This past Memorial Day weekend I took the opportunity to adventure out on one of my favorite rides in the the north-state area, heading east into the Sierra Nevada mountains from Chico, CA. In short the route heads up HWY 70 (one of the most scenic rides in Northern California) and then HWY 89 to Lake Almanor, and then back to Chico via HWY 36 to 32.
The total trip is about 180mi. I grabbed my budy Gabe and his Africa Twin and my little sister hopped on board for the adventure. We split it up with an overnight stay at a friend’s house in Lake Almanor (more on that later) but it’s definitely a day trip. Let’s walk through the route and I’ll shed some light on cool spots to stop at, some stories to go with those spots, and some tips and tricks on how to squeeze the most out of the trip.
ROUTE MAP LINK
Section 1: Chico to Durham -6.8mi
Durham, CA is a small town just south of Chico a few miles (or 6.8mi). I typically head out Midway going south to avoid the Highway 99 because it’s a little more scenic. Durham also has a little gem of a dive bar called The Empire Club. I usually stop here when doing the trip in reverse, as it would make sense not to drink before heading out on a long ride, but for those of you who “wake up in the mornin and grab yourself a beer” (I like to botch The Doors lyrics) then this place is the place for you! 32oz mugs will get the job done with any of the many beers they have on tap. Definitely a must stop to get some taste of the local dive bar scene in Durham (pretty sure it’s the only bar actually). They often have live music and some fellow bikers to chat or brawl with.
Section 2: Durham to Barry Kirshner 12.5 mi.
I realize this is only a 13mi jaunt, and I don’t ever stop here on rides, but the Barry Kirshner Wildlife Sanctuary is worth a mention as it’s unique to the area and most people don’t even know it’s there. The sanctuary is home to many exotic animals (Tigers, Ligers, Bears) who’ve been rescued in one form or another and can’t make it back into the wild. You can view the animals up close and it’s a fun little trip if you’re into that sort of thing.
GAS STOP **** There’s a four-way stop sign on the way out that’s the last place to grab fuel for a while. If you’ve arrived at Kirshner’s without fueling up I’d turn around and go get some!
Section 3: Kirshner to Scooter’s - 10.1mi
Although just another short trip, Scooter’s is worth a mention as it’s an iconic stop for a lot of riders. The food is pretty good, and the fries I’d say rival those of In-n-Out. This is the last point on HWY 70 before it starts to get windy and scenic. The place has some great views and is worth a hop off the bike check out.
Section 4: Scooter’s to Rock Creek - 15.9mi
This past weekend was my first time up to Rock Creek and I’ve passed by it dozens of times. It’s not too far up HWY 70 passed the rope swing (yes, where you can usually use a huge rope swing). After the two tunnels going up 70 there is a steel bridge that crosses the Feather River. There’s a decent size sign pointing out Rock Creek, and when you see it head up the dirt road to the left. About 100 to 200 yards the soil turn a bit more white and there’s a separate trail/path that head’s up Rock Creek. The view would look like this:
From that point you can either park your bikes and begin your hike, or adventure up the path on your bikes as far as you can until you run into the creek. We didn’t know how gnarly the path would get so we parked on the dirt road, but next time we’re definitely charging the bikes up the hill all the way to the creek!
We’ve experienced a decent amount of rain/snowfall this winter in California so the rivers and streams are still flowing heavy this time of year. To say the least it made our hike a little more interesting. When we arrived to the trailhead we were stopped by to girls laying on the rocks in the sun. They advised us that the patch got a little sketchy after that -- and that they had turned around and were just chilling where they were (lame, I know... but they were pretty cute so I didn't say anything and couldn't get them to give it another shot). Anyways, “screw that we said” and headed out the steep rocky embankment. After scaling a few walls with rope and down some ladders we were at our first creek crossing point. Long story short, my sister almost died at this point and we agreed that the hike was a bit dangerous. Of course, we continued and made our way to the big falls -- but I’ll lay out a warning that river rocks get slippery, and when you fall you get swept away by water towards rocky waterfalls, and that if your friend Gabe wasn’t there to save your sister you wouldn't have a sister anymore. Thanks Gabe!
Anyways the view was well worth it!
Section 5: Rock Creek to Twain General Store (Secret Spot) -- 23.7 mi
Twain is an interesting place. It’s a campground and I’m pretty sure there are a few year-round residents. It also has some type of abandon factory nearby that’s completely dilapidated and in ruins. I’ve always been curious about the place so I stopped in to ask some questions one day. The lady in the store was very nice. Jokingly, I asked her where I could find “a secret spot by the creek with a cliff to jump off of and potentially a rope swing”. Turns out she was just the lady to ask because she gave me directions to the very spot I was searching for. You have to go through the campground, through the abandoned ruins, and up to the fire roads over the railroad track. Since this is a secret spot I’m going to leave it there -- but if you’re passing by Twain I’d recommend stopping by to see our General Store lady -- she’ll definitely hook it up with the directions!
Section 6: Twain Store to Indian Falls: 8.93 mi
Enjoy the beautiful scenery on hwy 70 and turn left up hwy 89. You’ll soon come to Indian Falls where there’s more rock jumping. Woo hoo!
Section 7: Indian Falls to Greenville. 9.15 mi
Greenville isn’t much of a town, but the valley up there is absolutely beautiful. There was still snow on the mountain peaks last weekend and it was a toasty 89 degrees down in the valley. I love riding through this place and there are some tasty little restaurants to stop at. Most definitely have to check out Anna’s Cafe.
Section 8: Greenville to Chester (Lake Almanor) -- 23.9 mi
This section of the trip will take you right past Lake Almanor... You'll know you're there when your'e riding directly at snow capped Mt. Lassen off in the distance. It’s a huge lake up here in norCal and it has it’s own list of fun things to do. We managed to get invited to 3 friends cabins over the weekend so we had to make the rounds and say hi to (and have drinks with) all of our friends. We even hit some day time sunshine rain and thunder which was a trip. We also managed to get a governerless golf cart up to about 50phh without killing ourselves and slept on a lake dock to watch the sunrise. To say the least it was an unforgettable weekend with some amazing friends (new and old) and the reason why trips like this are so much fun, especially when cruising on motorcycles in some of the most beautiful parts of the country with your best friends. There are a few restaurants in Chester to stop at if you’re hungry (including the Kopper Kettle), but I’d recommend finding a cabin to stay at and somehow getting on a boat!
Last Leg: Chester to Chico -- 65.8 mi
The last leg of the trip is a blast to ride. We found ourselves riding home Monday (Memorial Day) morning so there were plenty of four-wheeled slow pokes we had to pass along the way. If you can, try and avoid the holiday going-home traffic:) Turns almost the whole way, this ride is a blast and is mostly heavily wooded and in the shade. If you manage to make it back to Chico, it’s a must to stop by Sierra Nevada Brewery for a beer and some food and hopefully you can make it on one of the free brewery tours.
If you'd like some more details on secret spots and other fun places feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheers, and safe trails!