Sierra Backroads to Quincy

Sierra Backroads- Smithneck Road - 1 of 2

Quincy is a small Sierra town with a lumber mill and a food coop, only one elementary school these days, and an airstrip for the mail plane from Reno. I like to visit because a handsome man grew up there. While we usually drive up in his pickup, I’d really much rather ride my bike. Heck, there’s an Amtrak station in Truckee. Ninety miles is practically next door when you’re in the mountains, right?

With a long weekend coming up, I pulled out my map bin, memorized a few turns from the atlas, and got on the train in Oakland. My route connected three stunning bits of dirt track:

Emigrant Trail: Ten miles of rolling singletrack across mountain meadows in full spring bloom. The trailhead starts just outside of the Amtrak Station in Truckee. I can’t think off a smoother transition from life in the city to getting lost in the woods.

Smithneck Road: A muddy forest road that passes through Sardine Valley, which was full of bright yellow buttercups and purple fields of camas, with views of snowy ski slopes in Tahoe. Smithneck descends from thick conifer forests, through sage and bitterbrush, into the extensive marshlands of Sierra Valley.

Marble Hot Springs Road: To cross Siera Valley, I followed the sandy but well graded Marble Hot Springs Road into a buzzing, chirping, singing marsh. It is a birder’s paradise and I saw my first sandhill crane, an enormous creature that in flight looks like a condor with turkey drumsticks hanging off the back. At one point, the road flooded and disappeared into a perfect reflection of the mountain in front of me.

Once across the valley, I joined back onto Hwy 89 for a fast, mostly downhill ride on pavement into Quincy. I beat the handsome man, who was driving up, to his mom’s house by two hours*. She asked me, “Where did you ride from?”

I thought about it. “Well, I started in Truckee yesterday.”

*Admittedly this was because he was visiting with dad, who promptly waylaid him with housebuilding projects.

See my route description after the pictures.

Route: I carried the Lake Tahoe Basin Trail Map for detail on the Emigrant Trail. This map is not very good on road names, but is great for mountain bike trails and scoping out cross-country skiing terrain.

From Stampede Reservoir, check your atlas or my route on MapMyRide. It’s easy to memorize the few turns you need to make on country roads to get into Sierra Valley . Once you’re on Hwy 89, it’s a straight shot to Quincy.

Transit: From the Bay Area, take the Amtrak Capitol Corridor train to Sacramento and switch to the Amtrak bus for Truckee. The train has hooks for bikes and you can stow your bike under the bus. Leave on the early train (7:45am) and you’ll be riding into the woods by early afternoon.

Camping: You could reserve a site at Logger Campground alongside a whole buncha RVs and generators, so why not just sleep under a tree? Check in with the Sierraville Ranger District about dispersed camping rules.

6 thoughts on “Sierra Backroads to Quincy

  1. What a lovely blog of your long weekend cycling adventure! I, of course, am always looking for names of plants you mention, for they are all mostly new to me and very interesting to learn.

    1. Hey Jim,

      Thanks for reading! I did this over Memorial Day weekend. So it goes in #bikelife, I was working an Open Street event on National Bike Travel Weekend.

  2. Much enjoyed! I found your blog through A Sierra Fatty. If you are in Reno and would like to get out I would be happy to show you around our local rides. I am looking forward to your next posts.

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