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Cycle The Sierra

Biking Route
Mark Reiner

CYCLE THE SIERRA is an annual cycling event that takes place in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Northern California. This fully supported, five-day journey takes riders on a 300-mile loop through breathtaking country, beneath granite peaks, through evergreen forests and to alpine hot springs. We’ll ride through iconic locations like Lake Tahoe and the area where gold was discovered starting the California Gold Rush, over the 4th highest bridge in the US, and through numerous unique and historical communities along the way.

Click to view interactive route map

Each day cyclists travel roughly 60 miles. At night, we’ll camp together under the stars. Camps will feature delicious food, live music, a beer and wine garden, massage therapists, bike mechanics and other cyclists letting loose on vacation from all over the United States.

If you like being a part of truly beautiful mountain scenery, good food and live music, relaxing with a cold beer after a great ride, spending time with old friends and meeting new, CYCLE THE SIERRA is an event you don’t want to miss!

Route Directions

Day 1: Grass Valley, CA to Chili Bar (61 miles)
HIGHLIGHTS: We’ll roll past the wooden farm houses of Grass Valley and through oak woodlands, ride on parts of Historic Highway 49, pass over the confluence of the North and Middle forks of the American River, whiz over the 4th highest bridge in the USA and continue through the Sierra foothills. We’ll finish on the South Fork of the American River, just upstream from where gold was discovered by James Marshall in 1848.

IN THE SADDLE: A generally trending, overall descent in elevation with relatively short ups and downs along the way. There is one particularly steep 3-mile climb from the American River confluence up to the town of “Cool.”

Day 2: Chili Bar to Kirkwood (62 miles)
HIGHLIGHTS: We’ll ride through the vineyards, apple and pear orchards of “Apple Hill”, alongside the turquoise water of Jenkinson Lake, and cycle up an amazing section of road maintained by the U.S. Forest Service, called the “Mormon Emigrant Trail.” We’ll pass through mountain meadows with views of the Granite High Sierra, roll along the Alpine Scenic Highway, and look down on Silver Lake. We’ll also ride past Kit Carson Lodge, named for the American frontiersman. Our final destination? The gorgeous Kirkwood Valley, a lush meadow land surrounded by snow capped mountains.

IN THE SADDLE: An overall uphill day in which we’ll climb much of the western slope of the Sierra. There will be an optional shuttle (this day only) for riders and their bikes to take in the morning from base camp up to Jenkinson Lake (aprox. 25 miles into the ride). Instead of starting from base camp and potentially “pooping out” later in the day when the scenery goes from great to amazing, this option will get you higher into prime riding country with less overall vertical to climb.

Day 3: Kirkwood to Lake Tahoe (34 miles, optional longer loop available)
HIGHLIGHTS: We’ll continue on the Alpine Scenic Highway past Caples Lake, by Red Lake, over Carson Pass (elev. 8650.0 ft.) and down the east side into the aspen groves of Hope Valley. We’ll then head north over Luther Pass (elev. 7740.0 ft.), down into Christmas Valley and onward towards Lake Tahoe.

IN THE SADDLE: This is the shortest day of the tour to allow recovery from the previous day’s climb. Sleep in a bit and/or get to the next base camp at Lake Tahoe early to swim or relax on the beach!

Day 4: Lake Tahoe to Sierraville (65 miles)
HIGHLIGHTS: We’ll ride along the crystal clear and brilliant blue waters of Lake Tahoe’s West Shore, look down on Cascade Lake, and stop and gaze out over Emerald Bay and historic Fannette Island from Eagle Falls. We’ll continue along Mc Kinney Bay and the cascading Truckee River, along the 10th Mountain Division Memorial Highway, past Squaw Valley, and into Truckee with views of Donner Summit to the west. We’ll then continue north into the Sierra Valley’s grassland and sagebrush ecosystem, among migratory birds and soaring eagles to our final destination, the natural healing pools at Sierraville Hot Springs.

IN THE SADDLE: A couple short steeper sections in the morning followed by gradual rolling and flat roads for roughly 20 miles along the west shore of Lake Tahoe. The ride north towards Truckee and beyond to Sierraville consists of gradual rolling hills.

Day 5: Sierraville to Grass Valley (82 miles)
HIGHLIGHTS: We’ll continue slightly north and west through the Sierra Valley towards Yuba Pass (elev. 6701.0 ft.) Then we’ll begin our gradual curving, 20 mile coasting decent along the tumbling Yuba River and past the soaring Sierra Buttes through an evergreen forest. We’ll go back in time through the picturesque town of Downieville with its covered wooden sidewalks on cute lil’ old Main Street. We’ll climb up and down into three different watersheds, pass over several rivers, and back towards where the mountains and foothills meet in the historic Main Street of Grass Valley, CA. Here we’ll find the finish line!

IN THE SADDLE: Roughly three miles of flat riding in the morning before ascending Yuba pass. Once over the pass, a downhill coast for roughly 20 miles. The day, and the ride, finishes with beautiful climbs in and out of three different watersheds.

Route Length

300 Miles over 5 Days


Route Difficulty

Moderately Streneous - Best for Adults and Older Children