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Section 4 Bass Lake to Walker

Section 4: Bass Lake to Walker

231 miles  5 hours

High 108 near Sonora Pass

This section takes us into Yosemite, one of the nation's best know and most popular national parks, and thus one of the most crowded . It then takes you over to the east side of the Sierras on High 108, one of the finest motorcycle roads in the state,  toping out at 9,623' Sonora Pass. The days end finds us at the small, quaint town of Walker California. 

Throughout most of the route gas is easy to find and lodging and camping abound. While Yosemite Valley is the highlight of this days ride, the trip over Sonora Pass on high 108 is both stunningly beautiful and a thrill ride on the bike. It is what I have often refried to as a destination road, one that is so much fun to ride that it's a destination in itself. 


Bass Lake to Walker Map


Start: Bass lake: 0  Gas, Food, Groceries, Lodging and Camping.............Oakhurst: 7.5 Miles  {Corner of High 41 and 49}  Gas, Food, Groceries, Lodging, hardware, auto parts..........Maraposa: 27 Miles  (34.5 Miles)  Gas, Food, Groceries, Lodging, hardware, auto parts...............Yosemite National Park  31.6 Miles (66.1) {Entrance Station}  Services inside park: Food, Groceries, Lodging and Camping............Crane Flat: 14.1 Miles (80.2) gas,  Groceries....... Junction of High 120 and 49: 39.8 Miles  (120) No services...........Jamestown: 12 Miles (132) Gas, food, Harley Dealer.........Sonora: {High 108 and Mono Way} 10 Miles (142) Gas, Food, Groceries, Lodging, hardware, auto parts, motorcycle shop ...............Dardanelle: 40 Miles (182) Gas, groceries, lodging, food, camping.........Sonora Pass: 20 Miles (202) No services...............Junction High 395:  15 Miles (217)  No services......Walker: 14 Miles (231) Gas, Food, Groceries, Lodging. 


Main write up 

Some damn fine roads, some damn fine scenery, thats what we have here

Were headed into some of the most spectacular country along the entire route. Yosemite valley lays ahead along with the ride up Sonora Pass on high 108,  what I call a five star road, a destination road, but first we need to leave leave bass lake. If you're traveling in the summer months, hopefully your leaving in the coolness of the morning because on a summer afternoon this can be one hot ride.

Just after leaving the lake the road tops a crest and begins a descent into the community of Oakhurst. its a nice ride, but nothing really special and your soon in Oakhurst. This thriving mountain community has just about everything you need, except motorcycle dealerships, and the main drag, high 41, is almost always crowded. Take a left on 41, then a quick right on high 49 headed north.

Were soon out of the town, but it takes us some time to get out into the real country. Lots of homes line the road and that means, as in any thriving community,  lots of people turning on and off the highway. Even as we begin to stretch our legs a bit and leave the driveways behind the road still has some traffics on it, I would rate the traffics between Oakhurst and Maraposa as a 3, not extremely heavy but its always there.

It takes about a half hour to 45 minutes to reach Maraposa, and like so many other Sierra Nevada towns on the west side, the main drag is trying to look like its 100 years old, and some of it may be. They trade on histroy. Like the towns along Route 66, it's the history that brings in the people and that is what the locals make a living on. Not a bad thing,  and it works. 

Our next gas will be at Crain Flat, 46 miles away, so gas up if you need it. If you will be going to to Yosemite valley that will add another 20 miles to the total. 

Were soon out the town,and like Oakhurst, it takes u a little time to get out of the homes along the road but once we pass the Muir Lodge Motel (the last time I was by this area, the motel was advertising $29.95 rooms, so I don’t think this would be called a boutique hotel) ) we’re headed into some good riding as we descend into the canyon of the Merced River. If you don't get caught behind some slow moving RV or tourist watching every leaf on every trees and shrub, then this can be a spirited ride. Big sweepers help us drop elevation until we arrive at the river at a place called Briceburg. it’s just a national forest visitors center and entrance to a recreation area to our left. dirt roads all of them. 

Once we’re beside the river the roads straightens out and its a fast run with the river on our left. This road is usually traveled more by locals, the tourist having gone up high 41, and the they usually do not doddle through this section, they're either on their way home or to work and they drive at what we may call a spirited pace and so can we. 

We pass several little hamlets, many turnouts along the river, two large hotel complexes and a couple of picnic areas before coming into El Portal. This little hamlet has a grocery store and a little gas station with some of the most expensive gas we will see along the route, but if you're here, and you need gas, I guess you grin and bear it. 

Just up the road, as the Merced river now roars over boulders as it exits Yosemite valley, we enter the national park and head into one of the most famous locals along the route. The PCMCR actually turns left and heads up to Crane Flat, but we have taken this route to visit Yosemite valley. I won’t describe the valley to much, as it has been done to death by others, but I will say that take your time in the valley. I once heard that on any given night, there are 25,000 people in the valley, and all of these people are gawking and looking at the sights and not for you or your bike. Watch for the other guys until you get off the bike. 

I do have one Yosemite story that I have to tell because it involves motorcycles. My wife and I (it was really my girlfriend, we were not married then) were coming out of the main store area in the valley and going to the bike. we noticed that while we were eating, another motorcycle had parked next to us, and as we were putting out gear on, up come two guys to get on the bikes. as any friendly motorcyclist would do, I said “howdy”;  nothing, the guys said nothing. We said oh well, and continued putting on our gear. Then they began talking in german, I later thought about this, I would guess that the word “howdy” was not in their german- english dictionary. Hi, hello, that kind of thing, but not howdy. They are prolly thinking, howdy, whoat, what's that.

Back on the PCMCR again, we take a sharp left and begin climbing out of the valley. This section is always crowded, and the people coming down the road into the valley can be a bunch of jerks. There are a couple stopping points where people can get out of their cars and view the sights of the valley. I have seen some crazy people trying to find a place to park, half in the road, or just pulling around another car that is stopped, so watch it here. 

We pass through a couple of tunnels and then head to the right and arrive at Crane Flat. here is a small store, restrooms and a gas station. this can also be crowded, and it’s one way through the gas station and store area. if you don’t need to stop its best to keep going and stop at one of the small towns outside the park.

At Crane flat,  high. 120, the Tioga Pass Road,  goes over to the east side of the range and high intersects high 395 at Lee Vining. This is a nice, but slow road. I had debated about taking the PCMCR over Tioga Pass, but because of the slow traffic, it can be a bit of a bummer on the bike. Sonora Pass, high 108,  is such a blast on the bike, that I decided to take the route over that. You can always take 120 through Yosemite, the turn left on 395 and join the PCMCR again north of Bridgeport, but you will miss a great ride over Sonora. 

Past Crain Flat the road begins it long descent to meet high 49 near McClure lake. This section is through a thinning pine forest, passing a few campgrounds. Big Oak Flat is the largest community here, with a store and motel. Just before we begin to drop into the canyon and join high 49 after it is coming off the what is know as the Western Dragon, (an alternate route for the PCMCR) we take a small road on the left (there is a small little coffee shop located at the junction) ,and begin a kind of wild decent, instead of taking the more popular road that goes to the right and makes a more boring decent. This short, steep road must have been the original road at one time and is now traveled by locals, but some don’t know that there is a low gear in that auto of theirs. Make sure that the one guy following you knows that the smoke coming from their car is not some kind of fire, but their brakes. On my last time down this road that guy was in front of me, thankfully. 

Once we reach the bottom of this steep road we turn left and soon join high 49, or to be quite right,  this road joins ours,  and 120 and 49 share the same pavement. We are only on it for a couple miles before taking a right hand turn on Jackinsonville Road. This road goes over a high bridge over the lake and take what you might say is the back way into James town, a more local Raod once again. Less crowded then high 49 route.

We are soon entering Jamestown, and when we arrive at Main Street, we take a right had turn and go through this town that looks a lot like Maripost, build in the same mold. 100 year old history transformed to antique stores and eateries.

Here is gas and if you're interested in a little history, a Railroad Museum called Rail Town.  If you're riding a Harley and are looking to stop at every harley dealer you can, you pass right by Jamestown Harley Davidson, and  if you're hitting this place at lunch time make a stop at the burger joint just past the dealer, it's  is a good place for a homemade hamburger or a frosty on a hot summer day.

After leaving Jamestown we are soon passing through Sonora. This mountain town has a lot to offer, with just about any service you may need. Gas, food, lodging of all kinds, hardware stores, a WalMart and a local motorcycle shop. High 108 bypasses the main downtown and most of the town itself, but as of this writing, the road drops down to a junction with Mono Way,  where you can take a right and travel along a business district where Orchard Supply Hardware, Wal mart and plenty of eateries are located. 

If you want to explore the old downtown area, take a left on CA 49 from high 108 and follow it to downtown. Some great local shops, places to eat and a great used book store. it makes a great break from the road, a place to eat lunch or spend the night. Check out the the Gun House, a beautiful hotel in the downtown area with a great breakfast.

Back on high 108, as we exit the highway on Mono Way, where there is a McDonalds, an Arco station with what will be the best gas price for a long time and a Tractor Supply store where you can get some hardware items. 

Highway 108 begins a twisty section of road from here on out, except the first 25 miles, to the little hamlet of Strawberry, this is a crowded road. Lots of homes and business, seen along the road and unseen for miles on each side and it’s not till Strawberry that we get to twist the wrist. There are several spots where we get a passing lane, and a couple sections that are four lane but soon enough we are back to the two lane and are slowed again by traffic. 

For the most part, the pavement all along high 108 is good, there are some sections of tar snakes down lower, but when we get in the fun parts, the pavement is a 4 or 5 rating,  it’s very good all along the ride and for the most part it’s a good ride, even with the traffic, and we pass through and Sierra Village where gas is available and  Mi Wuk Village.  At Cold Springs, 21 miles out of Sonora, we find the last reliable Gas before Walker. There is a little store here also,  Get a burrito and double up on that gas.

We're soon at Strawberry and the traffic thins out a bit, the road climbs around a ridge and begins a slow decent into a valley and it’s here that the Sonora pass road become a special ride. In the valley we pass several National Forest Campgrounds and the little enclave of Dardanelle, where there are Gas Pumps, but because this is just a small little store I wouldn't count on making this your last gas stop. Now the road begins twisting and turning through the never, no no, that's a line from Metallica, it’s twisting and turning through pine forest with a bubbling stream as your companion.

At Kennedy meadows we pass a heavily used campground and if we take a mile long side road we have a little store but no gas. It’s here, a Kennedy meadows that the road becomes that destination road, and a large sign tells people pulling trailers that it is not advisable to take that thing up this road, and hope to god that they don’t.  The road from her to Levette meadows is steep, twisty and so much fun that you may want to turn around and run it again. 

The road makes a steep assent, going through a large rock on both sides of the road and levels off at a view point before containing along its upward progression. For the most part, the road is clean and the pavement is very good, but do be on the look out for some sand and rocks in the curves from the cages who just can't seem to stay on the road. At one point there is a steep switchback as the road climbs to a high point, drops down a little where you can wind out the throttle through a thing grove of Aspins, then begin climbing again as it makes it way to the high alpine zone and reaches Sonora Pass, the highest point along the entire PCMCR. 

There is a small place to stop and take some photos, and take a look down the eastern side, dryer and amore valconic then the west slope was. The drop begins right away, and more twestys  greet you on the decent. After about xxxxx miles your reach Livette Meadowns and the road levels out. If this was as fun for you as it was for me,  turn around and ride  back to the pass, I like the eastern sides ride up better then the western approach. 

Livette Meadows has a camp site and a h0rse pack station, but no store. Futher down the road we come to Pickle Meadow where the Marine Corps have a Mountain Warefair training station, signs along the road worn you not to stop at any time and you often see Corpsmen around helecopters as you ride by. 

We pass a small picnic area to the left and Sonora Bidge Campgrpund on our right, this is one of my favorite campgrounds, usually not crowded and with nice spots and views of the Sweetwater mountains to the east and back to Pikle Meaodws and the Sonora Pass area to the west. 

Just up the Road  from Sonora Bridge Campgrpund is our junction with US 395, a main north south road also running from Mexico to Canada. We turn left and head up along this busy road that travels along the west walker river, a very pleasant ride. We pass a couple campgrounds and a picnic area and soon reach the end of this section at the quant town of Walker CA, were we find a store, gas, and a couple of quant motels.