Section 3: Kernville to Bass Lake
262 miles about 8 hours
High 180 on the decent from Kings Canyon National Park
From the Southern end of the Sierra Nevada range, through Sequoia and Kings Canyon National parks, around the lower foothills of Pine Flat lake then ending at one of the more popular recreation areas in the central Sierras: Bass Lake. This section has some great roads to ride and places to see.
This section begins in the dry desert-like Lake Isabella area, soon giving way to pine-covered hills that look more like Southern California then the Sierra’s along the Western Divide Highway, then dropping down to one of it’s lowest points in California, at only 467’ along highway 198, just before we go back up into the foothills and into Sequoia National Park along our first 5-star road on the trip. The forests here are thicker and you’re now traveling among the largest trees in the world, the Giant Sequoias.
After traversing along the General’s Highway to Kings Canyon National Park at Grant Grove, we then drop down into the foothills once again, traveling around the north shore of Pine Flat Lake, turning north again to climb into the pines as we arrive at Bass Lake.
Lodging and camping are plentiful along this section, but gas can be a little scarce, especially through the parks, but never is really a problem as long as you fill up before you head up into the hills.
Mile 561.4 Town of Kernville. I put our little map marker in the town center, at a place called Cheryl’s dinner which always seems to be crowded, and whether you are spending the night here or not, you are probably ready to stop and have a little snack. We begin our journey northward by riding a mile from the dinner and turn left on
Mile 562.4 Sierra Way. You just passed a small hardware store, there are gas stations (you’re last for sure gas for 71 miles, until Springville) on your left and just to the right on Sierra Way at a little supermarket. We are riding along the west side of the kern River here with some traffic as we are passing by several campgrounds on the left, a lodge on the right as we move upriver and Sierra Way turns into Mountain Highway 99 without us ever knowing. In just under 20 miles we come to the junction with
Mile 582 Junction with the Sherman Pass Road. This is a small, one lane at times, road that leads over to Kennedy Meadows and the Ownes Valley. It is the Southernmost Road that crosses the Sierras. The next road that does will be High 120, the Tioga Pass Road. We continue ahead for fives miles, twisting, turning through the never… no no, wait, that’s a song lyric from Metallica, we are on a motorcycle ride and in five miles pass a junction with 22S82 at the town of Johnsdale. Which is simply a parking spot for a lot of RVs, there’s a store here that I have never been to. Actually, I did ride down the road once to see the store but it was closed. For several years there was a sign saying “For Sale, Entire Town of Johnsdale” We continue on up into the pines, now on Road M50 to
Mile 593.6 Junction with the Great Western Divide Highway. Turn right here and soon we are riding through a grove of Giant Sequoias, the largest living things on earth. Giant Sequoias grown only here, on the Western flank of the Sierra Nevada, in groves that named, this one is Redwood Mountain Grove. The largest, which we will be riding through in this section is the aptly named Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park. Here in Redwood Mountain Grove you can stop, stretch your legs and have a walk through these giant trees.
Continuing onward, now the road allows us to twist the throttle and have a little fun as we pass by Ponderosa Lodge (gas and eats, though I am not sure I would count on this for gas) before coming to Quaking Aspin Campground where we make a wide sweeping left turn and begin the descent into Springville along what is now High 190. Highway 190 is a twisty road, not fun in a car (especially a 1972 Fiat 128) and over the years I have debated with myself on whether it’s a fun twisty or is it just a little too twisty. I’ll let you be the judge. It takes us a while, but we come to the outskirts of the town of Springville at
Mile 632.7 Wagner Drive and the Springville Ranch. Know as the big white barn, you can’t miss the ranch, it is just that, a big white barn with a white fence grinning around it. Going straight ahead for about a mile brings us into the town with gas, snacks, and a few places to spend the night. Our route goes right, northward up Wagner road where we pass ranch homes as we ride through this oak woodland for six miles until we come to
Mile 638.8 Junction with Yokohl Valley Road, (pronounced Yo-Call) where we turn left because it’s simply the only way to go on Yokohl. A little smaller road then Wagner, and it gets narrower as we go along, rising up to a small saddle then beginning a descent into a valley on the other side. This is for me a fun ride and when I lived nearby, a ride up Yokohl Valley was something that I would do if I had just an hour or two to spare. After 20 miles we reach a junction, coming from the left with
Mile 658.5 Rd. 228, where we go to the right. In a little less then a mile we pass Rocky Hill Road where, if you turned left, you would ride over Rocky Hill and descent into the quaint town of Exeter, known for its many murals and where you can find eats, gas, and motels as well an old mercantile store called logically Exeter mercantile. We go straight and soon arrive at the junction with
Mile 661.4 California Highway 198 Where we turn right. We soon pass a small but nice RV park on the left, pass through the town of Lemon Cove with a nice bed and breakfast along with a small gas station, then begin to climb a hill and soon pass Lake Kaweah on our left. If your passing by in May or June the lake can be full and crowded with boaters and fisherman, if you’re coming through in the fall, it can be not much more then a big pond. There is a campground on the left-hand side about halfway around the lake. Not bad, but if it’s summer, what I just said does not apply. Too hot. A few more miles along what can be a busy road brings us to
Mile 678.5 The Town of Three Rivers. Lots of stuff here, even a candy store (Reimers Candies) Just a note, there is no gas in Sequoia or Kings Canyon Parks, though gas is available at Stoney Creek Store just under 40 miles ahead, not counting any side trips you make while in Sequoia National Park so it might be a good idea to gas up here. Another 5.5 miles through three rivers, bring us to
Mile 684 Sequoia National Park entrance station. Another mile brings us to Ash Mountain visitors center when you can stop and get information on the park, buy a book, plan out your visit. You are about to ride what I feel is one of the best riding roads, one I would call a destination road. A ride you would go to just to ride that road. The general’s Highway. originally built in 1920 by mostly hand labor, the road has been rebuilt over the last twenty-five or so years, at the rate of two or so miles every other summer. It went from a bumpy ride with poor pavement to the well-engineered tarmac. If your riding in peak times, with a lot of traffic you may not be thinking the same thing, but if you catch it off-peak, or in the early morning or late evening, without much traffic, then its a thing of joy on two wheels. For a tad over 16 miles, it twists and turns up the mountains, arriving at
tMile 700.4 Giant Forest Village. Where you find the turnoff to Crescent Meadow and Moro rock and a museum. The road to Crescent meadows is a wonderful ride and through stands of giant sequoias. At the meadow, you’ll find several trails, picnic tables, and a good place to stretch your legs. Back on our route, we continue along the General’s Highway, past the General Sherman Tree, the largest living thing on earth. Just after the Sherman Tree parking area, you descend into the Tokaph valley and arrive at
Mile 704.7 Lodgepole, where a right-hand turn leads to the village proper where there is a store, post office, campground, and showers. The village for years used to be back where the museum is now, in Giant Forest but the park service found that because of the fact that the giant sequoia has a very shallow route system that spreads out rather then goes deep into the ground that the fact that there were larges numbers of people trampling all over the area was harming, and killing, the trees so starting in the early 70s they began moving things to lodgepole. You’ll need to go another mile and a half up the general’s highway to find the entrance to the only lodging in Sequoia, the Wuksachi Lodge. A beautiful wood/log structure that goes very well with the surroundings. As we continue along the General’s Highway, we pass by the entrance to Dorest campground eight miles from Lodgepole on the left, enter the Sequoia Nation Forest and in 13 miles come to
Mile 717.8 Stony Creek store. lodge and campground. Here you’ll find gas. We continue along our journey, passing the road that goes to the right to Big Meadows where you will find free camping, but no piped water. The road has been recently repaved and this makes for some nice pavement as we soon arrive at the junction with
Mile 742.4 Junction of the General’s Highway and CA Highway 180. Our route goes left by if you go right, you’ll find, in a mile and a half, Grant Grove Village, where there is a store, cafe, visitors center the John Muir Lodge and campgrounds nearby. Our route begins to decent and soon passes Big Stump parking area on our right with restrooms before we come to the exit station to Sequoia-Kings Canyon and begin our descent on highway headwind down toward Fresno. This is much different than the general’s highway that we took going into Sequoia out of Three rivers, this is a road that has long sweeping curves and can be ridden at a more brisk pace if it’s not for some of the slow divers that can clog up the road. I find that divers that would easily go 90 on a freeway and tailgate you will brake at every turn on a mountain road. Very annoying.
We pass by Gina’s Sierra Inn and Restaurant on our right, then the outskirts of the small town of Dunlap, with a Valero Gas Station, and soon climb up a hill, turn to the right and arrive on the outskirts of Squaw Valley at
Mile 764.4 Junction with Elwood Road, where we turn right. We are now beginning a section with some small roads that avoid us having to go into the Fresno Clovis Area. if you need some major supply, Fresno has it all. All the major motorcycle brands have dealerships are in Fresno and Clovis including Harley, BMW, Indian, Kawasaki, Honda, Suzuki, Ducati. So if you do need something just follow 180 west. Elwood road is a winding little ribbon of fairly new pavement that is a fun little ride but do be careful at the bottom when the road reaches the creek, there is an interesting character living there with land on both sides of the road and peacocks that will often wonder into the road. Our route continues pas this “interesting” home and passes through Wonder Valley, where cattle roam open range, and then begin to climb a rise and decent past a fire station to a junction with
Mile 776.2 North Piedra Rd. Turn right, passing a nice little park beside the Kings River coming out of Kings Canyon, and in less than a mile, take another right on
Mile: 776.7 Trimmer Springs road. This takes us up through a little valley and over into the canyon that holds Pine Flat lake. Just before the lake, we pass Sunnyslope Rd. on our right where just down from the junction we find a little store and gas station called I Forgot Store, for all the things fisherman and boaters (and motorcycles) forgot. Continuing along, our road twists and turns around the north side of the lake. it’s not quite right to say the north shore as our road is a couple of hundred feet above the lake. In just under 14 miles from the crossing of the Kings River we see
Mile 790.4 Maxon Road going left. This is kind of a steep left-hand turn and steeply uphill past a fire station as it climbs to a little saddle before descending. This Road is probably one of the narrowest roads on the entire PCMCR but with very little traffic and it’s easy to see oncoming traffic most of the time. it wonders by some farms as it makes its way to
Mile 795.4 Watts Valley Road where we turn right. We now have a centerline but is still a little country road. it winds upward and as we go we encounter more homes and driveways and the road becomes Borrough Valley Raod as we progress. There no change in the road, it’s just a name change as often happens. In about ten minutes and seven and a half miles, we come to
Mile 802.8 Tollhouse Road, we go right. Now we are on what can be a busy mountain road as it is the main artery for cars coming and going from Fresno to places like Shave Lake, as busy reaction area, and the communities around Prather where we are headed. We travel Tollhouse road travels through ever-increasing homes and ranches, stoping at the junction with what is known in the area as “the 4 Lane” leading to Shaver Lake. At the junction it’s just two lanes, but as it begins climbing up the side of the mountains its turns into four. We go straight ahead and soon arrive at
Mile 810.6 Aubery Road our route goes right. If your low on gas, continue straight ahead for about a mile where you come to a junction with a variety of stores including two gas stations. Our route, Aubery road it a wonderful small twisty road (but with a centerline) that descends onto a valley with a small lake then climbs back out again. At the bottom, at Kerckhoff Lake, you’ll find a nice little campground and a picnic area. After what can be a spirited climb out of the valley on what is now called rd222, we come to our junction with
Mile 827.2 North Fork Road, where we turn left and ride for three miles to the junction with
Mile 830.1 Junction with Road 221 We turn right, as it the only way to go on 221 and where there is a gas station. Rd 221 goes through an area of mountain homes more then ranches, and at one point travels under an old flum as it makes it’s way to Bass Lake, a popular reaction area with vacation homes, several campgrounds, and picnic areas along with rooms. We pass my Millers Landing, an area with cabins, boat launching, and a wonderful little burger joint that my wife and I try to make a pilgrimage to at least a couple times a year. I ten miles we come to
Mile 840.2 Crane Valley road where we take a very sharp left turn, and I do mean sharp. Straight ahead is another restaurant and resort called the Forks, also good food. This ends the third section of the PCMCR. We’ll continue our journey in section 4, Bass Lake to Walker.