Tucked twenty-four miles north of Truckee on Highway 89 is one of the true gems of the Northern Sierra: The Sierra Valley. The huge, 120,000 acre valley boasts more cows than people and feels like a slice of the old west only seen in movies or paintings. That, combined with the miles of fence line, surrounding mountains, and endless sky set the ultimate scene for a great ride away from the crowds of Lake Tahoe. Locals affectionately call it the Tour de Manure. The ride combines both state highways and county roads to form a 55-mile loop.
What Makes It Great
The Sierra Valley rivals the size of Lake Tahoe and may have just as much diversity of scenery: quaint homesteads with swallows fluttering beneath old, wooden beams; majestic mountains sinking into a sea of grass; herds of cows that trot with curiosity toward the road as you pass.
The Sierra Valley is also the largest swath of marsh habitat in the entire Sierra Nevada. A stopover on the Pacific Flyway, the valley hosts over 230 bird species. Look for waterfowl near the junction of County Road A23 and Highway 70. The Sierra Valley is also home to a plethora of wildlife species. Bear, bobcat, coyote, deer, and even the occasional Rocky Mountain Elk and Great Basin Pronghorn roam the valley floor and surrounding forested hills.
For the most color and activity, ride the valley in the late spring and early summer. Birdlife, frisky calves, and green pastures are ready company along the lonely highway. Summer and fall make great seasons as well. For a nice break near the end, check out Cambell Hot springs just up the road from Sierraville.
Who is Going to Love It
Tired of riding around Lake Tahoe once a summer? Head north to the Sierra Valley instead. Beginner riders looking for their first fifty plus mile day will love this ride. So will intermediate and advanced riders looking for a change in scenery.
Bird lovers, geology buffs, amateur botanists, and wildlife watchers will also love this ride and the Sierra Valley’s unique position at the confluence of the Sierra, Cascade, and Great Basin ecological regions.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The Sierra Valley ride starts in Sierraville, at the junction of Highway 89 and Highway 49. Parking is free in Sierraville. From Sierraville, the route heads north on 89/49 for 4 miles to Sattley. Turn right on County Road A23. Proceed north on County Road A23 for 18 miles. Turn right on Highway 70 for approximately 14 miles to the junction with Highway 49. Turn right on Highway 49, and follow it back another 19 miles through Loyalton and back to Sierraville. It is recommended to ride the Sierra Valley clockwise to avoid headwinds on County Road A23.