"Not all those who wander are lost." – J.R.R. Tolkien

Ride Report: Moraines and Meadows Loop – Lee Vining, CA

This is one of the earliest “signed” USFS bike routes in the region.  These days, it’s rarely ridden and not many people even know it exists.  Did you know about this ride?  It’s mainly double-track and 4×4 roads, but this is still one heck of a rewarding ride!  Right off the bat, you get a great perspective of Mono Lake and Paoha Island as you wrap around to the south and get your legs warmed up.  Before long, you turn east, and start climbing toward Lower and Upper Horse Meadows.  Although this is a long, strenuous climb (as the elevation profile below will attest to), you get majestic views of the Dana Plateau and Mt. Gibbs to help you forget about your lungs and legs yelling at you.  Eventually, this climb ends and you turn to the south.  Now you’re stung with views of June Mountain as you start to drop.  Your climbing efforts are mostly done by this point.  As you wrap around Williams Butte, views of the Mono Basin hug you as you return every foot of elevation you took earlier.  You’ve gotta ride through a junkyard of sorts, before making the short climb back towards you car, and you’re done.  Good work!   Also close by are the Bennettville Ride, Saddlebag Lake Trail and the Log Cabin Mine Loop if you’re up for more riding. 

  • Ride Type:  Lollipop (loop with short out and back)
  • Difficulty: Non-technical, moderately strenuous with one sustained climbing effort
  • Time of Year: Summer and Fall (sometimes late spring – depending on snow pack)
  • Terrain/Conditions: Doubletrack, 4×4 roads
  • Access: From the junction of Highway 203 and 395 at Mammoth Lakes, drive north on the 395 for 25 miles.  Exit and go left on Highway 120/ Tioga Pass.  Drive 0.9 miles and look for an interpretive kiosk with a dirt parking area to your left.  If you look closely, you’ll also see an old Forest Service sign for the “Moraines and Meadows” ride.  Park here.  *Note: Mobil Mart (open seasonally) is a great spot for post-ride grub, and you pass right by it at the junction of the 395/120.
  • Length: 11.9 miles
  • Approx. Time: 1.5 – 2.5 hours
  • Lowest Elevation: 6,769′
  • Highest Elevation: 7,898′
  • Total Elevation Gain: 1,484′
  • Bike Recommendation:  Any off-road bike.
  • GPX File: Available by contacting us

Turn by Turn (in miles):

0.0 – Start eastbound and down on Highway 120, back towards Highway 395. Ride on the dirt just to the right of the road.  The dirt will start to curve right and turn into a pronounced double track.
0.2 – Veer right at the merger with a wider dirt road, 1N15 – You’ll have a mellow warm-up climb as you get some views of Mono Lake and Paoha Island.
1.8 – After passing some trailer homes, and possibly some sketchy barking dogs, you reach the junction at Horse Meadows Rd.  Go right and shift to an easy gear.  You’ve got some climbing ahead!
2.4 – Continue straight towards Horse Meadows and ride through Lower Horse Meadows.
3.6 – Pass a cool rock formation on left.  Get ready for the steepest section of the climb.
4.2 – Summit the tough climb, continue going straight.
4.4 – Make a sharp left turn on 1N06.  Continue climbing.
4.6 – Veer right at the intersection, continue up.  You’re almost to the high point as views to the south start to open up.
6.4 – Continue straight.
7.3 – Stay straight on 1N18
7.9 – Pass a junkyard and the dirt turns to pavement for a bit.
8.5 – Go straight on the dirt, (don’t curve right on the pavement)
9.8 – Go left on 1N16
10.1 – Go right, and retrace your steps back to the car
11.9 – Finish.  Nice job!
Moraines and Meadows Ride - Map.

Moraines and Meadows Ride – Map.

Moraines and Meadows Ride - Elevation Profile.

Moraines and Meadows Ride – Elevation Profile.

The old trailhead sign, which could use some TLC.

The old trailhead sign, which could use some TLC.

Close up of the map on the old sign - as of now, this map has deteriorated and is no longer there.

Close up of the map on the old sign – as of now, this map has deteriorated and is no longer there.

Mt. Dana and Mt. Gibbs greet you as you enter Lower Horse Meadows.

Mt. Dana and Mt. Gibbs greet you as you enter Lower Horse Meadows.

These signs are rare on these old rides - reminding you to take it easy just before a steep descent on a remote part of the ride.

These signs are rare on these old rides – reminding you to take it easy just before a steep descent on a remote part of the ride.

In the middle of the long, fun descent.  Stopping to take in the views of... blah blah

In the middle of the long, fun descent. Stopping to take in the views of the Mono Basin.

Keep an eye out for these signs and the route is pretty easy to follow.

Keep an eye out for these signs and the route is pretty easy to follow.

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One response

  1. amandaG

    I attempted this ride on 10/9/2016 and had an encounter with 3 dogs at the trailer park about a mile form the trailhead. There was a gate (unlocked) and two “No Tresspassing” signs. As soon as I started to push the gate open, three dogs bolted seeming out of nowhere towards the gate. Only one of the three dogs that came rushing towards me looked viscious and actually did nip my heels. I didn’t want to test my luck since I was alone, so I turned around and went to Saddlebag Lake.

    October 11, 2016 at 5:13 am

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