Mountain Bike Rides in the Kern River Valley and Southern Sierra Portuguese Pass Trail

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A beautiful cross country ride on fun singletrack in the Greenhorns.

Portuguese Pass singletrack Beautiful forested scenery on the Portuguese Pass Trail.

Blue/Black Rating

THE STATS

Elevation Range: 6,000-7500 ft

South of Portuguese Pass:
*6 miles singletrack/12-14.3 mile loop.
*1900 feet of climbing/drop.
*Loop Ride.
North of Portuguese Pass:
*Adds 2.4 miles of singletrack each way.
Combined with Bull Run Pass Trail:
*25 Mile Loop3100+ ft Climbing

Post Cedar Fire burn
The lower trailhead post Cedar Fire.

UPDATE! Post Cedar Fire, Fall 2016:

The trail is open again after the Cedar Fire; however, its been blackened. Some motos have been riding it, but it is pretty ashy. This will need some rain and time to recover.

Photo taken late September 2016.

On the Trail...

Carving Portuguese Pass Trail
Feeling that groove!

Traversing the mountains between Greenhorn and Portuguese Passes, this is a favorite Spring/Summer/Fall ride for local mountain bikers.

Forested with cedar, pine, and mature black oaks, the trail conditions are usually excellent.

The most common ride involves pedalling 7 miles up the dirt Portuguese Pass Road (24S15), also known as "Forest 90" to Portuguese Pass. From this high point at the pavement (23S18), bikers ride the singletrack back.

Motorcycles are allowed on the trail, and have played a big part in creating sections of the fast flowy singletrack that stoke mountain bikers.

Portuguese pass trail photo
Lush Meadows below the Sunday Peak Tr.

However, the motos don't seem to mind a few steeper uphill sections, that human-powered recreationalists must work so hard for. While these climbs are all short and quick, don't expect the singletrack to be all downhill. The trail still requires plenty of pedalling!

The ride can start at the Greenhorn Summit Sand Shed, or 1 1/2 miles down dirt road 24S15. There is a dirt parking area on the left near the bottom of signed Portuguese singletrack, 31E59, and across from the dirt road 25S11 known as Greenhorn East Road.

Portuguese Pass is 7.1 miles from the Sand Shed.

Trail Options

Portuguese North (a.k.a. Portuguese Extension): If you're looking for additional singletrack mileage, the trail continues on the north side of Portuguese Pass for another 2.4 miles.

This northern trail can be ridden as an out-n-back or looped with the paved road, 23S18. This is also the usual route to Tobias Trail. See also Portuguese/Bull Run Pass Trail Loop.

Portuguese Pass Trail

Enjoying sweet High Sierra singletrack at 7400 ft.

Note that a new segment of trail continues up to Bull Run Peak. Most mountain bikers avoid the hike-a-bike and take the trail dropping to the dirt road on the right. This unmarked turnoff is to the right just after descending from a high point, before reaching a meadow and very steep climb (just over 2.1 miles north of Portuguese Pass).

Bull Run Pass Trail (brand new trail Summer 2015) Loop Addition:

For a much bigger ride, keep riding past Portuguese Pass. Take Portuguese North Trail 2.5 miles to dirt road 24S50. Go left on the road and ride 1.1 miles up to a saddle: Bull Run Pass. This new trail drops off to the right, curving and carving through a shady forest on the edge of bright green meadows. The 2.4 mile-long trail crosses a dirt road and continues down to the paved forest road 23S18, near Dry Meadow. Turn right and pedal the lonely road back up to Portuguese Pass (or jump back on the Portuguese North trail on the way up). This loop adds 10.7 miles and over 1200 feet of climbing to the traditional Portuguese Pass ride. See also Portuguese/Bull Run Pass Trail Loop.

Sunday Peak Trail: An out 'n' back to Sunday Peak, adds about 3.5 miles to the usual ride. A must-see panorama view follows a steep climb (plenty of hike-a-biking). The descent is pure awesomeness. Watch for hikers!!!

More: The ride up to Portuguese Pass has some nice options.

Instead of going up the main dirt road, 24S15, biking up the trail is an option. The steep southernmost segment of singletrack can be skipped by taking a detour up the dirt road 25S28. Most of the singletrack is ridable uphill, but it certainly requires a lot more effort (especially in the northern half).

Another possibility is to take the beautiful Greenhorn East Road, 25S11.

This connects back to 24S15 after a few miles, and it continues all the way to the paved 23S16 for a much bigger loop.

Elevation Profile: Loop to Portuguese Pass from Greenhorn Summit Sandshed

Portuguese Pass Trail Loop from sandshed

North Portuguese Pass Trail Portuguese pass trail photo
On the North Side singletrack. Escaping the mid summer heat.

More Riding Possibilities

Go bigger: Ride to Frog Meadow and do the upper Tobias Trail. Also, a side trip up to the Tobias Peak Lookout adds 1.8 miles each way and 650 feet of climbing.

Also big: Tack on the new Portuguese/Bull Run Pass Trail Loop for a great 25 mile loop.

Even bigger: Add on the Unal Trail.

Huge: Loop the top 3 sections of Just Outstanding, Unal, and Portuguese Pass Trails. Or ride Portuguese Pass Trail to the bottom of Tobias Trail.

Supersize: All the above with Tobias Trail to Whiskey Flat to Kernville!.

Trailhead

From Wofford Heights, drive up the 155 to Greenhorn Summit (about 7 miles). The ride can start at the Sand Shed, or 1 1/2 miles down dirt road 24S15. There is a dirt parking area on the left near the bottom of signed Portuguese singletrack, 31E59, and across from the dirt road 25S11 known as Greenhorn East Road.


Dont Get Lost!
Kernville Adventure Map

This trail and optional routes are depicted on the local adventure map:

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Map Details

Recently a USFS re-routed the end of the ride (southern side): its great singletrack now except for a lame hike-a-bike. Some bikers are taking an old skid road/trail off to the right at the bottom of the hike-a-bike. It leads downhill, and then traverses left to a side road near the trailhead (go left).