Author Topic: Western Express - Section 1 - Mormon Emigrant Trail  (Read 10790 times)

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Offline jamawani

Western Express - Section 1 - Mormon Emigrant Trail
« on: March 08, 2011, 04:32:47 pm »
Howdy -

Well, it's March in the West and it has been a doozy of a winter in the Sierras.
I am always telling people from back East that May in the High County is still winter.
That is especially the case this year in the Sierras.

I anticipate that the Mormon Emigrant Trail on the Western Express route
will not be snow-free until after Memorial Day - possibly mid-June.
Carson Pass has almost 10 feet of snow - as do most locations in the Upper American Basin.

The current addenda for Section 1 has the following detour:

On maps 6 and 7 the Mormon Emigrant Trail is closed during winter months and usually opens in May or June. Call the El Dorado Sheriff Dept. at 530-621-6600 to find out if the Mormon Emigrant Trail is open. There is an alternate route in listed in the riding conditions. This is an improvment on that one, with a shorter alternate and less climbing. From Placerville ride east on Main St. In 1 mi. it becomes Broadway. 2.5 mi. later it becomes Newton Rd. After 5-6 mi. turn left onto Pleasant Valley Rd. 1 mi. later turn right onto Mt. Aukum Rd. After 6 mi., turn left onto Fairplay Rd. In 3-4 mi., turn left onto Omo Ranch Rd. After 9-10 mi., you will rejoin the route on SR 88. (Jul 2005)

But Mt Aukum Road is a bear.
(I'll continue in the next thread since the text box is doing weird jumping.)

Offline jamawani

Re: Western Express - Section 1 - Mormon Emigrant Trail
« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2011, 04:44:55 pm »
The detour suggested combined with the regular Western Express involves about an additional 1500 feet of up and down over the Sierra Ridges in order to get to Highway 88.  Also the total distance between Fairview (on I-80 west of Davis) and the Highway 88 junction with Omo Ranch Road is 145 miles.

Yes, the American River Trail is lovely and Davis is a great college town.  But Sacramento is a big city to ride through and the current route has you on or parallel to I-80 for a lot of miles.  Hardly stunning scenery.

Why not route via Rio Vista, Ione, and Sutter Creek?
Montezuma Hills Road is one of the greatest rides in the Bay Area.
(Plus is has a huge windfarm on the ridge lines.)
The Delta ferries and back roads along the rivers and sloughs are lovely.
Hwy 104 head thru natural grasslands and by the defunct Rancho Seco nuke plant.
Then Sutter Creek and Sutter Creek - Volcano Road are some of the best in Gold Country.

Bike shops aren't as plentiful but there are enough along the way.
Traffic is lower than many of the roads in the Sacramento area.
Camping is generally available - but not around Sutter Creek.
(To camp in the foothills - go via Plymouth - county fairgrounds - and Fiddletown.)

Just wondering since Mormon Emigrant Trail won't be open for a long, long time.

Offline jfitch

Re: Western Express - Section 1 - Mormon Emigrant Trail
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2011, 10:57:24 pm »
That would be Fairfield, west of Davis, not Fairview, right?

Offline jfitch

Re: Western Express - Section 1 - Mormon Emigrant Trail
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2011, 11:22:29 pm »
Also, I think its worth emphasizing that you do NOT want to ride a bicycle on Highway 12 between Fairfield and Lodi (Rio Vista is about halfway between). There are narrow to no shoulders, heavy fast moving traffic, including many big rigs, often reduced visibility from tule fog, and a nasty accident rate. This is one of the most dangerous roads I know of on which to ride a bicycle.

I agree that Montezuma Hill Road is nice. The best way to get to it is to ride on the bike path on the north side of Hwy 12 to the east end of Suisun City. The path begins near the pedestrian overpass between Fairfield and Suisun. When that gives out, you'll have to ride on 12 for a couple of miles (this is the least dangerous part of Hwy 12). Turn left on Branscomb road (and be careful crossing the highway), then right on Creed Road, and right again on Denverton Road, which will take you back to Hwy 12. You'll cross Hwy 12 to continue on Denverton Road for about a mile before you are returned again to Hwy 12. Then you'll have to ride on 12 for about a quarter mile before you can turn right onto Shiloh road. After a while, turn left onto Bird's Landing Road, then right on to Montezuma Hill Road, which will take you all the way to Rio Visto.

Having never ridden past Rio Vista, I'm not sure what the best way is from there, but it isn't Hwy 12. Probably north from Rio Vista up the west side of the river to the ferry to Ryer Island, and then route through Walnut Grove, Thornton, and then across the central valley between Galt and Lodi towards Ione.


Offline jamawani

Re: Western Express - Section 1 - Mormon Emigrant Trail
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2011, 12:11:46 am »
Fairfield - yep.

And no, you don't ride on Highway 12 - nota bene - Montezuma Hills Road.
Then you take the ferries across Cache and Steamboat Sloughs.
The nice thing about ferries is that you have little through traffic.
(And what little traffic there is comes is a small lump.)

From Walnut Grove you take Twin Cities Road (E13 and Hwy 104) east - NOT Hwy 12.
It's a bit busy with development around Galt,
but by the time you get to the country store at Herald it thins out.
Plus you get to ride thru some of the last large acreages of open grasslands in the Valley.
(Yeah, there are the decommissioned nuke cooling towers.)

From Ione you can either go up to Plymouth where there is camping
then continue on a very gradual climb via Fiddletown and Shake Ridge Rd.
Or you can take the back road to Sutter Creek - historic and pricey -
Then take Shake Ridge Road all the way -
or go via Volcano and the killer climb up Ram's Grade.

Both options are about the same distance - 25 miles less than the WE.
Rio Vista makes a good 1st night out.
Then it's 60 miles to Plymouth/Sutter Creek,
another 60 to Sorensens on the east side of the Sierras,
and another 60 to Dayton State Park in Nevada.

*Since I am posting this for early departures - i.e. May -
It should be mentioned that the high country campgrounds and lodges do not open until Memorial Day at the earliest.

« Last Edit: March 09, 2011, 12:16:33 am by jamawani »

Offline jamawani

Re: Western Express - Section 1 - Mormon Emigrant Trail
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2011, 11:38:03 pm »
Update as of March 21 - -

The current storm rolled into the Sierra on March 18, dropping 5-to-8 feet of snow from Mammoth Mountain to Lake Tahoe. 

Boreal Mountain Resort amassed 7.5 feet of snow in the weekend's storm. The new snowfall shot the resort into a record season with 679 inches of total snowfall.

Highway 88 is closed from 3.5 miles east of Kirkwood to 5 miles west of Picketts due to avalanche control. Caltrans says vehicles should choose a different route.


The High Sierras got up to 5 to 8 feet of new snow this past weekend and will get a foot or two more by next week.  Carson Pass had more than 10 feet of snow.  Hwy 88 was closed.  The Mormon Emigrant Trail is under mountains of snow.  In my last contact with Eldorado National Forest, the ranger stated that this road is allowed to melt out - i.e. not plowed.  So it may be mid to late June before it is bikeable.  Also, nearly all of the public and private camping areas on Hwy 88 will almost certainly be closed until Memorial Day.  Because of slow snowmelt and wet ground, the National Forest campgrounds will likely open significantly later than published - to prevent damage to the environment.  Private (read - expensive) campgrounds and lodges will probably try to open for Memorial Day weekend.  That suggests that there will be nowhere to camp for about 60 to 70 miles in the High Sierras on the Western Express until mid June or so.  (From Indian Grinding Stone to Sorensen's on Hwy 88.)

Offline CMajernik

Re: Western Express - Section 1 - Mormon Emigrant Trail
« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2011, 02:24:49 pm »
On the 2007 version of the map the routing east of Placerville was changed to no longer use the Mormon Emigrant Trail road due to heavy snow years and waiting for snow melt. So the map versions that have been published since then show new routing which are county roads that connect to State Hwy. 88.   
Carla Majernik
Routes and Mapping Program Director

Adventure Cycling Association
Inspiring people of all ages to travel by bicycle.
800/755-2453, 406/721-1776 x218, 406/721-8754 fax

Follow Routes & Mapping on Twitter: @acaroutes

Offline jamawani

Re: Western Express - Section 1 - Mormon Emigrant Trail
« Reply #7 on: March 28, 2011, 05:25:06 pm »
Then why do you still route via Placerville at all?
Much longer - much more climbing.