Indian Valley

Distance: 68 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 2064

Update 20/19: Genessee Valley suffered a fire in 9/19.  I’m not sure how much damage was done to the scenery.

Update 2021: Greenville was completely destroyed by fire in the summer of 2021.  I assume similar damage was done to the surrounding countryside.

There are more awe-inspiring rides, but there is no prettier ride in California than this one.  It’s a short form of the Indian Valley Century.   It goes along the lip of two flat, postcard-perfect valleys framed by mountains (with snowy peaks, if you time it right), and you’re just a bit up off the valley floor, so you get all the scenery without the flat—the road bobs and weaves and rises and drops and thus provides you with a delightfully varied road contour.  Then the outward leg ends with a ten-mile climb that’s entirely doable and parallels a tumbling, rocky creek.  I’ve cut off two loops from the century route I don’t need, but I’ll tell you they’re there and what you’re missing.   All the significant climbing is in the last 10 miles out, so if you skip it the ride is easy.

(To see an interactive version of the map/elevation profile, click on the ride name, upper left, wait for the new map to load, then click on the “full screen” icon, upper right.)

From Greenville, ride east on Main Street, which becomes North Valley Rd. through Indian Valley.  You’re going to ride 34 miles on this road, then turn around and ride back.  Keep going on North Valley Rd., ignoring a few roads going off to the left and right, as the road name changes to Genessee Rd, then Indian Creek Rd., heading first to Genessee Valley and finally to Antelope Lake.  There’s a mellow climb and descent going from one valley to another—if you skip the climb to the lake, this is the only noticeable climb on the ride.  Ride through Genessee Valley, stopping now or on the way home at the Genessee Store, a don’t-miss local institution.

At the end of the valley the big, obvious climb starts.  You’ll see a sign that says “Antelope Lake 10 miles.”  It isn’t kidding.  After a mile or so you’ll say, “I don’t think I can do this for 10 miles,” but all the steep is in the first 3 miles; then it mellows out and rolls so much that you’ll do some work coming back “down.”

Indian Valley in June (it's greener and prettier in May)

Indian Valley in June (it’s even greener and prettier in May)

At the dam the road circumnavigates the lake, but I don’t like the ride because I think it’s ugly.  The area was burned to ash many years ago, and the soil is a chalky moondust that won’t allow much to grow back.   Do it if you’re set on riding a hundred miles.  Otherwise, turn around and ride home.

The descent from the lake isn’t world-class.  The road surface has lots of jarring expansion joints perpendicular to your path—nothing dangerous but enough to sting the hands and put a bit of a dent in your rapture.

Genessee Valley

Genessee Valley

At the bottom of the climb, return the way you came, unless you dislike out and backs, in which case see below.

Shortening the ride: Skip the climb to Antelope Lake.

Adding miles: To restore the miles I cut from the Century, a) ride around Antelope Lake (see above) and b) take the big loop that goes off from North Valley Road to the northeast.  It’s Diamond Rd. going out and North Arm Rd. coming back if you ride it on your way out.  You’ll need to ride it twice, on your way out and your way home, to total 100 miles.  It’s perfectly pleasant but a notch less scenic than the valley riding.  You might consider riding it once, on the way out or the way back.

About halfway out along the main route there’s a 1-mile detour to the tiny, cute town of Taylorsville, which has a market, a tavern, and a church (see Johnmc’s comments below).  It’s worth it if you like tiny, cute towns.

If you’re dead set on riding a loop, stay left when you re-enter Indian Valley, ride through Taylorsville, and continue west to Hwy 89 on a much flatter, straighter, and less rewarding valley road.  This will necessitate you riding a final leg up Hwy 89 to your car, managing one significant climb and descent in the process, but it’s a pleasant ride for a highway.  There are other roads through the heart of Indian Valley, smaller and even more boring, if you like flat.

Reachable by car are 1) our Chester Back Roads rides, and 2) a challenging and rewarding ride from Quincy up Rd 119/414 to Buck’s Lake.  You can make this ride a lollipop by taking the south route to Buck’s Lake out and the north route home when you hit the obvious fork.   Buck’s is a lovely lake with rustic resorts, cabins, and a road along its west shore for more riding.

Afterthoughts: Time of year matters here.  The valleys are at their prettiest in the spring, before things turn hot.  But you’re in the mountains, and spring snows and hailstorms are common.   I’ve done the century once in snow and once in hail, and both times I froze.  Ideally you’ll do this ride before the summer heat arrives but while there is still picturesque snow on the mountain peaks.   Watch the weather report and take an extra layer, especially if you’re planning on doing the Antelope Lake loop.

As of 6/15, I don’t know the status of the Genessee Store.  It was closed when I was there last, on a lovely summer Sunday around noon.

Don’t miss Johnmc’s helpful additions below.

7 thoughts on “Indian Valley

  1. Bianchi

    Thanks for the great ride description. I’ve been to Genessee Valley in the Spring and it takes your breath away. Thanks for the suggested route. I’m looking forward to getting back there and trying it. Great description!

  2. johnmc_76

    I live in Taylorsville, and ride to Antelope Lake often. Although not as scenic as before it burned (twice), the ride around the lake is not the moonscape you make it out to be. There’s also a little store at the entrance to the first campground (if your doing the loop clockwise) that’s open from Memorial to Labor day weekend. You can get a cold drink, snack, or ice cream. Makes the 11 mile loop a bit more worthwhile.

    Also, if you add the Diamond Mountain Rd-North Arm loop you mention in your “Adding Miles” section, consider riding Diamond Mountain Rd all the way to where the pavement ends, near Engle Mine. It’s a nice little 4.5 mile out-and-back, following Lights Creek, that’s on an old train bed. A gradual 300′ climb up, and as fast as you want to pedal coming back down.

    Finally, Taylorsville is more than “just houses” as you mention. There’s historic Young’s Market, where you can get cold drinks and food, and the Taylorsville Tavern, if you’d like a cold brew. Just up the street from the market is the Methodist Church which was built in 1875, a great place to snap a picture.

    1. Jack Rawlins

      Thanks for the good additions. Any idea if the Genessee Store is permanently closed? It was closed when I was there last, on a lovely Summer Sunday noon.

      1. johnmc_76

        Jack, I’m not sure about the schedule for Genesee Store. It was closed yesterday (Sunday) when we came back through around 1 PM. If you plan on riding, you might want to call ahead and see if they’re going to be open. The number is 530-284-6351. I don’t think they’re closed permanently, as they served lunch for the IV Century ride on Memorial weekend.

        We were disappointed to fine the store at the Antelope Lake campground closed yesterday, as well. Their hours have changed (at least for this Summer) and the sign said they were open from 9-11 AM and again from 2-6 PM. We got there around 11:30, naturally. The store is at the entrance to the campground across from the Boulder Creek Ranger Station, which is where they have the rest stop for the IV Century, if you’ve ridden that before.

        1. Jack Rawlins

          The IV Century being, of course, the Indian Valley Century, not a century for people on life support.

  3. Steve Shaw

    I rode this ride from 89 and Arlington Rd (parked at the golf course right off of 89) up to Boulder Creek Campground–the out and back was 58.2 miles, 2480 vertical. The climb is pretty easy and the views of the snow covered peaks were classic. This ride will have you grinning from ear to ear. I carried 2 water bottles and an apple, which sufficed. The Genesee store was not open nor was the Boulder Creek store. April 14th….sunny with temps in the low 60s. The creeks were roaring.

  4. Robert Kellum

    I have now done this ride twice (Oct. 2017, Sept. 2018) and I HIGHLY recommend this ride for anyone in the area, or who is willing to make the drive. It is a really wonderful ride. Beautiful and changing scenery, with deer, wild turkey, good pavement, light vehicle traffic, and friendly locals. Turn around where the true climb begins and you have a nice 45-mile out and back. Enjoy!


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