Distance: 22 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 2600 ft
This is another of those “worthwhile if you’re in the area” rides. It’s 22 miles of small two-lane back road through pretty but not extra-special Sierra foothill forest. You pass through a small but bustling mountain community, Berry Creek, which unfortunately makes the first third of the route surprisingly trafficky for a foothill road. You will do some work—2100 ft of gain in the 11-mile ride out—but it’s never steep.
Two features elevate this ride above the perfectly pleasant. First, rollers. The road is all up and down, so much so that there is only a 1465-ft. difference in elevation from start to turn-around but 2100 ft of vert on the road (in other words, you ride every vertical foot 1.5 times). This has its charm. It means the climbing on the ride out is constantly interrupted by little descents, and on the ride back the descending comes in short, fast runs interrupted by short risers, so about the time you think you have to brake the contour does it for you. The riding experience is ever-changing.
Second: Bald Rock, the greatest rock formation the world has never heard of (see photos at the end of this post). Take slippers or sandals and plan to get off the bike and explore—you will be enchanted.
Begin where Bald Rock Road takes off from Highway 162, just south of Berry Creek. There is no attractive place to park, and the first 1/2 mile of Bald Rock Rd. is steep, so you might skip it and drive to the large dirt turn-out just up BRR. Ride to where Bald Rock Rd. returns to Hwy 162. Turn around and ride back. You can start at the turn-around (look for the Brush Creek Work Center sign on 162), but it gives you 75% of the descending up front and leaves the hard climbing until the end of the ride, which I never like.
In a couple of miles you enter Berry Creek, a tiny mountain community (a country store, a church, a school, a community center) that used to be famous for illegal pot growing (and the consequent frequent murders) but is now busily recasting itself as a bedroom community. Hence the hustle and bustle, which can seriously impact the vehicle traffic. Once through “town,” traffic is essentially non-existent.
The best part of the ride—best woods, best road contour—is from the Zink Rd. turn-off (unmissable on your L) to the return of Zink Rd. (a little less unmissable, still on your L) several miles along. (Zink Rd. itself is dirt after 2 miles, and highly rideable if you’re set up for dirt, though why you’re prefer it to Bald Rock I don’t know—it would just mean you missed the best part of the ride).
Midway into the ride you pass the trailhead for Bald Rock (unmissable large sign on your L). Stash your bike. A dead easy quarter-mile walk takes you to a mind-boggling granite bluff covering several acres on the lip of a cliff overlooking the Feather River Canyon. It’s as good as anything in Canyonlands or Arches National Parks (see photos below). You’ll probably have the place to yourself. Why it isn’t on every travel magazine’s bucket list, I don’t know.
Back on your bike, the 1/2 mile or so of road surrounding the trailhead is as good a short stretch of riding as there is anywhere—a perfect 25-mph slalom through picture-book woods. You’ll want to do it two or three times.
Adding Miles: The pickings are slim. Bald Rock Rd. takes off from Hwy 162, which features briefly in our Oroville to Forbestown ride. It goes to cool places—Bucks Lake and Quincy—but in the main it’s a ton of climbing on endless, unvarying, straight pitches on the shoulder of a wide, busy road. I hate it, though the vistas can be good.
You can add 4 miles by riding the 2 miles of paved Zink Rd. out and back. An out and back on Rockefeller Rd. will also let you add some miles before turning to gravel.
Several fine rides are a short car trip away (see the Bestrides locator map).