Westside Rail Trail:Tuolumne

This is a  short level trail that is suitable for casual riders or families with kids as an out-and-back bike ride or for more ambitious riders as a loop returning via Buchanan Road. The trail is about 4.8 miles long, and the loop returning on the road is 9 miles.  You are likely to see a few walkers and runners on this trail. See the Tuolumne County Transportation Council trails page for more information on this trail.

The ride begins at the trailhead on Buchanan Road at Mira Monte Road. It is well signed, and access is easy.

The sign says pedestrians and equestrians, but bikes are also allowed.

The railroad grade is carved into the hillside above the North Fork Tuolumne River on the north side of the river canyon. Most of the trail is exposed, so this may not be the best ride for very hot days. There are a couple places to take a break for snacks in the shade including one with a picnic table. There is some poison oak, so watch out if you bring children. Some areas have a somewhat steep drop on the downhill side of the trail which may be scary for very small kids. I used to ride this trail with my kids still on trail-a-bikes, and we didn’t have problems.

River canyon with Buchanan Road and the North Fork Tuolumne River at lower right

Portions of the trail still have the rails, and there are a few exposed ties crossing the track now and then. Occasionally the track shifts from one side of the rails to the other, so care should be taken when crossing the rails especially with kids who may not know how to safely cross.

Intact rails help tell the story

At 2.4 miles there is a washout in the trail that has been nicely bypassed. After the bypass, the trail gets less use and narrows a bit. At the end, a short steep single-track section connects the trail to Buchanan/Cottonwood Road. The ride back on the road involves climbing. The return trip can also use Old Buchanan Mine Road which connects the trail to the road about half way out.

Look for single-track on right at rails laid perpendicular to trail.

Look for single-track on right at rails laid perpendicular to trail.

Download file to view the ride on the Google Earth bike map
Download or update Google Earth for free: http://www.google.com/earth/download/ge/
Get help with using Google Earth to view the map file
Download the .gpx file for the loop if you want to upload it to a GPS

  • Downside—Takes some effort for small kids–not a paved trail through a city park, crossing over rails is a boo boo in the making for little ones who haven’t been shown how, very hot when it’s hot.
  • Upside—Easy to get to from Tuolumne, adventure builds character and family cohesion, RR grade is a real-life history lesson and nature is all around, a step up from wide flat paths in building bike handling skills, you will not get lost on this trail.
  • 9.6 miles out-and-back. Elevation change is minimal.
  • 9 mile loop with return on paved road, about 800 feet of climbing
  • surface: dirt trail
  • terrain: very mild on RR grade.
  • tires: cross to mountain, most will prefer mountain.
  • seasons: Open year round, occasional snow at this elevation.
  • current weather
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This entry was posted in casual and kids, mid elevation, unpaved and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Westside Rail Trail:Tuolumne

  1. Anonymous says:

    . . . and, after your ride, you can go take a dip in the river just down the road!

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