Ah sunlight…and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Following a week of dark clouds and downpours, along with a friday brimming with bad news, amateurish press conferences, and ridiculous statements from the ownership of my favorite basketball team (I’ll spare you the Maloof rants), the elements joined forces to push the clouds aside and offer me some much needed riding time. Two weeks in the making, it was finally time to roll out on the Folsom Lake Loop.
This is a popular local route for the dedicated and casual cyclist alike as it provides roughly 50 miles of challenging terrain, 4k ft of steep ascents, gorgeous views, and fast, windy descents. A couple years ago it was even featured as part of the opening stage of the Amgen Tour of California. If you haven’t ridden it yet, I highly recommend it…and for those who’ve forgotten about it, now is the time to get back out there. The summer heat really ups the ante for this one so a spring run is just about as good as it gets. As always, grab a buddy for this ride. A flat between towns could be a real pain and it is nice to have a second set of eyes out there for cars.
For turn-by-turn directions of the Folsom Lake Loop click here
Early Clouds Loomed
After giving the weather nearly the full morning to make up its mind, I met up with Bran and embarked on to Green Valley Rd just before noon. At this point, my delusions of a warm spring ride were beginning to fade. A quick glance to upward revealed mostly remnants of yesterday’s storms, but that was just fine. The pockets of blue sky were persistent and it wouldn’t take more than a touch of climbing to warm up…something this ride promised plenty of.
To the Hills! (Green Valley to Early Salmon Falls)
With a moment to coast and calibrate, we were off. A main artery to the hills around us, Green Valley rd. provides a quick moment to catch your breath and then immediately delivers a kick of short, steep climbs are perfect getting the heart pumping and bringing things to temp. A couple miles and quick ascents later, it was already time to break off and make our way down Salmon Falls Rd.
The transition to Salmon Falls is ideal. Opening with a persistent sweeping descent, trip to the base of the valley is both scenic and swift. Once there, you’re surrounded by thirsty green fields and enormous houses bordered with classic, ranch-style fencing. There is something very relaxing about the suddenly rural feel of this section. However, the relaxed rollers and false flats quickly give way to two introductory warm-up climbs before the monster that begins once you cross Folsom Lake’s south fork.
Climbing Salmon Falls (Toward Pilot Hill)
The main climb up Salmon Falls is a Cat 3 climb that stretches over nearly 4 miles. Able to channel my fresh frustration with the failed Kings arena into my cadence, hammering up this grade was a very cathartic. Halfway up the climb I was completely captivated by the amazing views and surrounding landscape. All else had just melted away.
By the time we’d reached the top and found our way over to Cool the sun and wind were at our back.
Reaching the town of Cool is a great moment…not just because you could stop and casually take in a civil war re-enactment at the local elementary school. (WTF??? Seriously, who the hell takes part in something like that. We decided it was better not to stop and find out.) No, arriving at Cool is awesome because it means you are ridiculously close to the confluence, a place were raging water has carved its way through the extremely tall and formidable landscape…and that means some descending!
The steep, technical descent that drives you to the base of the confluence resembles a corkscrew. Lasting nearly two miles, the grades are intense and the corners wrap aggressively. It is a bit of a shock the first time you give it a go, but once you have the chance get acquainted with it, it is wonderful. An important note, this descent is part of hwy 49 and you’ve really got to keep an eye out for cars. However, once you have established your place on the road in the downhill, you are far better off getting out into the lane and utilizing your space. This makes you much more visible and allows for safer lines. With a road like this your bike can safely go down at a faster clip than an average auto. Be careful and enjoy.
Taking in the Confluence
Once we reached the base of the confluence we took a moment to enjoy the overgrown rivers converging and glance up at our destination, the forest hill bridge. Opting to eat while we rode, we charged up the ascent without taking much more than a moment to admire the scenery. The Forest Hill Climb is another dominant stretch of road that comprises a cat 3 climb over a distance of 3 miles. Though challenging, the views are abundant and breathtaking. After a series of twist, turns, and false finishes along the way up, your reward is the opportunity to glide over the top of the Forest Hill Bridge which is notably the highest bridge in the entire state. It makes fore a nice moment.
Adding one more short, steep climb to finish off the pain, we rolled over the top into auburn and refilled water. From there it was a short navigation through the historic town and back down folsom-Auburn Rd. The ride home from this point is nearly the same distance, but infinitely faster than first half of the loop. The terrain is a gradual negative pitch mixed in with a few rollers. On the right day, the wind can really make it a fun one and even provide a little strava glory.
Our ride back was nice. Legs a bit tight from the earlier climbs, I pedaled it soft at times. Bran, however had a field day out there tracking down time trial bikes and slowing up next to them…a fun little psychological game.
Even After Much Anticipation…The Loop did not Dissappoint
Cruising back into Folsom was a great feeling. I finished the day tired and content. My NBA-related frustration had been ridden away long ago and I was ready fun afternoon with my family. I’m looking forward to something similar this week and am already anxious…See you out there.
Thanks for reading,
P.S. For turn-by-turn directions of the Folsom Lake Loop click here. (Use directions and ride at your own risk & Be safe out there.) If you have questions about the route or just wanna join up for the next one, leave a comment.