We arrive independently at our leisure on Friday afternoon in Markleeville, at the J Marklee Toll Station. Rooms will be available by 4 PM. There are no scheduled group activities planned today, so we suggest taking some time to relax from the drive to Markleeville. If you arrive in the afternoon, you may want to soak in the nearby Grover Hot Springs pool. It’s a short 4-mile drive from Markleeville. Or if you would like to stretch your cycling legs on a not too strenuous route, you can take a self-guided bike ride through Diamond Valley (route sheets and maps supplied). We recommend a casual dinner at the nearby Wolfcreek Restaurant and Cutthroat Saloon. Markleeville is so tiny that the Wolfcreek is the only dinner option on Friday nights.
# of Passes
|Diamond Valley Loop|
Gather for breakfast at the J Marklee Toll Station, when we go over the day’s plans and answer any questions you may have. After breakfast, will head south on our bicycles towards Ebbetts Pass, arguably the prettiest of the Sierra mountain roads—and the third pass of the Markleeville Death Ride. We choose to do it first, because we don’t want anyone to miss it.
The Death Ride climbs Ebbetts Pass from the east, descends the west side down to Hermit Valley, then turns around and climbs Ebbetts Pass back to Markleeville. Instead of turning around in Hermit Valley, we keep going (of course, you decide how far you want to go and may turn around at any point). We climb the steep Pacific Grade Summit from the east (24% grade in spots), descend the west side past Alpine Lake into Bear Valley. We then turn around and head back to Markleeville. And if climbing four major passes in one day is not enough for someone, we include the option of climbing Monitor Pass on the way back to Markleeville.
# of Passes
|+ Ebbetts West|
|+ Pacific Grade Summit East|
|+ Pacific Grade Summit West|
For dinner, we walk up a short hill to Villa Gigli for an outdoor dining delight—home made pizza prepared by Ruggero Gigli of Villa Gigli. Dinner on the outside deck of Villa Gigli as the sun sets is always a highlight of this trip.
On Sunday, we turn our attention south and east. After another hearty breakfast, we head out to climb Monitor Pass. The terrain here is completely different than on earlier days' routes, this is a high desert landscape with breathtaking vistas of the nearby Sierra Nevada crest.
The single pass option for today is climbing to Monitor Pass and returning to Markleeville. The two-pass option continues down the east side of Monitor Pass, then south on Highway 395 to lunch at The Meadowcliff Resort, then returns by climbing the east side of Monitor.
# of Passes
|Monitor Pass West|
|+ Monitor Pass East|
After enjoying the fast descent and rolling ride back to Markleeville, we look forward to another hearty dinner in Markleeville.
On the final day, we head north from Markleeville towards Carson Pass. On the way towards Carson Pass in the broad alpine Hope Valley is Sorensen’s Resort—a delightful place to rest and have a light lunch amid the aspen trees. Turning around here brings a fast descent, followed by a rolling ride back to Markleeville.
Continuing past Sorensen's Resort brings us to Blue Lakes Road, a quiet path with buttery smooth pavement, flanked on either side by high alpine peaks. This 12-mile road is a real treat for cyclists, climbing up and over the Pacific Crest to the tiny Blue Lakes. Since there is no through traffic on this road, we will only be sharing with fishermen and the occasional camper.
After Blue Lakes is the final climb up to Carson Pass. You may choose to warm yourself at the pass (if the sun is shining) on one of the many granite boulders at the visitor’s center. Turning around here brings a mostly straight and very fast descent on a smooth highway road.
If you are inclined to do still more climbing after Carson Pass, you can turn Left onto Luther Pass Road for one more brief climb. Looking back from Luther Pass over the Hope Valley provides a splendid view of a classic high alpine meadow, with lush grasses, the meandering Carson River, and granite boulders deposited during the last Ice Age.
# of Passes
|+ Carson Pass East|
|+ Luther Pass|
After completing today's ride, guests can shower and change in Markleeville, then head home.
Had a great time cycling on the Desert Escape Tour. Undiscovered Country Bike Tours really know what's needed to provide exceptional service on a fully supported bike adventure. From start to finish everything was taken care of - from great bikes that were accurately sized, to goodie bags, maps, repair kits, drinks and snacks - they had thought of everything. That combined with a great group of people of all ages and abilities made for a very enjoyable experience. The cycling was challenging but lots of fun - everyone could go at their own pace. Scott and Rick, our guides, were very friendly, fun to hang out with and they went out of their way to make sure everyone was looked after. The accommodations were very comfortable and there were plenty of opportunities to enjoy the facilities at the resorts. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend - I'm sure I'll be back for another adventure.
TripAdvisor January 2013