Distance: 34 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 4840 ft
This is a classic “drop down into a river canyon, cross the river, and climb up the other side” ride. Thus it’s a lot like Mosquito Ridge Road, but not as good, because the road surface is often poor and the rock strata are only fair, but it’s a dramatic canyon, and the road surface is at its best when you need it the most, which is on the steep descending and climbing near the river. The primary appeal is the solitude and the narrowness of the road—traffic averages 1-5 vehicles per transit (16 miles), and the road is often precisely one car-width wide, so you have to pull off onto the hillside to let the rare car pass. No centerline, no fog line, no shoulder, no guard rails—just a little ribbon on pavement between cliff and drop-off.
The ride’s unique feature is the bridge across the Tuolumne River, which is either a work of art or an abomination, depending on your taste (see photo below). From either side of the canyon there are some spectacular views of the river and road below you, so you can look down on where you’re heading (or where you’ve been), which is something I always love. It’s usually ridden in one direction only, as part of several possible loop routes in the area (see Adding Miles), and it’s certainly easier that way. As an out and back, it’s serious work—4840 ft of gain in 34 miles. There are no 15% killer pitches, just a lot of 7-10%, and there’s a lot of variety in the pitch, so no endless grinds.
This is a slow ride and possibly a hot one, so unless you are reprovisioning in Groveland I encourage you to take a third water bottle and drop it at the bridge for the climb back to the car.