Distance: 23.6 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 1730 ft
This ride isn’t thrilling. But if you’re in the mood for a mellow jaunt through pretty High-Sierra country, you can’t beat it. It’s a idyllic ride, perfect for a recovery day after you’ve tackled one of the harder rides in the area—Carson Pass, Ebbetts Pass, or Monitor Pass—or for a day when you only have an hour or two in the morning or evening to ride. It’s all easy climbing (1730 ft. in 24 miles), with a brilliant blue Sierra lake at the turn-around for snacking or meditation.
(The RidewithGPS map shows the pavement lasting longer than I think it does.)
Begin at the junction of Blue Lakes Road and Highway 88, which you pass on the Carson Pass Plus ride. There is no “Blue Lakes Road” sign per se, but there are signs reading “Blue Lakes 12” from either direction on 88. There is a nice dirt area for parking on the SE corner of the intersection, and if you don’t like leaving your vehicle on roadsides it’s a pleasant, flat ride from Sorensen’s Resort (which seems to have been renamed Desolation Hotel—see the Carson Pass Plus ride for details).
Ride to the end of the road. After the first couple of miles of flat, You’ll climb pleasantly for about 6 miles, then climb moderately for a mile to a summit at mile 9, then descend 2 miles to a junction at Lower Blue Lake.
As you ride, enjoy your surroundings. This is not the time or place to hammer or train. You’ll pass meadows, ponds with dark green conifers reflected in their waters, great boulders, and signs of cattle ranching, with a background of lofty mountains flecked with snow (in season).
At the junction there’s a wooden sign reading “Blue Lakes Basin,” a board with some interesting history, and a map showing that four lakes lie in front of you. If you’re on a gravel bike you can ride to any one of them, but the roads are all dirt, so if you’re on a road bike you have one option: ignoring the road into the campground directly ahead of you, take the road on your R, ride along the edge of the campground until that road turns to dirt, then ride the dirt for 1/4 of a mile along the shore of Lower Blue Lake until you see granite boulders jutting out into the water. You should have the place to yourself. Bliss out.
On the return you’ll do an untaxing 1-mile-or-so climb back up to the summit, then have some thoroughly pleasant moderate descending for the bulk of your ride home. No hairpins, no daredevil 40-mph straights. It’s all rejuvenating, not draining, and you end the ride fresher than when you started.
Adding Miles: This ride lies between two great Bestrides.org rides, Carson Pass Plus and Ebbetts Pass. See both those rides’ Adding Miles sections for other possibilities and information on the area. The miles of road between Sorensen’s and Markleeville are almost all trafficky, straight, monotonous, moderate descending—effortless in this direction but not particularly rewarding.
Afterthoughts: Blue Lakes Road isn’t plowed in winter and is therefore impassable above the snow line.