Distance: 68 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 7980 ft
(A Best of the Best ride)
I’m not a great fan of riding in National Parks. They’re too crowded, they aren’t bike friendly, and they usually have only one or two paved roads, onto which thousands of cars are funneled and forced to fight for room. Our Lassen Volcanic NP ride is an exception, made attractive only because almost no one goes there and you can have the road to yourself. (The Yosemite tour is there because Yosemite is too imposing to ignore.)
Another exception is Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Park(s). They’re two parks, but they’re contiguous, so everyone thinks of them as one. You often aren’t sure which of the two you’re in. The riding is excellent and extensive. While Yosemite offers you two roads and Lassen one, KC/S has no less than ten paved roads, and they’re all well worth riding. Not a lot of people seem to know this. In my five days of riding in the two parks, the only person I saw on a bicycle of any sort—road bike, mountain bike, BMX, cruiser—was me.
Of course there is always the traffic problem. I wouldn’t go near any National Park in high season, and even during the shoulder seasons (spring and fall) I adhere strictly to the EMOW rule: ride Early Morning, Only on Weekdays. I did my KC/S riding in late September, and my EMOW rides saw a car per mile or less.
The ride outlined here is the best of the ten, by a long shot, one of the best rides I know of anywhere and a hands-down Best of the Best ride. It’s an 8-mile descent into a rock canyon of indescribable grandeur, then an 18-mile meander between towering granite and marble walls and through a beautiful glacial valley along a perfect Sierra stream. If you ride for the Wow Factor, if you love to be awed, this is the ride for you. There may be other rides as pretty or as pleasant, but none more mighty and imposing. Photos can’t do it justice.
It’s a big ride—69 miles, 8000 ft of gain—but later I’ll show you ways to cut it down that maintain the grandeur. There’s even an almost-flat 36-mile version that’s plenty marvelous by itself.