Wards Ferry Road North Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

2.9
FIETS
2.7 mi
DISTANCE
1,160 ft
GAINED
8.2 %
AVG. GRADE

FULL CLIMB STATS

INTRO

We stumbled across this road bike climb on our way home on California’s Highway 120 West, just north of Old Priest Grade, and are we glad we did!  Both Wards Ferry climbs (North and South) start at Wards Ferry Bridge (aka Graffiti Bridge, called such for good reason).  This climb is 11 miles from Highway 108 (near Sonora) if you are coming from the north, or seven miles from Highway 108 if coming from the south.  
This climb is at an 8.2% average grade.  70% (1.9 miles) is at 5-10% grade, and 21% (0.6 miles) at 10-15%.  The steepest quarter-mile is 10.8%.

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Roadway:  This roadway from the start for the first mile is one lane, later widening to a very narrow two lane road with no center stripe.  The roadway is paved and rough but easily manageable on a road bike. 

Traffic:  You will encounter no more than a handful of vehicles on the climb.  

Parking:  You can park at Old Priest Station and ride nine miles (Map) to the start of the climb if you are coming on Highway 108 (to Yosemite), or at the start of the climb - Map; Street View.  I have renewed respect for Google drivers on this one!
Provisions:  None on the climb, but you can get a great breakfast or lunch nine miles from climb start at Old Priest Station Café. 
Before heading out on any cycling adventure check out our Things to Bring on a Cycling Trip and use our interactive check list to ensure you don't forget anything.
Consider doing this climb on your trip to Yosemite or across the Sierras to Highway 395 along with Old Priest Grade. Both Wards Ferry climbs can (should?) be done at the same time - 31 miles with 5,150' of climbing (Map). 

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CLIMB SUMMARY

The iconic Wards Ferry bicycle climb

Photo:  Start of Wards Ferry North

We stumbled across this road bike climb on our way home on California Highway 120 West, just north of Old Priest Grade, and are we glad we did!  The climb begins in Murder’s Gulch -- more on that below.

Both Wards Ferry climbs start at Wards Ferry Bridge (aka Graffiti Bridge, called such for good reason) which is 7.5 miles from the intersection of Highway 120 and Wards Ferry Road, just about 50 miles from Yosemite’s west park entrance.  You can also begin the climb from Highway 108 (near Sonora) and in that case it is 11 miles to the start.

This is a very narrow road and treacherous for the first few miles from the bridge.

GRAFFITI BRIDGE

Well . . . Graffiti ain’t necessarily pretty . . .

THE HISTORY OF WARD’S FERRY

During the gold rush days of the 1850s, miners would have to take a wooden ferry across the Tuolumne River near the start of our bike climb today.  Joseph Ward owned such a ferry and accepted payment in gold.  These were rugged and remote areas during murderous times, and Mr. Ward was murdered for his gold just four years after he began his ferry enterprise.  Despite his untimely death, his name stayed for posterity as the name of the road and the bridge that now crosses the river near his original ferry crossing.  There were several gold-related murders in this area which ultimately became known as Murder’s Gulch, for obvious reasons. As for the graffiti-covered bridge we see today? Though the graffiti is neither lawful nor particularly welcome, it could be seen as a work of art, depending on how you look at it.  It certainly is colorful, to say the least.  Because of the bridge’s remote location, it has been an easy target for taggers of all kinds since it was built in the 1970s.  More on the bridge’s and the surrounding area’s colorful history can be found here.