There’s something special about getting out of your car and hopping onto two wheels to experience the great outdoors. It offers up unobstructed views, the pure scent of pine air and sounds of nature. To experience this yourself, these 8 car-free High Sierra bike paths offer you bike rides from winding trails through old growth forests to unrivaled scenic landscapes.
Pope-Baldwin Beach Bike Trail
The southeast corner of Lake Tahoe is lined with an assortment of beaches. And as the summer warmth arrives, droves of people descend upon those sandy havens. While bumper to bumper traffic sits on Highway 89, you can escape the madness by hopping onto the Pope-Baldwin bike path. The 3.4-mile flat route whisks through old-growth pine trees and meadows filled with aspens. And the best part is its easy access to both Pope and Baldwin Beach, along with the Tallac Historic site and Camp Richardson’s famed ice cream shop.
Mammoth Lakes Town Loop
The town of Mammoth Lakes isn’t just a hotbed for mountain biking and skiing. It’s also a great destination for family rides. The hub of the town’s multi-use path network is the Mammoth Lakes Town Loop. The 7.1 mile relatively flat trail loops around town, interconnecting with the other main path for access to nearly every neighborhood. Take in the views of the White Mountains, the Sherwin Range, and Mammoth Mountain as your pedal your way to get a brew at Distant Brewing or enjoy a gluten free treat at Dessert’d Organic Bake Shop.
Warm Springs Loop
One of the main reasons you want to be on a dedicated bike path is safety. Bishop and its big backyard is a heavenly destination for road cycling because of its wide shoulders and roads with such light vehicle traffic that you could be on a road for hours and not see more than a handful of cars. While there is plenty of serious climbs, there’s also many routes that families would enjoy like the Warm Springs Loop. The loop is a little less than 15 miles and has minimal elevation gain and loss – just 550 ft. The views are marvelous as you roll across the river and ride along the base of the White Mountains. For more routes across all abilities, visit Bishop’s road cycling homepage.
The beating heart of Yosemite is the valley itself. It’s home to many of the famous cliffs and waterfalls that make Yosemite National Park famous. While it can be accessed by car, you’ll amplify the experience by hopping onto a bicycle. The Yosemite Valley multi-use trail system, at over 12 miles long, provides the opportunity to combine a short two-mile ride with a pit stop at the scenic Mirror Like. While it might be a bit chilly for most to jump into, it’s a perfect place to take off your shoes & socks and cool off those toasty digits. Another great option is to ride the five mile loop starting at the bike stand at the Yosemite Valley Lodge. As you pedal around taking in the massive granite walls looming above while hearing the thunderous symphony of falling water, you’ll fall in love with Yosemite deeper than you thought possible.
Note: While cruising around, be respectful for your fellow pedestrian nature lovers so everyone can enjoy the path together.
For more family fun ideas, check out Yosemite Mariposa County’s article – things to do in Yosemite in the summer.
Merced River Trail
For those looking for something a little “wilder” but still doable for the entire family, head outside of the park to the town of Briceburg. This 13-mile mostly dirt road follows the namesake river, providing an up-close view of the rugged scenery surrounding the Merced. Due to its low elevation and lack of shade, the best time to visit is early spring. This is also when the hillsides erupt in colorful wildflowers.
Truckee River Legacy Trail
Being the only outlet from Lake Tahoe, the Truckee River is quite literally the lifeblood of the communities in the greater Reno-Tahoe area. The Truckee River Legacy trail hugs the river’s southern side, providing a scenic backdrop, an opportunity to see wildlife, countless bird species, and plenty of fresh air. With only a few small rolling hills, this 12 mile out and back trail makes for a perfect day outside for the entire family to enjoy.
Truckee River Bike Trail (Part of Tahoe Trailways Bike Path)
While the names are similar and both weave their way along the Truckee River, this is a different trail than the one above. The Truckee River Bike Trail follows an old railroad corridor connecting Tahoe City to Palisades Tahoe and is about five miles in length. Closely following the river, in the summer months you’ll see plenty of people floating the water and others fishing or picnicking along the river’s edge. This ride can be easily extended since it connects to a network of dedicated paths that’s almost twenty miles in length. That’s all the way from Tahoe City to Sugar Pine State Park.
Sugar Pine Trail
In the late 19th century, while gold may have brought many migrants to California, the narrow-gauge railroads were crucial to obtain the lumber needed to build the mines, cities, and infrastructure within the state. One of those key links where trains ran a century earlier is now the Sugar Pine Trail. Converted into a scenic and gentle 4.8-mile, 3% grade gravel path. For those wanting shade, you’ll find plenty of it with it being mostly wooded. Highlights include marvelous views of the South Fork Stanislaus River Canyon along with its geology, biologically diverse habitats, and historic artifacts.
All 8 of these bike paths in the High Sierra provide a relatively easy ride but with a nice dollop of adventure with them. So, don’t sit in traffic this season and instead pedal your way to see a whole new side of the Sierra.
Author: Alex Silgalis
Alex founded Local Freshies® in 2014 to be the #1 website providing the “local scoop” on where to eat, drink & play in mountain towns throughout North America. When he’s not writing and executing marketing strategies for small businesses & agencies, he’s in search of the deepest snow in the winter and tackiest dirt in the summer.