NorCal Backcountry & Wildflowers: Hwy 36 and the Unknown Valley

Join waitlist?

0 on waitlist

Location image of event venue


Explore remote Highway 36 this spring! ~50 mi/day average. Mid-April is usually a sweet spot for weather, not too hot. Extremely low traffic roads. Beautiful scenery. Many creeks and rivers.

This is a point-to-point tour with good transport options on both ends. Special arrangements with the Forest Service and Wilbur Hot Springs have been made. Enjoy the ride!

Day 0 Eureka (Amtrak bus or United to ACV)
Day 1 Mad River (Mad River FS campground near Ruth Lake) elev 2600'
Day 2 Platina (dispersed FS camping) elev 2600'
Day 3 Red Bluff (motel or CG on Sac. River)
Day 4 Elk Creek (campground at Stony Gorge Reservoir)
Day 5 Wilbur Hot Springs (tent platform)
Day 6 Davis Amtrak station > train to Bay Area

Compared with the Unknown Coast tour last June, the hills are not as steep and the pavement is better (on average). The days are longer so you should be comfortable riding 50 miles fully loaded. Like the TUC trip, services are sparse and this is mainly self-supported. There is at least 1 store or cafe, each day.

Serious weather in the forecast, especially for Day 1 - Day 2, will modify the route or cancel the trip.

Heading east from Fortuna (sea level), we cross over the Coast Range on Highway 36 at South Fork Mountain Summit elev 4077' and head down toward the Sacramento Valley. Days 1 and 2 have most of the climbing; bring willing legs & reasonable fitness. There are brief sections of 8-9%. Day 3 has a 500' bump after Platina then it's a long, gradual downhill to Red Bluff and its amenities: stores, restaurants, and motels!

From Red Bluff we tack slightly west again and south, towards Paskenta and into the Unknown Valley. This is a little hidden area with reservoirs just west of the Central Valley. Look for wildflowers! The terrain is friendly offering plenty of opportunities to check out the scenery. Leesville Road leads south to Bear Valley Road, where we finish the day with a 10-mile unpaved section on the way to Wilbur Hot Springs.

Leaving Wilbur refreshed, we head south along Cache Creek on Highway 16 through the beautiful Capay Valley. Farm roads lead to Davis via the Davis Double Century route. Aiming to arrive late afternoon, leaving plenty of time for feeding and boarding trains.

tent, warm sleeping bag, pad
warm off-bike clothing
warm jacket and hat for chilly evenings
water filter
small camp stove (like a JetBoil) and fuel
meals & riding snacks (there are 4 mandatory breakfasts, 4 lunches, 2 dinners)*
change(s) of cycling clothes
sunscreen, toothbrush & toothpaste, etc.
small towel & swimsuit
bright cycling jacket
bright rear blinkie
phone + charger (tho service will be scarce)
well-stocked repair kit
cash for stores en route

The starting point is currently Eureka. Depending on people's travel arrangements, it could be bumped 17 miles south to Fortuna, thus shortening Day 1. There are good places to stay & eat breakfast in both towns.

2 camping platforms are reserved at Wilbur for the last night, @ $75/per person. This includes a place for your tent, use of the kitchen, and entrance to the hot springs. It's an option to skip Wilbur if you specify that before we leave. There's a BLM campground ~5 miles south on Hwy 16.

Food on the route:
Day 1: Dinsmore 1 store, Mad River 1 burger place
Day 2: Wildwood 1 coffee drive thru, & a mile detour north there's a bar and simple restaurant
Day 3: Red Bluff (everything)
Day 4: Elk Creek 1 cafe w/some convenience store basics
Day 5: Stonyford 1 small store w/cafe
Day 6: Guinda 1 cafe + 1 store, Capay bar/grill, Esparto store, deli, and taqueria

The leader plans to bring 4 breakfasts, 2 lunches (replenish in Red Bluff), snacks, and 4 dinner pouches.