The Salt Spring loop is as well known as any bike ride in the foothills partly or maybe mostly due to its use for the Copperopolis Road Race in the early spring. It’s a lovely ride with varied terrain, great scenery, and very little traffic, but the pavement is very rough. If you can set yourself up with 28C (1 1/8″) or wider tires, you’ll be fine. With 23C road tires, you may feel a bit beat up afterward. Any questions? Google “Copperopolis Road Race” and review the complaints from the racers.
I wouldn’t usually think of doing this ride at this time of year since it’s a downhill drive for me and it’s starting to warm up. But we are having another miserably cold Memorial Day weekend, and Mrs. Tuolumne Bikes suggested we go ride. This ride is neither too long or horribly steep. It worked out very well with cool weather, far more bird activity than I ever recall on this ride, and a remarkable sky and lighting. She likes to look for geocaches, so in trading time for my photos and her poking around in the bushes, I saw a few new things.
We started the ride on Hunt Road at the east end of the loop; start wherever you can find a place wide enough to park. The loop includes a climb and a descent to and from the lower foothills at Milton and a rolling ramble through the higher elevation Salt Spring Valley and around the Salt Spring Reservoir. The lack of modern development on this ride give it a real “back in time” feel. Credit the awful road conditions–to be honest, the degree of development here hardly warrants paved roads at all–and maybe the groundwater quality for keeping this place rural.
We proceeded west on Hunt Road, climbing before cresting and starting the descent to Milton.
The ride is bumpy; this is a great descent for easing up on the grip and enjoying some speed keeping in mind that vehicles can also use the road. At Milton, turn left for a very short segment on Milton Road before another left at Rock Creek Road. There’s not much new in Milton besides the County landfill, but there is history in various states of disrepair. We made stops at the Masonic Hall (hard to miss) and Masonic Cemetery (quick left at the start of Rock Creek Road).
Some kind residents were cleaning up for Memorial Day, and the flags were in place for the veterans. On the lower stretches on Rock Creek Road we came across this somewhat disorganized family of killdeer.
The climb on Rock Creek Road transitions from roly-poly to steady to bearably steep. If ever a road were named appropriately this it. The stacked rock embankments on the steep sections are a treat.
The creek was running and the buckeyes were in bloom. Near the top there is a rich area of “leaky ditch” habitat. Past the campground and lake, Rock Creek Road turns right; go straight onto Felix Road and left onto Salt Spring Valley Road to complete the loop. Enjoy the old schoolhouse and panorama of the valley and lake on Salt Spring Valley Road.
I prefer to do this loop counter-clockwise mainly because the most traffic you are likely to encounter will be RVs or pickups with boats climbing Rock River Road to the campground on the south side of the lake. I would rather not encounter them when descending.
Alternates: add the loop around the eastern end of Salt Spring Valley on Salt Spring Valley and Hunt Roads; ride to the loop from Copperopolis on Rock Creek Road or from SR 4 on Hunt Road (don’t ride on SR 4).
Download file to view the ride on the Google Earth bike map
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Download the .gpx file for the loop if you want to upload it to a GPS
- Downside—Remote, some pretty rough pavement, very hot and exposed in summer.
- Upside—Nice countryside, next to no traffic.
- 19.5 miles; about 1,750 feet total climb
- roads: paved, but rough
- terrain: rolling to steep
- tires: road, but consider width
- seasons: all, with precautions for summer heat.
- current weather