Excepting Groveland, the most densely developed areas of Tuolumne County are oriented east to west along Highway 108, and to a lesser extent north to south along Highway 49. The best low-traffic paved roads near Sonora are either south of 108 or east of Columbia and Highway 49. This bike ride connects those two areas with trips through Columbia, Sonora, Tuolumne, and Twain Harte along some of the more reasonable or best available roads through the developed areas. Please realize that these roads have narrow shoulders and, though they should have reasonable traffic on weekends and off hours, they can be quite busy during commute times. Sonora is always busy.
This loop makes for a good long ride with ample opportunities to stop for food or coffee. There are lots of ways to extend or shortcut this ride to suit your needs. I’ll spell out some alternatives for both below.
Starting in Columbia, take Parrotts Ferry Road south and turn right at Springfield Road. After the sharp left on Springfield Road, continue straight onto Shaws Flat Road. Cross SR 49 and bear left at the turn-off for Jamestown Road to stay on Shaws Flat. Continue bearing left at two more intersections to reach SR 49 (Washington Street) at Sonora High School. Turn right to proceed south through Sonora either on Washington Street (the main drag with food and shops) or Stewart Street, one block to the east. The traffic is slow on both streets. Washington Street has car doors; Stewart Street specializes in stop signs.
Turn left from Washington Street onto Restano Way and make a quick right onto Mono Way, or continue straight from Stewart Street onto Mono Way as you pass the Grocery Outlet. Climb a short hill and turn right at Sanguinetti Road, then right again at Greenley Road/Old Wards Ferry Road. Prepare to leave Sonora as you pass Lowes and Walmart and pass over SR 108.
Old Wards Ferry winds and descends with bumpy pavement on the way to Wards Ferry Road. Turn right and continue on to find Yosemite Road on the left. Yosemite Road climbs east to Tuolumne, continuing through scenic countryside. There’s a three-way intersection at Woodhams Carne Road–turn right to stay on Yosemite Road.
As Yosemite Road enters Tuolumne it changes to Main Street. Tuolumne is an old lumber mill town with a basic grid pattern of streets. It has some very charming qualities including the park and Memorial Hall but a down and out business district. When the mill closed, Tuolumne lost its economic base. The construction of the Black Oak Casino and other proposed Tribal projects in town foreshadow better economic times ahead for Tuolumne. It’s worth a loop or two around town with an eye toward understanding how it’s industrial past defined the layout of the town. Move two blocks east to exit Tuolumne on Carter Street, and turn right onto Tuolumne Road North. After the casino, you will begin climbing to Twain Harte.
After six miles and 1,200 feet of climbing on Tuolumne Road North, turn left at East Avenue and climb some more to pass under SR 108. Watch for the recently completed segment of the Sugar Pine Rail Trail on the right just past the underpass. It doesn’t do much yet, but it will when more of the trail is constructed. Descend on East Ave. to Twain Harte and turn left at Twain Harte Drive and right at Joaquin Gully (at the arch).
Proceed north out of Twain Harte on Joaquin Gully to Middle Camp Road, and turn left. Bear right to stay on Middle Camp at the odd triangular intersection with South Fork Road. Continue west to eventually meet up with Longeway Road and Big Hill Road. Turn right onto Big Hill Road and then a quick left at Belleview School to stay on Big Hill. Big Hill climbs, rambles, and then descends back to Columbia.
Close the loop by turning right at Sawmill Flat Road and a quick left at Yankee Hill Road.
In the winter, think about the possibility of snow in Twain Harte. It’s not uncommon for the lower elevation parts of this loop to be clear but for the snow to persist up in Twain Harte or on Big Hill.
I’ve included an alternate short cut through Soulsbyville and Mono Vista that cuts 5 miles and 650 feet of climbing from the main loop. It also cuts out Tuolumne and Twain Harte. The shortcut heads north from Yosemite Road on Woodhams Carne Road prior to crossing Tuolumne Road and continues onto Black Oak Road on the north side of Tuolumne Road. Black Oak leads to Soulsbyville Road which leads to Mono Vista, a community on the north side of SR 108. Turn right onto Longeway Road and follow the many turns on Longeway to reach Big Hill Road.
To extend the ride, head south from Sonora on South Washington Street and continue across SR 108 to Lime Kiln Road. From there you can add Campo Seco Road, Algerine Road, Jacksonville Road to Twist Road etc.–there are lots of options to add miles with very little traffic.
Since this ride is about touching base in the communities along the way, here are some suggestions for the comforts of civilization along the way.
Columbia Kate’s Teahouse has very good sandwiches, baked goods and tea. There are tables out back if you’re stinky and self-conscious. Kate’s has expanded to take over the both the northwest and southeast corners of Columbia Street and State Street.
Brown’s Coffeehouse on Main Street has coffee, sandwiches, ice cream, and goodies.
Columbia has three bars to choose from. The Jack Douglas has Guinness on tap.
There are two water fountains on Main Street and public bathrooms. The Mercantile on Main Street at Jackson Street has groceries and a small deli.
Columbia Nursery on Parrotts Ferry Road has lunch and coffee. The Nursery is recommended, Parrotts Ferry Road is not.
There is a full selection of restaurants on Washington Street and many more elsewhere.
Sonora Joes, just north of the Sonora Inn on Washington, has non-corporate coffee. Starbuncles is available next to Walmart.
The Bagel Bin is on Washington between Elkin and Dodge Streets.
The Lighthouse Deli has excellent sandwiches.
Schnoogs has coffee, pastries and sandwiches in the Savemart/Ross shopping center on Mono Way just east of Greenley Road.
There’s a water fountain in Courthouse Square and water and bathrooms at Coffill Park on Green Street between Linoberg and Stockton Streets. There’s also water and bathrooms at the playground next to the library on Greenley Road.
The Taco Truck in the Grocery Outlet parking lot is a big local favorite.
The farmers market is Sat. am 7-12 in the summer for breakfast options before a ride heading south out of Sonora in the morning.
There’s a new coffee house in town and the Longhorn Saloon.
There’s a small market on Tuolumne Road.
Cover’s on Cherokee Road is an apple ranch with baked goods, breads, and lunch. Closed on Sunday.
If you’re really hungry, there’s the buffet at the Casino. Not sure where the bike racks are.
An assortment of restaurants and a coffee shop right by the arch.
The Twain Harte Market is the nicest independent market in the area, a bit pricey.
Look for water and public bathrooms in Eprosen Park on Meadow Drive right in town.
Miniature golf in the summertime.
Ride 5 miles east and 700 feet up on Middle Camp/Sugar Pine Road to Alicia’s Sugar Shack on Highway 108 in Sugar Pine. Alicia’s has the best baked goods and coffee in the area.
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—Roads through developed areas can be busy.
- Upside—Mix of open rural roads and access through mid-foothill communities. Never far from town.
- Main loop 39 miles; about 4,500 feet total climb.
- roads: paved.
- terrain: moderate to steep.
- tires: road.
- seasons: All but after low-snow winter storms.
- current weather