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
  • Location: Alta Sierra/Greenhorns
  • Land: Sequoia National Forest

Section South of Portuguese Pass:

  • 6 mi singletrack/12-14.3 mi loop.
  • 1900 feet of climbing/drop.
  • Loop Ride.
Section North of Portuguese Pass:
  • Adds up to 2.3 miles singletrack each way.

NOTE!! UPDATE August 28, 2019: Pray for rain! Dry loose conditions! Watch out for cows in the lower sections of the trail -powdery where they've been hanging out. Lots of dirt bikes have been riding lately.

July 2019: The trail is finally making a comeback from the fire, and is seeing a lot of bike and motorcycle use. Its great in some places and pretty beat up and loose in others.

UPDATE! 5/12/18: Post Cedar Fire: The upper section of trail is unaffected by the fire and still super fun. After passing Sunday Peak the blackness of burned trees increase and change the character of the ride. The climb still has some strands of trees in a few places, but now its a bit sunnier than usual.

On the Trail...

Carving Portuguese Pass Trail
Feeling that groove!

Traversing the mountains between Greenhorn and Portuguese Passes, this trail (31E59) 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) to Portuguese Pass. From this high point at the pavement (23S18), bikers ride the singletrack back, or continue on North Portuguese Pass Trail.

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. While many people turn around here, the trail continues to the north and adds some high quality mileage to any ride.

NOTE: A few years ago, the USFS re-routed the end of the ride (southern side): its great singletrack now except for a lame hike-a-bike. Some bikers are veering off on a high-use cow trail that briefly follows an old skid trail. Its to the right at the bottom of the hike-a-bike. It contours back to the main trail after bypassing the hike-a-bike.

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 a couple miles. As of 2019, this trail is in excellent condition for mountain biking!

This northern trail can be ridden as an out-n-back or looped with Sugarloaf Road, 23S18. This is one of the routes leading to Tobias Trail.

Portuguese Pass Trail

Enjoying sweet High Sierra singletrack at 7400 ft.

Bull Run Pass Trail Loop Addition:

For a much bigger ride, keep riding past Portuguese Pass to Bull Run Pass. 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. (25 Mile Loop possible with 3100+ ft elevation gain).

Loop with Upper Tobias Creek Trail

Similar to the ride mentioned above, many local cross country bikers create a partial loop with the Upper section of Tobias Trail and Sugarloaf Road. This can also be done with the Pup Meadow Trail to the north.

Sunday Peak Trail: An out 'n' back to Sunday Peak (8296 ft), adds about 3.5 miles to the usual ride. A must-see panorama view follows a steep climb (some 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.

Dont Get Lost!
Kernville Adventure Map

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

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Map Details

More Riding Possibilities

Portuguese Pass Trail Northside is here.

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.

Nearby Activities