If you are a motorcycle rider there is a good chance you’ve heard about the adrenaline-fueled ride that is California Route 36. Its epic twisties, switchbacks and scenic views make Route 36 a destination on the “must-ride” lists of riders from around the world.
Offering 250 miles of premium asphalt for riders, it takes approximately 4 hours to complete the route one way.
To experience the complete route from the East, riders can pick up the SR36 near Susanville from U.S. 395. If you are more centrally located, enter from I-5 near Red Bluff. The difference in distance, from Susanville to Red Bluff is about 106 miles, so coming down from I-5 takes considerable time off the trip.
Coming from the West side, riders can pick up SR 36 off of Highway 101 south of Fortuna. Plantina, the only gas station available on the West side, is 97 miles from Fortuna for fuel planning purposes.
Twisties abound on Route 36
The California Route 36 from Up-Close: Road Conditions, Twists and Turns
California Route 36 will inspire you. Its zen-like moments will remind you of why you got into riding and leave you wanting more. This is what great motorcycle rides do and Route 36 is no exception.
Known as the ultimate motorcycle road, Route 36 has got a lot of labels. This is mostly because of the amazing curves and wide asphalt that lets you maneuver your bike as if it was born with you. The paved road links Highway 101 near Fortuna to Route 395 east of Susanville. This track is tailor made for motorcycles, consisting of good pavement and wide lanes, and little traffic on most days.
The road is in a fantastic condition, stretching through the mountains and offering amazing landscapes at every turn. But the most important reason why Route 36 in California is a preferred destination ride for a lot of riders is the fact that there is very little in the way of traffic.
Elevation changes and sweet curves await riders on CA-36
For the most part, CA36 gives you wide open roadways in good condition. The pavement is in great condition with a few exceptions.
Though you will see little traffic when you ride on CA36, you will see some wildlife. Deer and other animals have been known to cross the roadway, so exercise caution and keep an eye out for any pesky creatures that might get in front of you. Ride conservatively for best results, as CA36 can be unpredictable and its local four-legged residents even more so.
For summer riding, expect a bit of occasional fog and dropping temperatures in the 60s. You might also experience some moisture on the roadway in shady places in the early morning hours.
As far as traffic, riders will encounter tractor trailers along the route, other riders and some traffic near the more populous areas found at the beginning and end of the run.
Points of Interest
Moving West near Red Bluff be prepared for elevation changes. There are a series of intense switchbacks as you climb and descend through this area. Follow your line carefully, as some of the terrain changes quickly.
This portion of the route twists and turns for about 40 miles and doesn’t stop for the next 120 miles to Fortuna.
On the West side you’ll lose the center line in places. Watch for narrowing roads, guardrails and some intense drops. Watch for loose gravel and some rock fall in areas. You will find that there is very little traffic through this portion of the ride.
Another set of twisties, some amazing views and newly paved road will great you as you move closer to Hydesville. Look for some rough pavement and a bit of traffic as you pass through the town.
In short, riders can expect sweeping switchbacks and glorious views throughout this course. But stay alert and attentive. Use less brake and more throttle and clutch. Feel your center of gravity on the bike and move as one through this exciting and unpredictable landscape. In some places you will not know the direction the road takes until you crest the hill.
The lack of fueling stops along this route makes this one of the only drawbacks. For most riders, this will not be a problem. But depending on tank size and mileage, it is best to plan out your rider with the knowledge that you will have few opportunities to refuel.
Riders can fill up in Red Bluff when coming from the East or continue on to Plantina another about 50 miles. Plantina is the only gas station between Red Bluff and Hydesville. If you’re low on fuel and start too soon or too late (particularly if you’re starting from the West side) you maybe banging on a farmer’s door in the middle of the night to pay an extra premium price. But again, unless you are careless with your fuel management, most touring and dual sport will be able to more than manage.
Google Business Page: Plantina Store
Places to Camp
For true road warriors, maybe CA-36 is a ride amongst other rides. In other words, you’re living on the road for a week at a time. For the truly adventuriors the are a number of campgrounds available along Route 36. Following is a brief list. More listing are available online.
- Grizzly Creek Campground
- North Shore Campground
- Mad River
- Fir Cove
- Hell’s Gate
- Basin Gulch
- Sycamore Grove
- Last Chance Campground
- Elam Campground
So, What To Expect On Route 36?
There are a lot of motorcycle riders on Route 36. When you don’t see them on the road itself, you’ll see them sitting in some of the stores – or vanishing below the curves on this twisty road. One thing is certain – they share the same passion and adrenaline as you do for this road, and you’ll definitely notice this spirit.
If our review of the legendary California highway 36 seems great to you and you’ve already started preparing for it, you should know that safety should always come first when on this route. So, don’t let the twists and turns fool you to raise your speed – and always be careful for wildlife and trucks on the road.