A new year begins. You now have 365 days to build more memories and bragging rights. Ring in the new year with enthusiasm for the outdoors.
Mother Nature hasn’t yet turned on the taps that bring snow to our mountains. While the resorts are doing their best to produce enough snow to keep skiers somewhat happy, much more is needed.
It’s best to simply get outside and take advantage of the weather we have rather than hoping for the weather that we don’t have. Cycling, hiking, running, kayaking, walking are all great winter activites, especially when the conditions are what they are now.
The Sacramento Valley typically has plenty of fog at this time of year. If you’d like to ride or run without being in the fog, head up to the foothills for a nice, fog-less day. At least, that’s the way it is most of the time. There are exceptions.
One of the best rides for cyclists right now is in Apple Hill in El Dorado County, or several areas around Auburn and Nevada City.
The roads in Apple Hill are relatively free of traffic now. The apples have been picked, baked, and sold, and the Christmas tree farms are shut down.
The winter landscape here is breathtaking. The colors in the orchards and vineyards are especially vibrant as the trees and vines tuck into the beginning of their winter sleep.
The roads in Apple Hill will give cyclists a variety of terrain to enjoy. The rides here are best for riders with a bit of experience who are in relatively good shape.
Riders can start in Placerville and ride the El Dorado Trail east to Jacquier Road where a left hand turn will head uphill to Carson Road. It’s a relatively gentle uphill except for a few meters towards the top. Turn right onto Carson Road and ride up to either Abels Apple Acres or Boa Vista Orchards.
If you turn left at Abels, ride to the stop sign, and turn right onto Hassler. Either ride Hassler all the way to North Canyon, or cut across Fruitridge (turn right at Fruitridge) which will also take you to North Canyon. Ride North Canyon to Larsen. Turning right on Larsen will put you on a course that leads back up to Carson Road. A right on Carson will take you back to Abels.
There are two ways to get back to Placerville from here. Turn right at Abels, then left at the stop sign. You’ll be on Union Ridge, which will turn into Mosquito Road, which will take you back to Placerville and the bike trail. It’s can be quite a fast descent if you are light on the brakes.
If you continue straight on Carson you can simply retrace your path to Jacquier Road and the bike trail.
It’s also quite nice to simply start in Apple Hill. The most popular starting points are at Boa Vista Orchards, and Larsens Apple Barn. The advantage at Boa Vista is that they are open year round, and there’s always plenty of goodies there for your post ride binge. You can also pick up a map of the Apple Hill area here.
Here’s what’s important to know about riding here in winter. There could be moisture on the road if you’re around any creek. If it’s been quite cold, there could also be some ice. Some of the climbs can be challenging for beginners. Mace Road is simply a beast of a climb.
Take your time riding through here. It’s worth it to slow down and enjoy the ambiance of the orchards, vineyards and forests that grace this area.