Distance: 8 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 825 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.
Have you ever ridden a bike through a National Park or National Monument and thought, “Wow, the scenery’s great, but the road is wide as a freeway and straight as a stick, and there are people everywhere. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if just once I could ride through scenery as grand as this, but on a small road with a charming contour and have the whole place to myself?” Fantasy, of course—except the fantasy is real, and the place is called Tuttle Creek Road, just outside of Lone Pine, CA.
TCR runs through the heart of the Alabama Hills, a small region west and northwest of Lone Pine long valued by Hollywood western filmmakers for its camera-worthy rocks. The road with the most cinematic history is the Movie Road, which goes north from Whitney Portal Rd. just west of town, but it’s dirt and the rocks on Tuttle are much, much better.
It’s all of 4 miles long—probably the shortest ride in Bestrides—and it took me all of 50 minutes out and back, but it’s well worth the 2 hours I drove to ride it. Actually, the first 1.2 miles of the route is dead boring, so we’re really talking about just 2.8 miles of gold. If you doubt it’s worth it, look at the photos.
You will do some work—note the not-insignificant elevation gain—but it’s that sort of work where you can see exactly how short the 10% pitches are so you can romp up them with a light heart.
If you want to ride more than 8 miles, you’re in luck—the turn-around point is a stone’s throw from Horseshoe Meadow Road and the starting point in on Whitney Portal Road, both of which are in Bestrides and either of which will give you all the work you crave.
Normally TCR sees no through traffic. But at the moment (9/23) the bottom of Whitney Portal Rd. is closed to all traffic and TCR is serving as the detour around the closure. Thus the road is temporarily crawling with through traffic. I still found it an unforgettable experience. Imagine how great it will be when WPR is open again.
Start at the intersection of Tuttle Creek Rd. and Whitney Portal Rd. Ride to the intersection of TCR and Sunset Drive, when it’s obvious that all the fun is over. Turn around and ride back.
The elevation profile on RidewithGPS is misleading, because it makes it look like a medium-steep 2.5-mile slog. It’s nothing of the sort—it’s constantly altering pitch, and it’s got several marvelous whoop-de-doos that break up the climbing. The serpentine contour makes the return descent a delight and a challenge, and you can roll the whoop-de-doos at 25 mph. It’s like Disney designed it.
This is a ride where you should consider getting off the bike. The boulders provide world-famous rock scrambling, and the road follows Tuttle Creek, which is a real, babbling desert creek full of actual water that is often just feet from the road, so foot-dabbling is easy and rewarding.
Back at your car, take the rest of the day to check out the Movie Museum in town, which is full of lore about the western movies of your youth…well, my youth.
Shortening the ride: Hardly.
Adding miles: Our Horseshoe Meadows and Whitney Portal rides are adjacent. Of course the easiest way to add miles is to ride TCR 2 or 3 times, and it’s worth it.