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Foresthill, CA
French Meadows Reservoir

Mosquito Ridge Road
600 Curves in 36 Miles

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Mosquito Ridge has long gained an air of infamy in local riding circles. This is a road quite unlike those that surround. And one could probably go even further and say its uniqueness is unparalleled for the Sierra Nevada Mountains. So what's the big deal. For starters, Mosquito Ridge has length, at nearly 40 miles of just curves. Add in the scenery, drop-offs and a fantastic dosage of Sierra Nevada terrain- all the ingredients are there.

No peaky peaks here, just mountainous fingers and the pursuit of water. Like many of the Sierra Nevada's greatest roads, this one was laid down during those glorious reservoir buiding days. French Meadows Reservoir being the prize on this ride, thirty-six short miles away- but getting there is what this ride is all about.

So brace yourself for some outstanding pavement quality, intense views, and a chance to see what all motorcyclists dream of. Few roads anywhere in the state of California will compare. You have to see it to believe it. Long sweeping corners, left, right, left, hard hairpin right, yep, this one's got it all including straights and corners capable of sustaining a spirited pace.

Mosquito Ridge Road is found in the small mountain town of Foresthill. You'll need to ride Forest Hill Rd to get here. Exit I-80 at the Auburn Ravine Bridge, the way is well-marked, just head for Foresthill. The bridge is worth a quick stop. At 730 feet, it's one of the tallest in the United States (and used as a backdrop for a cool stunt in the Vin Diesel movie 'Triple X'). To add some more twists and turns into your diet, from Highway 49. Ride south out of Auburn or north out of Cool, on Hwy 49 to the river bottom, and turn east, on via Old Foresthill Rd.

Keep in mind that Forest Hill Rd a few years back was widened and straightened- the ultimate racetrack set of curves. Yet each and every time I ride it, I see a heavily patroled speed trap of a road. One time, I came up this road at 6 AM, thinking I'd be safe before everyone else awoke. Lo and behold, there he sat, radar on.

Note that Foresthill Rd does continue eastward, but the pavement quickly ends. It's a poorly marked gravel/sand (up to 8 inches deep depending on time of year) all the way to Soda Springs Ski Hill and Old Highway 40. It's a common ride for dual-sport riders and jeepers.

If you ride it, but bring some detailed maps. Or, follow the most trodden path. Recently read a writeup by a fella who rode the distance on a stock Yamaha R1. He made it, but had no idea what he was headed into.

Despite my 6 am enounter with the local gendarme, this is a still great morning ride before everyone else wakes up.  Close to Sacramento, say an hour's ride east to get there.  You could run up for a quick ride, or spend all day running around this region of the Sierra Nevada.

Bear in mind, you'll have the option to connect all the way south to Wentworth Springs Rd via the paved Eleven Pines Rd, or detour all the way up to Hell Hole Reservoir. Also off this road is French Meadows Road down to the American River and one of PG&E's many hydroelectric plants. Otherwise, one could just ride the 36 miles out to French Meadows Reservoir, and ride it back!

Also note this region has some fantastic dirtbike trails, and it's not uncommon to see a train of pickups headed up to Foresthill to do some dirt riding. One other point of interest on the ride up is when you reach Foresthill, you can also ride north on Yankee Hill Road (gravel) and connect back to Interstate 80.

Also note that while Yankee Hill Rd is not paved, Iowa Hill Rd is. Also worth checking out if you like remote backroads, Iowa Hill Rd is the only paved ride across the canyon connecting Colfax and Foresthill.

Once in Foresthill, make sure to gas up, where you're going, there is no go-go juice. Moments after the gas station and the wood mill, you'll find Mosquito Ridge Rd which is well marked and also known as Forest Rd 96.

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Download file here if video won't play

The ride instantly shoots down the hill heading to the canyon floor, over the North Fork of the American River and then right back up again along the canyon wall. Pavement just depends on the year and includes a center line almost all the way to the reservoir.

<--Watch this video shot by Com3 of 4theRiders.com. This footage is the descent out of Foresthill to the bridge.

What makes this road great is the pavement quality.  Something that is necessary to sustain high speeds and knee draggin' lean angles. Traffic is nil.

An occasional boat trailer, and every now and then a ranger. Hopefully, they aren't having a bad day (see below).

There are no towns, shops, mini-marts, nothing. As usual, beware of rocks on the road. The other thing you will need to be mindful of is cows. Get to that in a second.

I ran into a guy one time from the dirtyrottenbastards on a bug-eyed Triumph T595.  He was from Portland and looking for a thrill on a Saturday morning when we met in Cool by chance (after I came up Salmon Falls Rd). Where ya headed, he asked. Mosquito Ridge. Never heard of it. But sounds good. Let's ride. After we reached French Meadows Reservoir some 36 miles later- he was blown away and couldn't stop smiling.

Saying most roads he was used to lasted 5, 10, 20 miles then you come to a town, straights, people, whatever.  He had been riding for quite a few years, and had never ridden anything like this! Mosquito Ridge is like that.

Locals might think of this sort of thing as normal, but for riders that aren't familiar with this Sierra Nevada Wonderland, it's quickly apparent from their amazed grins rides like this are more unusual than common.

So what was that ride like with the T595 in tow? Well, since you asked. After leaving Foresthill behind, Mosquito Ridge begins its sinous descent to the river valley below. Views you may have already figured out from the pics are an exercise in comprehending space as you gaze across the Sierra Nevada Foothills. I typically can't far without wanting to stop and take a few snaps.

Once you reach the bridge and cross over, the ride is just getting warmed up. Back up the hill moving and shakin about. At the first hairpin is Blacksmith Flat Rd. This is a paved road (goaty!) down to the river valley below to Oxbow Reservoir and the power generating plant at the bottom. The river bottom is only a short distance so it's worth riding down and back up to check out the small reservoir.

If you have the time, you could continue riding past the PG&E plant right back up the hill and ride all the way back via Ralston Ridge Rd passing by French Meadows Rd (gravel fire road) to Eleven Pines Rd on all paved forest roads. Bring a detailed map. Easy to get lost, or at least have no idea what road you're on.

My first time back in this region was much like that, I just got plain lost and just had to ride till I came up on something I recognized. Not a good idea if your gas is running low though. Also note that while riders often think in terms of road names, these forest roads will have as many as three name designations.

A common name, such as Mosquito Ridge, a National Forest number, such as NF 96. Other rides they'll have a 5 character Forest Rd designations such as Road 23S16. It's worth mentioning as the road signs you'll encounter may use any one of them. The signs also come and go through the years. Too many bullet holes in some.

Continuing past Blacksmith Flat Rd, the next six miles is the sequence that'll jump start your heart. This is also the section probably most photographed and laid down on video. With steep mountianside drop-offs, Mosquito Ridge is cut right through the rock, and the sheer walls often produce a fresh crop of rocks on the road so be mindful. Or rather watchful.

Once Mosquito Ridge Rd climb to the top of the ridgeline, it runs through a 180 degree hairpin past Lookout Rd (gravel, gated) and begins to lazily curve along the top of the ridgeline. Finally at Interbay Rd, it settles down. Note that Interbay Rd heads south off the ridgeline to the canyon below to the power generating plant, then back up again the other side connecting to French Meadows Rd (gravel). Riding eastward on French Meadows Rd will take you directly to French Meadows Reservoir atop the adjacent ridgeline (to the south) which is clearly visible at times.

Near Interbay Rd, a few miles of straights finally appear. However, before and after are larger than life sweepers nearly 200 degrees around. Now picture that back to back. At the 25 mile mark from Foresthill is Big Trees Grove, a demostration forest. There's a small parking lot here, and sometimes used as a rest point for motorcyclists and car clubs. And the local ranger.

If this is your first time on Mosquito Ridge, consider that few roads compare to this stretch of pavement. The one road that's similar is likely Cottonwood Road down by Sonora or Angeles Crest above Los Angeles.  You must ride north a 100 some miles and ride the Oroville-Quincy Highway, more traffic, but just as good. Then head on down to Mariposa and ride Mammoth Pool Road

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Can you see what's around the corner in the photo above? I couldn't either. But just in case you really wanted to know, he's pictured at right. Forget all those story of deer you've heard. Cows reign in these parts. I've had them in blind corners like this one, walking down the middle of the road, or just plain hanging out nearby. And while I've yet to hear a story of a motorcyclist hitting a cow (bear or deer is more likely), they are not the brightest of animals.

Also note that law enforement is spotty and seems to come and go through the years. Catch phrases like 'directed enforcement' were created because of riders coming up to roads like this and crashing. No one crashes, the cops stay home. Squidly behavior gets the notice of the local paramedics, gendarmes come to see what the problem is. Few years ago, my email box was full of riders lamenting the draconion policing of this road. New season starts up, and nothing. So take that with a grain of salt.

The road reaches French Meadows Reservoir some 600 curves and 36 miles later after a 4000 foot elevation change.  You can continue to head south across the earthen dam onto French Meadows Rd. This changes to Hell Hole Reservoir Rd, than Eleven Pines Rd. If you like backroads, goat trails, forest road sort of rides, you'll like French Meadows Rd, It has some great views just south of French Meadows Reservior, oddly enough because the Penny Pines Fire wiped out the forest in the region.

Note a few miles south of the reservoir is Ralston Ridge Rd (paved) that rides back westward all the way to Mosquito Ridge Rd. Also at the halfway point is the road to Hell Hole Reservoir. Likely one of the Sierra Nevada's most remote reservoirs. All paved roads, but just no reason to be up here. (see pic below!)

Eleven Pines Road finally reaches the Rubicon River which evolves into the main road Wentworth Springs Rd. Turning east will take you to Ice House Rd   West, back to Georgetown which is a quaint gold rush town (gas and food) on Hwy 193. This loop will take several hours, yes it's all paved and after Mosquito Ridge, it's just rather slow going.  Alson note there's a ton of gravel roads up here for all the dual-sports.  Enjoy.


French Meadows Reservoir

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Other Rider Thoughts:

Webmaster Note: Scott sent me this email: "Just finished reading your notes on Mosquito Ridge Road, and I do have to add something. The section of road from I-80 to Forest Hill has been heavily patrolled in the past by everything from local sheriff's to CHP. They can be real sticklers about the speed to, my wife (on a Triumph Legend) and a friend of ours (on a GSX1000R) tickets for doing 65 in a 55.

The local's are pretty good sports about it though, they'll stop and warn you if you're pulled over taking in the vista's, tell you about where the radar traps are set up that day, and flash their head lights in warning if they don't see you stopped.  As funny as it sounds, the last time I did that road and gassed up at that station in Forest Hill, the kind lady behind the counter took no less than three calls from people wanting to know if the law enforcement officers were out in force or not that day."

-Scott Caspe

Beware of an occasional rock on Mosquito Ridge Rd

Thanks Joe!

Beware of rocks on Mosquito Ridge Rd


Download file here if video won't play

Glen sent me this comment: Wow, I just got back from Mosquito Ridge. Are you kidding me? That was the most fantastic 36 miles of riding I think I have ever had. Not a car on the road. In fact, on the way out to French Meadows there were zero cars.

On the way back we had to pass two but that was it. There were some motorcycles on the road but a lot fewer than I thought. Those on the road were pretty advanced riders. One guy had titanium knee sliders and was sparking his way up the hill. Way cool! Anyway, thanks for the work you have put in to your site and thanks for showing me the key to happiness in my backyard.  I love Northern California!
-Glen
Roseville, CA

 

<--Watch this video shot by Com3 of 4theRiders.com

To the Dual Sport Riders:

I have discovered a new world...dual-sports.  I picked up an old '89 Honda NX650 trailie on the cheap, threw on some DOT-rated knobbies, bought some motocross safety gear, and hit the woods.  WOW!  This is fun, oh so fun.  I leave Travis AFB, roll up I-80 to Foresthill. But do I turn right onto Mosquito Ridge Rd this time?  Oh nooo, I ride 10 more minutes and turn left into the Foresthill OHV area. About 100 minutes on pavement so far.

French Meadows Reservoir- Thanks to Curtis for the Pic!!

A few hours later I arrive back on pavement, with arms shaking from exertion, a mud-caked motorcycle, and a smile so wide I think I pulled a jaw muscle.  I have just ridden a 340-pound trail bike into the deep dark mysterious world of dirtbikes.  Snow, ice, thick mud, jumps, boulder, jagged rocks, giant roots, trees....all were encountered with glee. 

There are 80 miles of trails in the Foresthill OHV...I don't think I've ever encountered a better case of "your tax dollars at work." Bless the folks who manage the Foresthill OHV!  And there are LOTS more OHV areas scattered all over California?  Damn I love this state.

Rick Williams
Travis AFB, Calif.


View at French Meadows Reservoir

While back in 2004...
The Auburn Sentinel recently (last month?) ran a front page article on motorcyclists on Mosquito Ridge. They focused on speeding and frequent crashes and injuries. The reporter talked to one emergency responder who that day rescued a high school friend who was hurt in a crash. Your site was briefly mentioned (but not by name, if I recall) as contributing to higher numbers of cyclists.

Easter Sunday I decided to take advantage of the perfect weather and headed from Grass Valley to Foresthill. It's just over an hour on the back roads I like: Dog Bar to Placer Hills road, out of Auburn on the 49, drop down to the river, don't turn across the bridge, but continue past the confluence where the road becomes Old Foresthill, up the hill, past the entrance to the OHV area until you meet Foresthill Road proper

Nice and easy out to Foresthill (three CHP in 15 miles), where I stopped at the gas station next to Robber's Roost. Three riders there said they hadn't been out yet, and only a couple bikes had gone by. Off to Mosquito Ridge road.

Five minutes later I got nicked going 46 in a 40 at the 4.5 mile mark by a ranger with a serious attitude problem. He was stopped in the middle of the road ahead of me waiting.

And man, you'd think I killed his dog by the glares he gave me. Respectful "yes sir", "no sir" answers got condescension and antagonism. He was in my face like he was trying to pick a fight. What a prick. Although he was a bad example of what happens when you give an asshole a gun, he let me go with a warning. I'd rather the little peckerwood gave me a ticket. Anyway, I continued to the 26 mile mark (at the posted limit of course) without further incident. A few points found some rocks on the road, and snow blocked one lane for a hundred yards or so at two or three spots beyond mile 24.

I turned around after stopping briefly at Big Trees picnic grounds, where the latrines are closed for winter, and the water is still shut off. On the return, I saw two forest service trucks shooting radar and a CHP passed me headed outbound. All of them were from about mile 15 and in. Foresthill road back to Auburn saw another three CHP cars. None of them were keen (thankfully) on making U-turns.

I concentrated the afternoon on my own Nevada County roads: Wolf, Lime Kiln, McCourtney, Indian Springs, Bitney Springs, Rough and Ready Highway, Pleasant Valley, etc. Beautiful rides those, and law enforcement is both less concentrated and more reasonable.

-Dan 

Other Related Pages

Stealth Ride to Mosquito Ridge
       A Photographic Essay by Pashnit

CanyonStrafers Road Trip on Mosquito Ridge

Virtual Panorama of Mosquito Ridge Road

Last Chance - History, pics

 

 


50 miles - Auburn to French Meadows Reservoir

Pashnit Interactive Map
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Directions, Weather, Fuel

3-D Satellite Mapping of Mosquito Ridge Rd

Looking Northeast at the descent from Foresthill to the valley floor. Looking Northeast at the descent from Foresthill to the valley floor.

The climb up Mosquito Ridge to French Meadows Reservoir

Descent into Skunk Canyon. At right is Oxbow Reservoir and Forest Road 23.
Descent into Skunk Canyon. At right is Oxbow Reservoir and Forest Road 23.

 

Pashnit Panoramics of Mosquito Ridge Rd

 

 

 

 

Hell Hole Reservoir
Hell Hole Reservoir

Happy Exploring!

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