Cycling Bear Creek Road - one of the most scenic climbs in California.
This is along with Hwy 198 is the greatest bike climb involving Giant Sequoia Redwoods
This a simply a remarkable climb and experience. Now, truth be told, the first 6 ½ miles of this stout 16 miles climb are nothing to speak. 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 (which is off the “main” (we use this term loosely) road along a narrow dirt road through giant Sequoia Redwood trees - AWESOME stuff!!!!!!
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 . . .
. . . They are not kidding!
At about mile 4 of this climb, we enter Sequoia National Forest and the last third 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 and of the powerful and mighty 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).
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 14.8
After turning right onto Bear Creek at its junction with Balch Park Road, we climb another 1.2 miles 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. A couple of hundred yards after turning right be alert for the giant sequoia named Oliver Twist (for a reason - see slideshow).
After completing the final 1.2 miles of the climb, retrace your steps to Bear Creek/Balch Park road, turn right and travel another .2 miles to Balch Park Public Camp and enjoy the beautiful pond, hollow tree and very cool unattended but very informative museum which provides the history of Balch Park and turn of the century (19th, that is) logging photos and history (slideshow).
Traffic and Roadway report: The roadway surface, other than the first 3 miles, is poor, rutted, pot-holed and with plenty of loose gravel that makes for 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, CA if or camping in either Sequoia and/or Kings Canyon National Parks to the north.