Cycling Bear Creek Road: One of the most scenic bike climbs in California.
involving California’s Giant Sequoias.
Photo: The lower half of the photo is the Bear Creek Road section of Giant Sequoias.
This a simply a remarkable climb and experience. Now, truth be told, the first 6 ½ miles of this stout 16 mile climb are nothing much to speak of. However, keep the faith because we promise you that this will be a memorable climb if you stick with it all the way to the top, off the “main” road, along a narrow dirt road through giant Sequoia Redwood Trees -- AWESOME views available nowhere else on earth.
Bear Creek Road is billed as a logging road, and rightly so. Our climb, and the road, begins at the intersection of Balch Park Road and Bear Creek Roads.
Start of climb, sign says “LOG TRUCK TRAFFIC AHEAD”...
. . . and they aren’t kidding!
At about Mile 4 of this climb, we enter Sequoia National Forest. The last third of the climb is squarely within thickly forested surroundings rivaling those of Humboldt and Del Norte counties in Northern California.
Enter Sequoia National Forest at Mile 4
Established 1908 by President Teddy Roosevelt,
We cannot emphasize enough how incredible the last few miles of this ride are, giving us a glimpse into the past through the powerful,mighty, and ancient Giant Sequoias (see slideshow). The alpine setting begins around Mile 15 (we have sage, chaparral, oak, and grasslands from the beginning, giving way to Pine, Redwood and finally, Sequoia as we climb higher into the Sequoia National Forest).
Our first Sequoia at Mile 14, the final two miles are heaven!
The climb is very challenging, note the several purple/violet sections indicating double digit grades in the MapMyRide elevation grid, below!
Important Navigation Note: Bear Creek Road becomes Balch Park Road at mile 14.8 and you must take a very sharp turn to the right to continue on Bear Creek Road (video beginning at 50 second mark shows this turn) toward Shake Camp, Pack Station, and Tule River (there is a sign, facing away from us on the ascent, with these details); we have climbed this route twice and missed that turn twice!
Turn here at Mile 14.7.
After turning right onto Bear Creek at its junction with Balch Park Road, we climb another 1.2 miles at 5.8% grade through a breathtakingly spectacular Redwood/Sequoia forest (slideshow). This area is in the heart of Balch Park which offers camping and many recreational activities. About a quarter mile after turning right be alert for the Giant Sequoia named Oliver Twist -- it is MAGNIFICENT!
After completing the final 1.2 miles of the climb, retrace your steps to Bear Creek/Balch Park road, turn right and travel another 0.2 miles to Balch Park Public Camp and enjoy the beautiful pond, hollow tree, and the unattended but very informative museum providing the history of Balch Park and turn of the century (19th, that is) logging photos and history (slideshow).
Traffic and Roadway Surface Report: The roadway surface, other than the first three miles, is poor, rutted, pot-holed, and with plenty of loose gravel, all combining to create a rough descent. There is very little traffic on the roadway and we experience a very quiet and peaceful ascent for 12 miles after entering the national forest.
There is plenty of lodging in Porterville, California, as well as camping in either Sequoia and/or Kings Canyon National Parks to the north.
Photo - from upper left clockwise:
That’s a wrap!