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Pacific Grade Summit

This is the lower of the two summits on the very popular cycling route on Ca4, also going over Ebbetts Pass. Signs warn of a 24 percent grade on Ebbetts Pass. But the steepest grades and tightest turns are really on the western approach of Pacific Grade Summit.

map and elevation profile for this summit are included on the Ebbetts Pass page


From West. The starting flag in the valley - so to speak - is the sign, saying : "fishing from bridge prohibited". The crossing of this creek signals the point of lowest elevation between Ebbetts Pass and Pacific Grade Summit, and also the end of a peaceful stretch of road through Hermit Valley.

This is a short climb, not very high, and still - I don't think anybody on a bicycle ever forgets it. The reason is the road. It winds in improbably steep switchbacks around large tree trunks and truck sized boulders, climbing the next ridge. Unlike other steep mountain roads, the steepest sections are right in the curves of the switchbacks. If you measure the steepest possible path you can take in these curves (on the inside) you might even come up with the 24 percent figure, that road signs warn about.

What do the mountains around such a rugged mountain road like like ? What is the destination of this adventurous road ? A series of rugged cliffs and peaks ? The curiosity grows with the effort required to keep going. - Not even close. The top is a small, gentle lake, floating colorful lilies, where fishermen enjoy quiet forest. There are more campgrounds here too.

From East. (also described upwards) In order to start at an elevation as low as possible, without going all the way west into the Central Valley, the profile starts at Board's Crossing of the North Fork of the Stanislaus River. After this initial climb the profile joins Ca4 in Dorrington. I saw an old closed hotel here, but water and some food were easier to get a couple of miles up Ca4 in Camp Connell.

From Dorrington Ca4 is a wide, moderately busy, gently curving road through dense forest, gradually but steadily climbing a big loaf shaped ridge into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. After accumulating roughly 1500ft of elevation gain over many miles, the road takes a break, or actually: the cyclist can take a break. Before this, there have been only hints of views into a canyon of the North Fork Stanislaus River, but now there is a "dedicated Vista Point". In the distance are the first hazy views of the ridge of the Sierra Nevada Crest Line.

From here the road rolls along, always climbing a few feet more than dropping. One more noticeably sustained climb and the wide road reaches Bear Valley. Map makers have a lot of empty space to content with on this road, and so they inserted many more names like Sherman Acres, Big Meadow, Tamarack, Ganns. Some of these names refer to campgrounds, others to resort hotels, open or closed, maybe even legally incorporated into a town. Bear Valley at least has an open gas station (very expensive) with sports store, and and signs pointing to a village shopping center, to which I couldn't find an open entrance.

The road has one more gentle straight climb and then an equally small descent into the Alpine Lake area. This is a series of forest campgrounds centered around gentle forest lakes with rocky island outcrops. It seems like there is a bike path between the road and the lake. But a sign reads "no vehicles". That's all right, traffic is manageable here. It seems that Alpine Lake is the major destination for all the traffic on the road, because after this the road changes radically.

Sofar there have been excellent shoulders for cycling on both sides of the road, without rumble strips. The shoulders stop here, but the traffic does too, and the road is just starting to become interesting. From here the road follows the shape of the landscape. It does not plow through it. Initially a few steep rolling sections work up the grade northwards.  After this miniature roller coaster section, the road levels out again, and presents a few great views of the Sierras to the north.

One of these views is at an unpaved turnout, looking along the Sierra range to the north, actually hills or plateau cliffs would be a better descriptive label than range. The turnout also has a little cardboard box, labeled first "mosquito trap", and also "government property". It can't be missed during a picnic on the adjacent picnic table. I wonder if a picnic here yields less or more insect bites, compared to other locations, statistically speaking.

Meanwhile the road has become a normal, straight path again, where drivers can get back into their normal speed habbits, and bicycles are best off on the far side lines. But traffic is still very light. In the end the summit sneaks up on you, in the form of lily covered lakes in the woods.

Dayride with this point as highest summit:


(< Ebbett's Pass | Monitor Pass > )
Pacific Grade Summit x2: just west of Ebbett's Pass <> Hermit Valley <> Lake Alpine <> Bear Valley <> turnaround point: Dorrington: 77.1miles with 7630ft of climbing in 6:45hrs (VDO MC1.0 r2:13.7.5).

A Dayride with this point as intermediate summit is on page: Ebbetts Pass