First off it might make a big difference if you are going to the Valley or to Hetch Hetchy. If you go to Hetch Hetchy, you want to eventually end up on 120, which means the way we went is probably best, since you have to make it up the hill toward the end at some point anyway.
Our Route to the Valley for one day trip (as best as I remember) Maps: Kreb's SF Bay Touring (to get to I-5/ CA Aquaduct) AAA Bay and Mountain (through Central Valley and rest of the way)
1) Get to Livermore. We took 84 over dunbarton, through Freemont and then (after missing a turn) 1 exit north on I-680 (legal) to stay on 84/Vallecitos Rd.
2) Within Livermore, the goal is to get to J-2/Corral Hollow road for the sweet biking alternative to Altamont. It's best to consult a map (Krebs SF Bay Bike Touring is OK, but beware new construction). We roughly took Valecitos (turns into Holmes) - R on Concannon - R Arroyo - L on Marina - L on Wente - R on Livermore,
2b) Follow Livermore Rd out of Livermore (town) and onto Tesla Rd (a L-ish turn on the map, but might just be the same road continuing with a new neam) Tesla turns into Corral Hollow and climbs and winds through an awesome pass. (This part is sweet)
3) Cross over I-5 and head South along the California Aquaduct Trail. This is a reasonably nice bike path along the aquaduct, only bummer is that you have to get off and lift your bike over the fences at every cross street. Beware also that it can be tricky to keep track of where you are since I recall the cross-streets aren't all signed.
4) Go East (Left) on CA-132. For the most part this road is the route through the central Valley. It is OK, but a bit busy with a decent shoulder. It is more plesant to take:
4a) Paradise (or parallel California) about 7mi outside or Modesto. This junction is on the Kreb's map, but beware that the other end in Modesto is not. I think it was a bit confusing as to when we got back on 132 and through town. Eventually we ended up with a Modesto Map... perhaps Tom or Dave K had it all along. Get food in Modesto.
4b) After Modesto 132 is gradually nicer as you head to the foothills. Eventually you get to Coulterville. Be sure to fill up with food and water here as it's pretty much the last store.
5) continue onto 132 and before long you turn Right onto J132/Greeley Hill Rd. Go a few miles. The climbing get's going here.
6) Left on Smith Station Road. If I remember the climbing now is in earnest. A number of folks on our ride dropped out up the hill. But the scenery continues to improve and thankfully the traffic is very light.
7) Turn right on 120 and follow it all the way into Yosemite. In the park we took the usual way down the Big Oak Flat Rd to the Valley.
- To Get to Hetch Hetchy you can either go along 120 until just outside the park and turn Left on Evergreen Rd. to Hetch Hetchy Rd or what looks like a better way (though I have never been on it) would be to turn off sooner and take Cherry to Mather Rd to Hetch Hetchy.
- If the goal is the Valley you can avoid 120 altogether and enter along 140. There are a number of possible options for this. For the most part I think they are a bit longer, but not having to climb the hill to 120 could make up for it effort wise, but check a Gazetter or Google Maps with Terrain or Map my Run/Ride to make sure, since there could be some other climbs depending on the route you pick. options here include: WARNING - I have not been on any of these before, they just look sweet on the map! For all of these options I looked at the AAA Yosemite Area Map, which is decent, but has no topo lines. (!)
+ Follow the original route through step 5, but continue on J132 past Smith Station and follow it when it turns into Bull Creek Rd.. Most of Bull Creek is dirt and there seems to be a network of Forest Service Roads (could be some camping options?) to navigate. Bull Creek shows up as partially Forest Service 20, and then later it splits off as 2S05. Eventualy it dumps you at 140 at Briceburg, right where 140 joins the Merced River. I think there is some climbing on this route though less than 120. The last bit to Briceburg looks really windy, so is probably steep down. 140 is fairly flat and a bit narrow along the river and into the park.
+ An alternative that also looks interesting but requires more research would be to Avoid 132 and take J16 through the central Valley instead. J-16 also connects to the CA Aquaduct on the Bay side and on the Yosemite side seems to have a couple of options. Either taking Hornitos Rd and navigating through/around Mariposa, or the most intriguing option would be to connect with CA-49 at Bear Valley (not the ski area) and head North a few miles to Bagby and Lake McClure. Along the North shore of the lake my AAA map shows the Merced River Trail which follows the river all the way into Briceburg and 140. If this trail was bikable it would be a sweet way in to the Valley. On my map it looks like you might have to go out of the way a couple of miles North of the lake to join the trail off of Shilling Rd. but it looks likely that there could be a cut off trail (not shown by AAA) along the lake shore to 49.
+ As a sub-option to the 140 routes, 140 is generally along the South side of the river, but there is also an old road along the North side of the river. It might be possible to connect to it at Briceburg, but I'm not sure the first few miles would be bikeable, though. (Based on looking across the river while driving). It also looks like you could connect to it by a trail off of Bull Creek Rd. which could make a sweet adventure. Ben Hunt might know more about this from some (epic?) bike shuttles for river runs.
+ Yet another, somewhat more hilly fire road route would be to avoid both 140 and 120 by wiggling through the National Forest after J132 along Old Yosemite and Old Coulterville Rds and into the tiny in-holding town of Foresta. From there a shorter climb leads to the Big Oak Flat Rd and the final decent into the Valley. This would be sweet, but would likely require camping along the way.
- An ambitous but enjoyable starting alternative would be to Climb Mt. Hamilton either as a long way to Livermore or better yet to get to Del Puerto Canyon (camping option in Frank Raines Park) which connects to I-5 & the Aquaduct at the town of Patterson from which J-17 connects to J-16 as a way onto 140.
Whew, Well there you have it. A bit too much distracting time reminiscing and dreaming of future rides. Definitely let me know how your ride turns out. It should be totally great.
PS - I miss biking in CA.
1998-2009 / cpbl