Sierra Nevada Adventures Multi Day Rides

Great Western Canyons Ride 2-Days


If you’ve been looking for ADVENTURE with the opportunity to EXPLORE spectacular river canyons on rugged and remote OFF-ROAD mining routes with steep grades, exposed corners, and death-defying cliffs with no warning signs and no guard rails, in the middle of nowhere then the Great Western Canyons (northern region) ride is the ADVENTURE you’ve been looking for.

The Great Western Canyons (GWC) northern region ride offers a less-traveled path for serious dual-sport adventure riders looking to experience rugged and remote off-road mining routes, wild and scenic river canyons, abandoned mining sites, and ghost towns from a bygone era. Sierra Nevada Adventures (SNA) created the (GWC) ride for serious dual-sport adventure riders from a lifetime of exploring the rugged, wild, and scenic river canyons on the western side of the Sierra Nevada. The (GWC) ride begins by exploring all three forks of the American River Canyons on historic mining routes once traveled by pioneers and prospectors in search of gold. Beyond the American River Canyons your journey ventures further north to explore the remote corners of the Bear River Canyon to visit abandoned mining sites in the middle of nowhere. Beyond the Bear River Canyon, your journey explores several amazing off-road mining routes deep into all three forks of the wild and scenic Yuba River Canyons. On this amazing off-road adventure, you will have the opportunity to visit California’s largest hydraulic mining site including remote ghost towns nestled amongst the pine-studded forest. (SNA) has combined the perfect combination of twisty patched paved goat roads, rugged and remote off-road mining routes with steep grades, exposed corners, and death-defying cliffs with no warning signs and no guard rails to visit abandoned mining sites and unique ghost town from the California Gold Rush.

The (GWC) ride begins on the western edge of the foothills in the gold rush town of Folsom which was once a bustling town full of gold-seekers. From Folsom, your journey travels east on an exciting back road route through the gold country and beyond the historic gold discovery site to a remote section on the south fork American River Canyon. From this point, your off-road adventure begins as you veer north from the south fork on a remote mining route that explores deep into the forest and past cascading creeks. Eventually, your journey crosses the middle fork of American River Canyon and along a forest-covered ridge before dropping into the north fork of American Canyon. Beyond the American River Canyons, your journey ventures north into the remote corners of the Bear River Canyon and onto Grass Valley for your first-night stay. Day two of your adventure explores further north into the wild and scenic Yuba River Canyons on a remote off-road mining route with steep grades, exposed corners, and death-defying cliffs around every corner on this amazing dual-sport ADVENTURE ride.

The American River is the gold discovery site of the California Gold Rush that began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill on the south fork of the American River. James W. Marshall, a foreman working for Sacramento pioneer John Sutter, discovered the shiny metal in the tailrace of a lumber mill Marshall was building for Sutter on the American River which later became known as Coloma, California. Marshall brought what he found to John Sutter, and the two privately tested the metal. After the tests showed that it was gold, Sutter expressed dismay: he wanted to keep the news quiet because he feared what would happen to his plans for an agricultural empire if there were a mass search for gold. However, rumors soon started to spread and were confirmed in March 1848 by San Francisco newspaper publisher and merchant Samuel Brannan. The most famous quote of the California Gold Rush was by Brannan; after he had hurriedly set up a store to sell gold prospecting supplies, Brannan strode through the streets of San Francisco, holding aloft a vial of gold, shouting "Gold, Gold, Gold, from the American River." Word of the Gold Rush spread slowly at first. The earliest gold-seekers were people who lived near California or people who heard the news from ships on the fastest sailing routes from California. The first large group of Americans to arrive were several thousand Oregonians who came down the Siskiyou Trail. Next came people from the Sandwich Islands, and several thousand Latin Americans, including people from Mexico, Peru, and from as far away as Chile, both by ship and overland. By the end of 1848, some 6,000 Argonauts had come to California. By the beginning of 1849, word of the ​Gold Rush had spread around the world, and an overwhelming number of gold-seekers and merchants began to arrive from virtually every continent. The largest group of forty-niners in 1849 were Americans, arriving by the tens of thousands overland across the continent and along various sailing routes (the name "forty-niner" was derived from the year 1849). Many from the East Coast negotiated a crossing of the Appalachian Mountains, taking to riverboats in Pennsylvania, poling the keelboats to Missouri River wagon train assembly ports, and then traveling in a wagon train along the California Trail. Tens of thousands of others people, infected with "gold fever" came by way of steamships from around the world for the California Gold Rush.

The Bear River Canyon region was the scene of extensive hydraulic gold mining during the mid to late 1800s. During its heyday, the abandoned mining sites and hydraulic diggin’s were one of the richest mining districts in Nevada County. The rich mining district of You Bet, Red Dog, Chalk Bluff, Dutch Flat, Gold Run, and Little York Diggin's was first placer-mined in the early days of the Gold Rush. The unusual name "You Bet" originated from a saloon keepers’ favorite expression on a day when a group of miners gathered in the saloon to name the new mining town. The saloon keepers’ favorite phrase was "you bet". Whenever he was asked about a proposed name, he would reply "you bet." After much drinking, the miners decided that “You Bet” sounded just right and the name stuck. The rich mining district was hydraulicked on a large scale until the 1880s, then the district continued to be mined on a moderate scale, mainly by the Chinese for many years after, then intermittently active until 1935. By 1918, the total output of gold is estimated at $3 million (about $175 million at 2015 prices). The You Bet, and Chalk Bluff region was the scene of extensive hydraulic gold mining during the mid to late 1800s, a historic period when miners extracted millions of dollars worth of gold before hydraulic mining was outlawed in California. Hydraulic mining began on a small scale in 1852 in California but soon developed into a large-scale, sophisticated method of working great volumes of gold-bearing gravel. The basic idea was to aim high-powered jets of water through huge cannon-shaped nozzles known as monitors at the gold-bearing gravels, washing away tons upon tons of debris, after which the gold-bearing debris/sludge traveled through a deep cut or tunnel that was lined with a series of sluices to capture the gold. During roughly a 30-year period, from 1855 to 1884, hydraulic miners washed away approximately 250 million cubic yards of material. This created repeated catastrophic flooding of farmlands and valuable property in the flatlands below the hydraulic operations. Eventually, a farmer in Marysville by the name of Woodruff decided to sue the North Bloomfield Gravel Mining Company to prevent further debris from being discharged into the Yuba River. That case was presided over by Judge Lorenzo Sawyer, who issued his famous "Sawyer Decision" in January of 1884, a 225-page document that with effective legal decree abolished large-scale hydraulic operations in California for all time, resulting in abandoned mining sites and ghost towns throughout the Gold Country.

The Yuba River located in the northern gold country is a tributary of the Feather River in the Sacramento Valley of California. It is one of the Feather's most important branches, providing about a third of its flow. The main stem of the river is about 40 miles long, and its headwaters are split into North, Middle, and South forks; the confluence of the former two is considered the beginning of the Yuba. The river drains about 1,339 square miles of the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada. The Yuba was named by early Spanish or Mexican scouting expeditions in the region who found wild grapes growing along the banks of the river, and dubbed it using a variant spelling of the Spanish word uva (grape). The California Gold Rush brought some of the first European-American settlers into the area, followed by many Mexican, African, and Chinese emigrants. The Yuba River and its forks were one of the more popular destinations for the gold miners, who poured into the region in great numbers. Although gold was first extracted by simple methods ​such as panning and sluicing, mining operations quickly turned into large-scale industrial hydraulic mining. About 25 million cubic yards of hydraulic mining debris was carried down the Yuba River Canyons. This raised stream beds up to 50 ft in places, buried riverside land under sediment, and increased flooding risks. The practice of hydraulic mining was banned in 1884 following lawsuits by farmers who had been affected by the debris flows. Much of the debris left by the destruction of hydraulic mining remains as the Yuba Goldfields.


Today, located on a remote ridge high above one of California's Great Western Canyons is a small sign on a large tree marking the site of a historic "Bull-and-Bear-Pit" from the California Gold Rush. It's hard to imagine now, but the cruel blood-sport between Bulls and Grizzly Bears was once part of people's Sunday routines in gold-mining towns in the Sierra Nevada. Before the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, it was estimated that California held over 10,000 grizzly bears. In the 19th century, California grizzlies were feared and sought for their intrinsic fighting qualities, especially when coerced into combat with a bull-an event that served as entertainment for a crowd on many Sunday afternoons. Bear-baiting was brought to California by the conquistadors, but the sport itself was old as Rome. London in the Middle Ages built great amphitheaters known as bear-gardens to host the events. But in 19th-century California, the venues were more temporary and cruder. Often known as "Bull-and-Bear-Pits," the crude arenas were built of split-board fencing and reinforced with heavy logs and adobe. A raised viewing platform was constructed for women and children, a family affair, while the men remained on horseback outside the barricades, raetas (braided-oxhide lassos), rifles, and revolvers at the ready just in case the bear decided to climb its way out of the pit.

If you’re unsure of rugged and remote off-road mining routes with steep grades, exposed corners, and death-defying cliffs with no warning signs and no guard rails in the middle of nowhere, then this is not the ride for you, but if you’re a serious ADVENTURE rider, this is the ride you’ve been looking for.

Event Details:

Multi-Day Tour: (15 to 20 riders with 20 riders max)
This ride is designed for medium (650cc+) to large (1200cc+) dual-sport adventure bikes.
Off-road terrain is rated mild, moderate to challenging with some difficulty and lots of adventure.
Ride distance approx. 425 miles round trip (200 miles dirt roads)
Gas stop (150-mile range required)

MEETING TIME: 8:30 a.m. (ride starts at 9:00 a.m.)
MEETING LOCATION: Starbucks Folsom CA.
195 Placerville Road Folsom CA 95630
Arrive in the morning with a full tank of gas.
Ride returns to Folsom CA. (approx. 5:00 p.m.)

MEALS: (Meals not included)
Breakfast and dinner at restaurants
Bring water, snacks, and lunch.

*Riders are responsible to book their hotel reservations.

Riders are responsible for booking their hotel reservations.
-Best Western Gold Country Inn (530) 273-1393
972 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, CA. 95945
Note: additional Hotels are available in Grass Valley, CA.

OPTIONAL HOTEL Prior to Event: (Hotel not included)
Riders are responsible for booking their hotel reservations.
-Hampton Inn and Suites Folsom, CA 155 Placerville Rd, Folsom, CA 95630 (916) 235-7744
Additional hotels are available in Folsom CA.
Truck/trailering your bike? Parking is available at the meeting location.

CAMPING OPTIONAL: (Camping Not included)
*Riders are recommended to make camping reservations in advance.


Still Have Questions?

Send Us A Message