Rock River Road

Rock River Road is an ultra-rural County road that can be ridden as an out-and-back bike ride via Willms Road from Knights Ferry. There is a 2.5 mile unpaved section in Stanislaus County with some drainage issues. The unpaved section has a firm surface and passes through gentle terrain–it probably won’t work out if you’re fussy about your road bike, but a less precious rig with tires wider than 23c should be fine.

Big Puddle

Big puddle or vernal pool?

rockriverlarkspur

Larkspur

rockrivercreek2

Springtime Creek

When the wildflowers are blooming in the spring, Rock River Road is awesome. The skinny old road climbs through remote agricultural land with nary a car in sight and the hills sing with water, green, and flowers.

Tuolumne County has a long-held dream of a rail trail along the Sierra Railroad right-of-way from Oakdale to Sonora and on into the mountains along the various old logging railroads. The rail trail from Stanislaus County to Sonora is in the County bike plan and the full length is included in the California Recreational Trails Plan as part of the Tuolumne Complex trail corridor. See the Tuolumne County Transportation Council  for more information on local bike, trail, and transportation planning.

Regardless of the lure of rail trail accessibility, acquisition of right-of-way and construction of 36 miles of trail along an active rail corridor is beyond a dream for Tuolumne County at this time. Rock River Road is the real world alternative if you don’t mind doing some climbing.

Parking and bathrooms for this ride are available at the Army Corps recreational facility at Knights Ferry.

Horse side

Horse side of the road

From Knights Ferry, take Sonora Road south and turn left at Kennedy Road. Cross SR 108 and proceed south on Willms Road. Look for unpaved Rock River Road on the left about 6.7 miles south of SR 108. The road sign at the intersection is missing. Turn left and ride out as far as you choose.

Rock River Road rambles

Rock River Road rambles

I appreciate that the horses are kept on the north side of the road, and the cows on the south–very tidy. There’s a good long climb before the road ends at Green Springs Road, the old highway. Turn right onto Green Springs to go see the old highway bridge and the railroad crossing at La Grange Road.

Rock River Road fenceline

Rock River Road fence line

Oak Shadows

Oak shadows with Red Hills in background

Green Springs Road Bridge

Green Springs Road Bridge

Unfortunately, there’s no way to make a loop without using La Grange Road or SR 108. La Grange Road is probably the worst road in Tuolumne County for bikes. It was always bad–narrow with considerable traffic and trucks bound south for Merced. But it was made worse a couple years ago when it was repaved and rumble strips and paddles were added to the narrow shoulders.

La Grange Road

La Grange Road–rrrrrrrrrrrrOW!

My wife found me an 1980’s Gold County cycling guide book at a thrift shop, and it includes a loop with La Grange Road. I suspect it would have been a rough trip even back then. Read the blog, download the map, save the price of the book, and stay off La Grange Road.

SR 108 westbound from the other end of Green Springs Road has decent shoulders in many places but plenty of traffic. There’s a stretch with little to no shoulder and rumble strips too. At one point there’s nowhere but the travel lane to ride.

If the rail trail were ever built, the railroad west would take you to Cooperstown Road to close the loop.

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

  • Upside—Beautiful and green in springtime, free parking and facilities at Knights Ferry.
  • Downside—Out-and-back, unpaved section.
  • Out-and-back: 33 miles; about 2,000 feet total climb.
  • roads: 28 miles paved, 5 miles gravel (round trip).
  • terrain: gentle to moderately steep.
  • tires: All but the skinniest road.
  • seasons: All, but very hot and exposed in summer.
  • current weather
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