Marshes Flat/Priest-Coulterville Roads

Update November 2019: Marshes Flat Road is open!

Update September 2019: Marshes Flat Road is currently closed but is scheduled to open in October 2019. It will be nice to do this ride again this winter.

This set of bike rides uses Marshes Flat Road with three loop options extending south from Moccasin into Mariposa County. There are large pullouts on SR 120 near Jacksonville Road or at the intersection of SR 120 and SR 49 at Moccasin for parking. If you’re up for more distance and climbing, link with the South of Sonora loops or Wards Ferry Road for a long bike ride out of Sonora.

The ride starts southbound on SR 49 and quickly turns right onto a steep climb on Marshes Flat Road. Marshes Flat rambles through beautiful ranch country and has the Mystery Spot effect of seeming to have a much higher climb from SR 49 than the descent back to the level of Lake Don Pedro as you wind through the back country. I always figure this is the uphill part of the lake. As Marshes Flat Road enters the Lake Don Pedro subdivision, the name changes to Blanchard Road. Blanchard ends at a T-intersection at Granite Springs Road. Turn left and proceed eastward to Penon Blanco Road.

hot tub cow trough

California Cattle Trough

old cattle fence and pavement

Marshes Flat Fence and Penon Blanco Pavement

At Penon Blanco you need to decide–steep and funky old road with no traffic, or modern pavement on SR 132 to Coulterville. SR 132 is not horrible, but expect traffic and a long stretch with narrow shoulders. There are fine views either way.

Penon Blanco Road

Penon Blanco Road Climb

Options include:

Turn left onto Penon Blanco Road and returning to Moccasin via SR 49

Ride with GPS map: Marshes-Penon Blanco-49 (24 miles, 2,800 feet of climbing)

Turn left onto Penon Blanco Road and turn south on SR 49 to Coulterville with return via Greeley Hill Road, Priest-Coulterville Road, and New Priest Grade (SR 120)

Ride with GPS map: Marshes-Penon Blanco-Priest (34 miles, 4,000 feet of climbing)

Continue on Granite Springs to SR 132, turn left and continue to Coulterville, Priest-Coulterville Road, and back to Moccasin.

Ride with GPS map: Marshes-132-Priest (35 miles, 4,000 feet of climbing)

If proceeding on Penon Blanco, the road starts climbing gradually but gets quite steep before it’s over. The pavement is rough and appears to be ready to give way to gravel in spots, but the road is paved all the way through. On the oldest parts, the pavement on Penon Blanco looks like it could be some of the oldest exposed asphalt in the state. With conspicuously large chunks of milky white quartz mixed in and the occasional piece of bedrock showing through, it’s remarkably smooth compared to the more heavily patched areas. After descending eastward to SR 49, turn right to continue to Coulterville or left to return to Moccasin.

Enjoy a break in Coulterville–there are restaurants, a small grocery store, and a little park with less shade than Coultervillans and their visitors deserve. Greeley Hill Road heads east, and Priest-Coulterville Road is a left turn to the north. There is plenty more climbing on Priest-Coulterville. The pavement is good, and there is little traffic. Keep your wits about you turning left onto SR 12o to descend new Priest Grade. The crossing traffic for Old Priest Grade can be fast, visibility is poor, and the intersection confuses all but the most familiar. The descent on SR 120 is somewhere between a thrilling winding descent and slightly boring in it’s precise engineering of grade and curves. The pavement is new and smooth as a baby’s butt. Experienced cyclists can easily outrun the RVs; you may find you need to ride the brakes.

puncture vine along Granite Springs Road

Goathead along Granite Springs Road

  • Downside—Watch out for goathead (puncture vine) along Granite Springs Road, lots of climbing, very hot and exposed in summer.
  • Upside—Lots of climbing, nice countryside, historic Coulterville, little traffic except on State highway segments.
  • roads: paved
  • terrain: mountainous
  • tires: road
  • seasons: all, with precautions for summer heat and summer/weekend traffic
  • current weather

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