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Which Sierra Roads?

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Which Sierra Roads?

Postby maverick » Sat Feb 19, 2011 1:50 pm

We all take some of the same roads to our trailheads in the sierra, and I at least
anticipate the shows that nature puts on in each season, every year.
Do you have any favorite/least favorite section of the roads you have travelled to get
to your trailheads?
I can hardly wait after 120 opens to see the views over towards Clouds Rest from
Olmstead Point, to see TM for the first time in the season, and experience the bloom
of the dogwoods.
Driving over Kaiser Pass and it's wide open views of the sierra crest is just gorgeous
especially one 100 yards section where there are no trees to block my views north, wow!
Descending 180 into Kings Canyon as the road seems to disappear into the cliffs at that
certain bend in the road we all know is quite thrilling.
Driving into South Lake or Rock Creek in the fall with all the beautiful aspens turning.
The views as one drives into the Yosemite Valley during the spring run-off is quite awe
I also enjoy the views along 395 south of Mammoth, as all the snow capped peaks just
tower over the valley.
The road into Mineral King as one get closer and the views get better is also a favorite.
One road I do not care for is the southern entrance into SEKI, it is long, and extremely
windy road which does not afford any commanding views, and if I never can drive
it again I will not shed any tears.
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Re: Which Sierra Roads?

Postby oldranger » Sat Feb 19, 2011 2:21 pm


I love the road up to Giant forest. Driving between the giant Sequoias when you get to the top is awesome! About 2005 I drove over Kaiser Pass for the first time in over 40 years--my jaw dropped!
In 2009 after we met in Paradise Valley/Pate Valley I drove west heading toward home but the thought of driving thru the San Joaquin/Sacramento Valleys was too depressing so I headed n. then e. over Sonora Pass (last time over it was over 50 years ago) and again I was stunned. I think I enjoyed it more than Tioga. Road I dislike the most is 41 into Yosemite valley during the day (except where approaching the valley which nothing can ruin) primarily because of the traffic. All of 395 is cool except for the Reno/Carson City area. I especially like the N. side of Conway summit in the fall.


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Re: Which Sierra Roads?

Postby markskor » Sat Feb 19, 2011 3:04 pm

Good topic –
Agree most of highway 395 is “da bomb”, especially that stretch between Mammoth and Bridgeport. Always like that part where you can look down the rugged canyon walls and still see scars where the water cannons once blasted out the gold ore, now 100 years past.

Speaking of Bridgeport, amazing stretch of road that heads for Twin Lakes. The first part is rural – flats and cows – not particularly appealing. However, you come around that last bend and it is Heidi country…Matterhorn Peak, the alders, and the blue-green of the first lake always blows me away.

One time I hiked the old abandoned road – (the steep one now replaced by 120) out of Tioga Pass down…past the Power House and through the greenest of meadows – lots of small waterfalls - nice.

Highway 80, up near Donner Summit holds some appeal too with all the railroad sheds/ tunnels. That high green bridge near Auburn is spectacular.

Not Sierra, but the spindly arch bridges of Big Sur/highway 1 deserve some mention here too.
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Re: Which Sierra Roads?

Postby balzaccom » Sat Feb 19, 2011 3:32 pm

Great topic...and yeah, I love Tioga Pass and the road from 395 to Twin Lakes..

And also the top section of Sonora Pass, as it weaves between volcanic peaks among lovely meadows.

But my all time favorite is a little north of here...Highway 89 through Lassen Volcanic Natinal Park.

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Re: Which Sierra Roads?

Postby Carne_DelMuerto » Sat Feb 19, 2011 3:42 pm

Here's another vote for Kaiser Pass. I always make a point to take the spur road and check out White Bark Vista on my way out. (Incidentally, the trail up to Potter Pass off of Kaiser Pass Road is a nice day hike and you can hike up the ridge from the pass for some very nice views.)

Growing up in Visalia, I drove up that southern entrance many, many times. (One of the best swimming holes is just past the park entrance.) I disliked that drive only when stuck behind an RV.

Edit: Markskor, that bridge near Auburn is the Foresthill Bridge. I live right next to it and admire it every time I hike down into the American River Canyon. :D
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Re: Which Sierra Roads?

Postby giantbrookie » Sat Feb 19, 2011 4:06 pm

There are a number of roads I like for different reasons. Like many I like 395--it's hard not to. I also like Lee Vining Canyon (120) and I very much like the amazing stretch of 180 after it crests out and descends ---this includes the justifiably renowned Junction View and the climactic narrows just downstream of Boyden Cave. As much as I like Lee Vining Canyon and 120 I really like the rugged mixed volcanic and granitic landscape of Sonora Pass, too. Kaiser Pass is nice from a scenic standpoint, but the narrowness of that road, combined with the number of drivers who either lack manners, intelligence, adequate driving ability, or a combination of all three, have led to a few too many unpleasant trips on that road for me (this doesn't stop me from doing this several times each summer, though). Several of the east side spurs are nice, and I probably like the Bishop creek one the best. Carson Pass is not quite the equal of Sonora or Tioga, but the view south to Round Top, particularly in early season, is very special, and one I never get tired of. Finally, I realize that the Feather River is not part of the true High Sierra, but it remains near or at the top of the list of Sierran roads for me because of the sustained ruggedness of the canyon and the highly varied scenery, especially nice in fall colors---of course the fact that this is one of the greatest geologic transects in western North America has a lot to do with my love of Hwy 70.

Least favorite is probably 41 to Yosemite--traffic and not much in the way of views until shortly before reaching the valley. 99 has been mentioned and I certainly don't relish that highway, but given that it never gets into the mountains, I don't think of it as a Sierran road, and so much of the time the air quality is poor enough so that one can't see the Sierra from it, either.
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Re: Which Sierra Roads?

Postby paul » Sat Feb 19, 2011 4:10 pm

I always enjoy 108. First there's the Donnels vista, where I like to stop for a look. then once you pass Kennedy meadows you realize right away that this road is not messing around, as you start going up in a serious way. And the scenery near the top is beautiful. I always recall the first time I drove over it. I got to the top, and then the road just seemed to disappear, it dropped off so steeply on the east side. I felt as if caltrans had just paved the old wagon road without doing any more grading - now that's a mountain road.
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Re: Which Sierra Roads?

Postby diesel » Sat Feb 19, 2011 5:22 pm

Mineral king road is good fun, and definitely scenic.... driving through 20 something miles of hairpin turns was an interesting start to a backpacking trip. I'm not sure it's a drive I'd like to make more than once every couple years though.
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Re: Which Sierra Roads?

Postby fishmonger » Sat Feb 19, 2011 6:24 pm

Love Kaiser Pass, a real mountain road :rock:
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Re: Which Sierra Roads?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Feb 19, 2011 7:29 pm

Least favorite - Hwy 99. But for all its warts it does get one quickly from Sacramento to Fresno, to the King Canyon Road which gets progressively better as you go up.

Another favorite - road down to Cedar Grove (Kings Canyon) from Grants Grove.

Another favorite - Monitor Pass -- it is my go-to route to get to Hwy 395
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