Horseshoe Meadows Road

Distance: 38.3-mile out and back
Elevation gain: 6015 ft

As with all the rides in Bestrides situated along Hwy 395, I encourage you to read the “Eastern Sierra” section of our By Regions page, to put this ride in context.

I also recommend you read this write-up in tandem with our Whitney Portal Road ride. They’re right next to each other geographically—in fact Horseshoe Meadows Rd. takes off from Whitney Portal Rd.,—and they’re almost identical in character, profile, rewards, and difficulty level. And so the write-ups for the two rides are identical as well.

I haven’t ridden either one of them. There are only three rides in Bestrides I haven’t ridden: these two and Bristlecone Pine Forest, a few miles north on Hwy 395. Because they’re too hard for me. But, if you like a grand climbing challenge, all three are bucket-list rides. Remember, the elevation makes all three rides much harder than the numbers would suggest.

Horseshoe Meadows is the longer of the two rides, by 15 miles, and it’s more overall gain, but the average pitch is a bit milder (though still nasty). One fan of Bestrides whose opinion I trust says Whitney Portal is better than Horseshoe Meadows. Tom (below) argues for Horseshoe Meadows. You’ll have to do both and decide for yourself.

Of all the rides that go west from Hwy 395 and climb into the Sierra (they’re listed in the “Eastern Sierra” section of our By Regions page), everyone agrees, these two are the best. What sets them apart from the others is that, while the others head up draws or canyons—essentially breaks in the cliff wall—these two switchback straight up the wall for a while, thus making the ride steeper, harder, and much more dramatic, with even grander views of the valley below and even faster descents. I would imagine that 45 mph would be easy to maintain, and, with no guardrails and a prodigious drop-off, I wouldn’t consider doing either of these rides without disc brakes (and zero acrophobia).

The switchbacks

Shortening the ride: I’m guessing, but I’d say for thrills, ride to the top of the switchbacks and return; for fewer thrills, drive to the top of the switchbacks and ride to the end of the road.

Adding miles: You’re kidding, right? For a few more miles, ride our Tuttle Creek Rd. ride, whose turn-around point you ride right past a couple of miles into this ride. For a lot more miles, ride our Whitney Portal Rd. ride—just ride to the start/finish of this ride and turn west.

3 thoughts on “Horseshoe Meadows Road

  1. Tom Kenney

    I will disagree with your trusted source–Horseshoe Meadows Road is the better ride–better vistas, more switchbacks. HMR feels like you’re climbing the edge of the world. The views are very open until you’re about 100m higher than Whitney Portal, still a ways from the terminus at Horseshoe Meadows. The grade is about the same for both rides, both less than Onion Valley Road. At the top of the HMR switchbacks is Walt’s Point, a very dramatic glider jump-off.

    You can camp at Tuttle Creek CG (1600m elev) to acclimate, and start directly from the camp.

    1. Jack Rawlins Post author

      See the “Cycling the Eastern Sierra” section of the By Regions page for my reservations about acclimating.

  2. Sean Jawetz

    I had the thrill of riding this today–what a treat! Really feels like you’re on top of the world, and the only other car I saw was a pickup truck with a plow attachment. Fortunately there was nothing more than a few patches of ice at the campground at the summit. The road surface is fine to good, and there are toilets at the top (the water has been turned off by this time of year). Thanks for bringing my attention to this road, Jay!


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