Sierra Mountain Biking in the Fall

After hearing our mountain bike friends rave about the Cannell Plunge ride in Kernville, we put it on the top of our bucket list. We've ridden this mountain bike trail twice now, along with another classic ride in Kernville called Just Outstanding.

Starting from home in South Lake Tahoe, this trip was a 5-day adventure full of incomparable beauty, history, and local flavors from the residents to the brewery. Cheers!

Layers

Day 1

Sierra Ski and Cycle Works
1
Sierra Ski and Cycle Works
Outdoor Adventures | Guide or Outfitter
Day 1 - 170 miles To see fall colors in our own back yard, we drove from our shop, Sierra Ski and Cycle Works over Luther Pass to Pickett Junction and Hope Valley, continuing along the east fork of the Carson River through Markleeville to get to Monitor Pass to access Highway 395, one of our favorite roads, especially in the Fall. Talk about quintessential Sierra Nevada. Highway 395 is magical and rugged, a drop-you-to-your-knees explosion of geological beauty that it's easy to see why John Muir labeled this escarpment the "Range of Light." Highway 395 is as breathtaking and stunning as our iconic CA Highway 1. It's a highlight of the adventure and one of our favorite roads, hands down.

It all began in 1975 when he decided to move to South Lake Tahoe, for just one winter.  That one winter turned into a lifelong love affair with Lake Tahoe and people who ski and ride bikes.

Meet Gary Bell, back country pioneer and owner of…

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Mono Lake
2
Mono Lake
Natural Area | Lake, River, or Waterfall
Before dinner we rode our bikes over to Mono Lake.

Volcanic islands, bizarre geologic tufa formations, the Sierra Nevada crest rising 6,000 feet above the lake's surface, brine shrimp, alkali flies, and diverse bird life at the edge of the Great Basin desert make Mono Lake a destination unlike…

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Tioga Lodge at Mono Lake
3
Tioga Lodge at Mono Lake
Accommodation | Lodge or Resort
Lodging for our first night.

In the late 1890s, J. P. Hammond homesteaded the property where Tioga Lodge is today. The two buildings housing the restaurant and the registration lobby were moved to his property around 1897 from the nearby gold mining town of Read more

Day 2

The Buttermilks
4
The Buttermilks
Outdoor Adventures | Climbing Area
Day 2 - 180 miles Before hitting the road, we started with an early morning boulder in The Buttermilks just below Mount Tom and Mount Humphrey.

One of the most diverse, renowned and accessible bouldering areas in the county, the Buttermilks is a sprawling climbing area located about 8 miles west of Bishop on the flanks of the Sierra Nevada. There are enough boulders and routes for…

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Manzanar National Historic Site
5
Manzanar National Historic Site
Natural Area | National Park or Monument
We continued our road trip south on Highway 395 and stopped by the Manzanar National Historic Site. Stark and disturbing situated against the mesmerizing Sierra Nevada mountain range, the exhibit tastefully tells the haunting story of our past when 10,000 Japanese Americans were “interned” in the camp for the duration of World War II. It's a must visit.

The Manzanar War Relocation Center was hastily erected in 1942 and then filled with about 10,000 Japanese Americans, most from the West Coast, who were “interned” in the camp for the duration of World War II. President Franklin D. Roosevelt…

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Eastern California Museum and Bookstore
6
Eastern California Museum and Bookstore
Museum, Theater, Interpretive Center | Museum
After a few hours at Manzanar, we went to the Eastern California Museum and Bookstore in Independence which is packed full of early pioneer and mountain climber artifacts such as Norman Clyde and Clarence King, along with books and old photographs, and an amazing collection of Native American baskets and artifacts. After the Museum we drove up Onion Valley to hike Karsearge Pass, a 10 mile round trip, before heading to Hwy 14 and right into another world - the Southern Sierra - where the Mojave and Great Basin Desert meet illustrated by the distinctive flora and wildlife. On our way out through Kern Valley we were blessed to see several hundred Turkey Vultures during their fall migration south. Between end of September and early October, up to 4,000 have been documented roosting overnight in the forest along the South Fork Kern River before continuing their journey south.

The Eastern California Museum in Independence has been the repository for Inyo County and Eastern Sierra history for eight decades. That history, from dinosaur bones to Native American baskets to pioneer saddles to famous Sierra Nevada…

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Kern River Brewing Company
7
Kern River Brewing Company
Food or Drink | Brewery or Brew Pub
Located right across from Sierra Gateway Cottages, the brewery has local brews on tap including one called Just Outstanding, after the classic bike trail. Just like the downhill mountain bike ride, this IPA is intense, full of unexpected flavors that capture the excitement of this epic trail. The beer and local ride are memorialized on a brewery t-shirt, along with another one of my favorites for Lake Isabella.

Kern River Brewing Company was started in September of 2005 by Kyle Smith, Rebecca Giddens and Eric Giddens. Their goal in starting the brewery was to provide a comfortable place where locals and visitors to the valley could gather and enjoy…

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Sierra Gateway Cottages
8
Sierra Gateway Cottages
Accommodation | Hotel or Motel
We stayed two nights at the Sierra Gateway Cottages

Relax along the Kern River in a piece of history at Sierra Gateway Cottages.  Whether you enjoy fishing, hiking, rafting, antiquing, or just getting away from it all, Sierra Gateway Cottages is your home away from home in Kernville. Complete with…

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Day 3

Mountain and River Adventures
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Mountain and River Adventures
Outdoor Adventures | Guide or Outfitter
Day 3 - 2 miles Make reservations a few days before. Kernville is even more fun in the Fall, with cooler temps day and night, colors changing, bird migrations, and the buzz along the river. Make a shuttle reservation with John and the gang at the Mountain and River Adventures, located on the Kern River in the center of town. John is a longtime mountain bike pioneer and active steward maintaining the local trails with the local land managers, raising his young kids to follow in his path.

It all began on the Kern River, late one winter evening around a smoky campfire.  Three friends, dreaming big and longing to turn their love of the outdoors into a business partnership, created a plan.

That campfire inspiration became…

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Cannell Trail
10
Cannell Trail
Outdoor Adventures | Biking Route
Located right across from the Kern River Brewery, which has local brews on tap including one called Just Outstanding, after the classic bike trail. Just like the downhill mountain bike ride, this IPA is intense, full of unexpected flavors that capture the excitement of this epic trail. The beer and local ride are memorialized on a brewery t-shirt, along with another one of my favorites for Lake Isabella.

Located in Kernville in the southern Sierra Nevada, the “Cannell Plunge” is a popular mountain bike ride of epic proportions with incredible views of the surrounding peaks, forested single track, and non-stop action. You get over 23.7 miles of…

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Day 4

Just Outstanding
11
Just Outstanding
Outdoor Adventures | Biking Route
After the Cannell Trail next we rode Just Outstanding through a tunnel of Manzanita towering 6 feet tall. This trail lives up to his name, with big rolls and drops like a roller coaster. Be sure to book a shuttle with John once again, to get the local knowledge and tips. We road Just Outstanding twice, because it was! After the last descent, we headed to Lake Isabella to soak our feet, before the easy ride back to the Brewery for more local flavor and tall tales.

Carve your way through cedar forest and into an unforgettable manzanita tunnel on this fast flowy trail. 16 miles. 900 feet in climbing. 5,000+ feet in drop.

 

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Lake Isabella
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Lake Isabella
Natural Area | Lake, River, or Waterfall
Day 4 - 2 miles After the Cannell Trail next we rode Just Outstanding through a tunnel of Manzanita towering 6 feet tall. This trail lives up to his name, with big rolls and drops like a roller coaster. Be sure to book a shuttle with John once again, to get the local knowledge and tips. We road Just Outstanding twice, because it was! After the last descent, we headed to Lake Isabella to soak our feet, before the easy ride back to the Brewery for more local flavor and tall tales.

An angler's dream, a windsurfer's paradise, a naturalist's open invitation to exploration, Lake Isabella has something for every outdoor enthusiast.

One of the largest reservoirs in Southern California with over 11,000 surface acres.  Fishing,…

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Day 5

Sorensen's Resort
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Sorensen's Resort
Accommodation | Lodge or Resort
Day 5 - 350 miles, Kernville to South Lake Tahoe We head back home to South Lake Tahoe via Highway 395 to travel through the Other Side of California with a stop at Sorensen's Resort in Hope Valley for a gourmet dinner and evening walk through the towering Aspen.

Tucked away on the eastern edge of spectacular Hope Valley just south of Lake Tahoe, Sorensen's Resort is an ideal home base for recreation and relaxation all year long. This historic settlement offers cozy housekeeping cottages, log cabins, and…

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Trip Plan Details

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In This Trip Plan

1 Sierra Ski and Cycle Works
2 Mono Lake
3 Tioga Lodge at Mono Lake
4 The Buttermilks
5 Manzanar National Historic Site
6 Eastern California Museum and Bookstore
7 Kern River Brewing Company
8 Sierra Gateway Cottages
9 Mountain and River Adventures
10 Cannell Trail
11 Just Outstanding
12 Lake Isabella
13 Sorensen's Resort