Wildcat Road

Distance: 73-mile lollipop
Elevation gain: 5531 ft

This ride samples a network of little roads in an area roughly bounded by Cottonwood CA, Redding, highway 299, Round Mountain, and Shingletown.  I think this route is the best of them.  The scenery is California Valley foothill and low forest, with a nice mountain town at the halfway point, good views of Mt. Shasta, and one bonus feature: 10 miles of the finest rock wall I’ve ever seen.

Most of this route is covered by the Anderson Century and the Lassen Foothills Century (aka the Give Me Wings Century), both excellent introductions to the area.

(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 Highway 5 just north of Red Bluff, take the Jelly’s Ferry Road exit (see, the fun has already started) and drive on Jelly’s Ferry Rd until it crosses the Sacramento River.  Park in the large dirt parking area on the far side of the bridge.  Continue north on Jelly’s Ferry on your bike.  (By the time you get to Ash Creek Road, Jelly’s Ferry has changed its name to Gover Road.)  Turn R on Ash Creek Rd.  The road surface is at first disappointing but it gets better.  Turn R on Wildcat Road.

The waller’s art

You may ride any of the other roads in this area or not as you will, but you must not miss Ash Creek and Wildcat, because along these roads you’ll find the thing that makes this ride extraordinary: the Wall.  For ten incredible miles, the most beautiful stone wall I’ve ever seen runs along one or both sides of the road.  As you ride, appreciate the unimaginable craftsmanship and labor the waller put into this masterpiece (yes, an artisan who builds a wall is called a waller).   And imagine the wealth of the person who paid for it all.  The riding is all very moderate climbing.   The terrain is classic grass and oak foothills, a perfect backdrop for a rock wall.  Note the views of Mt. Shasta to the north.

IMG_7422At the top of Wildcat Rd. you hit an unsigned T.   Left is Black Butte Road, which we’ll do in the other direction on our return route.  Go R (which is still called Wildcat Rd.) to a most wonderful, unexpected descent.  It’s a very fast, all-too-short slalom course on a wide-open, big two-lane road with a glassy surface, and you can take some chances because the traffic is next to nonexistent.  It dumps you out on Manton Road, a big, straight, monotonous two-lane.  Turn L and do a tedious slog to Manton, an intersection with a bar and grill (live music on Saturday nights, believe it or not).  Go L up Wilson Hill Road and prepare yourself for a prettily wooded by truly demanding 2.5-mile climb to Shingletown.  Mapmyride reports a pretty intimidating 5500 feet of gain for this ride, but I frankly don’t know where it is—these 2.5 miles are the only place where you’ll work.  If you want to avoid steep pitches you can turn L onto Black Butte Rd. earlier, and the 2.5 mile climb up Wilson Hill to Shingletown becomes 8 miles of tedious but only moderately steep grinding up the shoulder of busy Highway 44.  I wouldn’t.

Ponderosa Way

Ponderosa Way is small

Shingletown is a pleasant, typical largish Northern California mountain community, population 2300, with a big grocery store and a restaurant or two.   The place is hip enough to sell wines from Manton.

From Shingletown, ride down Hwy 44 to Black Butte Road.  It’s fast, straight, heavily trafficked, and not particularly fun.  Go L onto Black Butte and ride back to Wildcat.  BBR is fairly well built up with unobtrusive houses and is more brush than forest, and it’s mostly rollers, some of which are tons of fun and some of which are work.  From Wildcat, return along your outbound route.

Shortening the route: Obviously the prime miles are Ash Creek/Wildcat, along the wall.  After that, if I wanted a shorter ride I would actually ride off the route, on the side trip along Ponderosa Way/Fern Rd. East/Oak-Run- to-Fern Rd recommended in Adding Miles just below.

Mt. Shasta is visible whenever the sightlines open up in this area

Mt. Shasta is visible whenever the sightlines open up in this area

Adding miles:  The next-best route in the area is much more of an adventure: Ponderosa Way/Fern Rd. East/Oak-Run- to-Fern Rd, a series of three end-to-end roads that are small, wild, woolly, and largely deserted.  The last time I rode Ponderosa Way I saw 3 vehicles in 13 miles.  So come prepared to take care of yourself.  Ride the route until you’re tired, then take any of the three roads that peel off to the L and descend to the valley—Whitmore Rd., Oak Run, or Hwy 299, in the order in which you come to them.  Of course then you have to get back up to Ponderosa Way.   Here’s a possible loop incorporating those roads.  You can extend the adventure by continuing past Oak-Run-to-Fern Rd. on very back roads to Round Mountain, which I haven’t done.  To minimize the mileage total, ride Ponderosa Way and its extensions as an out and back.

Ponderosa Way is work because you’re riding across the ridges that run down to the valley—it has about 8 miles of 6-10% rollers.  The road surface throughout is surprising good for such unused roads (that is to say, it’s OK).

You’re a few short miles away from the Igo-Ono ride, just on the other side of Hwy 5.

Afterthoughts: This area can be very hot in the summer, and most of our route is in full sun.  Luckily, even though you’re riding through only one town, water opportunities are fairly plentiful, because this is corner market country.  Water is available at the intersection of Gover and Ash Creek (a river “resort” in a manufactured building), Manton (a bar), Shingletown, and the intersection of Hwy 44 and Black Butte Rd (a quickie mart and a deli).  If you ride Ponderosa, there’s a delightful country store with a gumball machine made from a gas pump in Whitmore.  There’s nothing at Millville, if you go home that way.

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