Jackson Meadows Reservoir | Cycle past mountain peaks & pine forests

Jackson Meadows Reservoir. | Tim Hauserman

It is wasn’t for that one little thing, the 34-mile out-and-back to Jackson Meadows Reservoir would be one of my favorite road bike rides in the Tahoe Sierra. The road is lightly traveled; you ride past wildflowers, meadows and beautiful pine forest including some enormous Jeffrey pines and you get a pretty good workout with a nice combination of gentle ups and downs that add up to more than 2,200 feet of ascent. The destination is a lovely mountain lake without any homes along the shoreline.

Ride past wildflowers, meadows and beautiful pine forests including some enormous Jeffrey pines and you get a pretty good workout with a nice combination of gentle ups and downs.

What was that one little thing? On the first 9 miles, the road to Jackson Meadows has hundreds of expansion-crack divots. While not big enough to toss you from your bike, they do make for a jarring and frustrating ride. Anyone want to fix the road?

The Ride
34 miles roundtrip

The ride begins at Jackson Meadows Road, which is 14 miles north of Truckee on Highway 89. As the road climbs up a knoll and turns right, the turnoff is on the left side just across from a slow car pullout. There is a turn lane. A large parking lot is available just after you turn off. Ride from here.

The first 5 miles is a mix of gentle ups and downs paralleling Perazzo Meadows, a wide expanse bordering Little Truckee River that lies below. Mount Lola highlights the mountainous backdrop to the south. Keep your eyes peeled for a particularly humongous pine just off the road to the left. Eventually, the climb gets steeper, giving you more time to enjoy the wave of color from the wildflowers next to the roadside, including orange paint brush, various types of purple lupine, yellow buttercups and even the delicate white rein orchid.

At 8 miles you roll through a lush meadow area with Webber Lake on its southern rim. You pass a large estate with a helicopter pad on your right before the last climb to the top of Henness Pass. The road changes its name at Webber Laketo Henness Pass Road, but it’s the same route.

Dam release from Jackson Meadows Reservoir. | Tim Hauserman

Just about the time you reach the pass you realize: “Hey, those dang bumps are gone.” Good thing, because now you have about 6 miles of downhill, including a fairly steep section for the last 2 miles. Keep going straight past the Pacific Crest Trail and several campgrounds to reach the reservoir.

Jackson Meadows is a beautiful, deep-blue lake bordered by Sierra mountains. It feels more like a lake than the other sandy bath-tub reservoirs north of Truckee. When we arrived at noon midweek, just before the 4th of July, we didn’t see any motorboats out and about; a few fishermen were casting from the shoreline or floating offshore looking to catch the rainbow and brown trout that reside in the lake. We were passed by quite a few mega RVs pulling boats and assorted other toys, however, so I imagine on the weekends the place is bustling.

A half mile of pleasant, level riding along the lakeshore brings you to the dam. Be sure to check out the water release below the dam where water shoots out of what looks like the world’s biggest fire hose into the Middle Fork of the Yuba River. At the dam you also get a nice view of the Sierra Buttes, which look exceptionally pointy from this angle. If you continue over the dam and take on a short climb above the lake you will be on your way shortly to the little Jackson Meadow Camp Store.

Hopefully you have saved enough energy, because the return route up those first few miles is pretty steep. Once you reach Webber Lake, the rest of the route will fly by. Experienced road riders will comfortably do the ride in less than three hours.

There are several campgrounds in the areas, as well, if you want to make it an overnight trip.

Pros of this ride

Beautiful meadows with wildflowers, mountain views and a peaceful forest. Lightly traveled road composed primarily of campers at Jackson Meadows Reservoir and Webber Lake. The lake is a great turn-around point, which allows a swim before returning. The ride can also be completed from the campground, allowing you to start with a climb. If you leave from the campground you can also ride as far as you like and then turn around and head back to the lake for a swim.

Cons of this ride

The expansion cracks in the road are jarring and take away from the riding experience. Heavy duty gloves are recommended to ease the impact on your hands. A mountain bike would handle the bumps, but it’s a long way on pavement to ride a mountain bike. A cross bike with suspension might be the perfect alternative. The road is fairly narrow and the most common traffic is a large RV or pickup truck pulling a boat, so listen carefully and prepare to stay far to the right. | fs.usda.gov