experience levels of those typically on ACA trips will be woefully inadequate.
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Old 10-16-11, 02:51 PM
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That would be North Pines Backpackers Camp in Yosemite. They let cyclists stay there one day, then you have to get a site at the climbers camp (Camp 4) if you want to stay longer. Get in line at the crack of dawn at Camp 4, it is first come first served. The Yosemite Valley is one of the few places that I have bothered to take time off when on tour and I found it worth taking several days there.
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Old 10-17-11, 07:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Cyclesafe
Just finished (most) of the Sierra Cascades route north to south. You're talking map 4 and part of 5. The good news for you is that you're not on Hwy 89.

Frankly, for the sections you are considering, I don't think it will make much difference which direction you go. However, there is major construction in Sequoia NP just north of Three Rivers, and if you can't get a lift, you would much rather do this descending (north to south).

There's a good bit of climbing at 4 mph for 7 hours then descending at 30 mph for 1 hour. Only to repeat it the next day. Traffic was merciful in the parks, but would be more aggressive between towns. I don't remember the shoulders being a huge problem. Lots of homeless / displaced persons in the campgrounds. Make sure you carry plenty of water because in places services are scarce.

In Yosemite Village, camp at the hiker / biker campgound (Pine something). The cold-eyed rangers at the visitors center told me (at dusk) to ride 15 miles out of the park and disperse camp on USFS land, which of course, I didn't do. No mention from them of my option at the hiker / biker site.

I also noticed that ACA has scheduled a guided tour south to north next year. My bet is that the attrition rate will be huge. The route is doable only for extremely fit, experienced cyclists and the most physically challenging part of the route will be the first 10 days out of San Diego. The fitness levels and experience levels of those typically on ACA trips will be woefully inadequate.
I read your post with interest. I'm interested in doing some of this route myself. Could you describe the section from the Canadian border to the California border? I'm most interested in that area, but probably not all of it. My tours usually last about 3 weeks. Thanks!
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Old 10-17-11, 06:49 PM
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Originally Posted by BigBlueToe
I read your post with interest. I'm interested in doing some of this route myself. Could you describe the section from the Canadian border to the California border? I'm most interested in that area, but probably not all of it. My tours usually last about 3 weeks. Thanks!
Sure.

Sumas to Mazama covers some beautiful country (forrests / rivers) towards Mount Baker. Hwy 20 goes into the Cascades Park, with azure lakes. Nice climb up Rainy and Washington passes and a fast downhill to Mazama. Withrup is yuppieville and Twisp and Potero get you the Columbia gorge and Lake Chelan. All very nice.

Then it's climbing Blewlett Pass (with some traffic) and then mostly downhill to Ellensburg. The Yakima Canyon is beautiful; then past Naches it's climbing again to White Pass following some very nice scenery and vistas to Mount Rainer, which you can observe from the road or ascend if you get there early enough.

The rest of the ride through Washington is nice, with ample shoulders, but crossing the Bridge of the Gods at Cascade locks is a terror for those like me who are not comfortable with heights.

The route then skirts Mount Hood and there are plenty of fruit stands to visit. You then go "off the grid" through some remote wilderness on Skyline Road and the West Cascadwes Scenic Byway. I didn't see any cars for hours at a time. At Detroit you pick up 22 and attendant traffic, climb Santiam Pass, then slog along 20 (lots of traffic) through Sisters to Bend. Then it's climbing to Mount Bachelor and riding through the Cascade Lakes Hwy. All very pretty and in the summer, very little traffic. Fianlly, it's climbing to Crater Lake, where within the park, traffic is kind.

This part of the Route is not particularly taxing. I averaged 60 - 80 miles per day without pushing it. Also, except were noted, traffic was reasonable.

Hope this helps!
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Old 10-18-11, 07:45 AM
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That's very helpful! I've done the North Cascades Highway on the Northern Tier route. It was harder than I would like, but I was on an older tourer without a low enough low, and I was pulling a trailer. Now that I have an LHT with a good low and panniers I do much better. Still though, I have to say that I'm not a hill-lover. I put up with them and do all right, but the idea of a tour that's basically one pass after another has me thinking twice. Still, I'm a displaced native Washingtonian and I love that area.

My upcoming summer tour is mostly set (in my mind, anyway.) I plan on starting in Portland, riding down the I-5 corridor to Eugene, jump on the Transamerica over to Bend/Sisters, than take the Sierra Cascades route down to Klamath Falls.

The Sumas to points south section may have to wait for another summer.

Thanks again!
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Old 10-19-11, 08:07 PM
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Just finished a self contained tour that included much of the Sierra Cascades route. It was a fantastic adventure that I loved doing. It would be very difficult for anyone to do if they weren't physically and mentally prepared. I would love to be on the ACA trip to see how many of the riders handle this trip. It could get ugly!
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Old 10-20-11, 04:47 AM
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Originally Posted by joel2old
Just finished a self contained tour that included much of the Sierra Cascades route. It was a fantastic adventure that I loved doing. It would be very difficult for anyone to do if they weren't physically and mentally prepared. I would love to be on the ACA trip to see how many of the riders handle this trip. It could get ugly!
Hi Joel,
Were you the Joel that I met at Kirk Creek on Sept 22nd?
Pete
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Old 10-20-11, 08:25 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
Hi Joel,
Were you the Joel that I met at Kirk Creek on Sept 22nd?
Pete
Yes! The rest of my trip went great. You were right about the climbing that was in my future but I was ready. The day from Yosemite Valley to Tioga Pass was epic. The entire trip was beautiful with no dull moments. I would pick the Sierra Cascades route over the Pacific Coast any day. The time of year I went was also important.
Good luck with your travels, Joel
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Old 10-20-11, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by joel2old
Yes! The rest of my trip went great. You were right about the climbing that was in my future but I was ready. The day from Yosemite Valley to Tioga Pass was epic. The entire trip was beautiful with no dull moments. I would pick the Sierra Cascades route over the Pacific Coast any day. The time of year I went was also important.
Good luck with your travels, Joel
Glad to hear the rest of your trip went well. The SC route is tough, but you are a strong climber.

Did you escape the worst of the heat? It can be pretty brutal for a lot of the SC in the Sierras.
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Old 10-20-11, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
Glad to hear the rest of your trip went well. The SC route is tough, but you are a strong climber.

Did you escape the worst of the heat? It can be pretty brutal for a lot of the SC in the Sierras.
The weather for my trip was great. I did not have to get my rain gear out for the entire 35 days. The wind was not a factor and I don't think it would play in the decision to ride either direction on the SC route. The traffic was manageable but I would not like to do it at peak season.
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Old 04-11-16, 01:08 PM
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Question from fellow Marin-ite

Hi there, I'm considering the Sierra Cascades Route, partial - Crater Lake to Truckee. Do you take the N-S route or vice-versa?

Thanks,

Tom
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Old 04-12-16, 08:35 PM
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Originally Posted by mentalfuzz
Hi there, I'm considering the Sierra Cascades Route, partial - Crater Lake to Truckee. Do you take the N-S route or vice-versa?

Thanks,

Tom
tom.sabido@gmail.com
As noted above, wind direction is not really a factor here. On this stretch southbound, there is a short, scary section of Hwy 89 as you climb from Indian Falls up Spanish Creek Canyon towards Quincy. I'm sure everyone that climbs it remembers how narrow and winding it was, plus how the guard rails forced one to ride out in the traffic lane. The ACA map recommends riders take a bus instead of climbing this hill. Anyway, heading north downhill, you're past this section in a minute or two at 30 mph.

89 immediately north of Truckee is not loads of fun either, but it's the same in either direction.
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