The Death Ride on Carson Pass

Alpine County, California

The Death Ride over Carson Pass

Photo of cyclist on mountain road

Every summer experienced cyclists gather to compete in the Tour of California Alps Death Ride, a 129-mile, 15,000 feet of climbing endurance race over 3 of California's highest passes: Monitor Pass, Ebbetts Pass, and Carson Pass. Cyclists go up and down both sides of Monitor and Ebbetts passes and up and down only the east side of Carson Pass. Entrants have the choice of riding one, two, three, four, or all five of the passes.

In the past Kirkwood offered its Near Death Experience Bike Camp in the summer to help athletes prepare for the race. Participation in the camp guaranteed entry into the race. Kirkwood has not yet made any announcements about offering the camnp in 2017. For more information, check their Kirkwood Summer Activities site.

2018 Race Information

Date: July 14, 2018
Registration: Early Bird registration for the 2018 race begins December 4, 2017 and extends until January 3, 2018. General registration begins January 4, 2018. Entry is limited to first 3,000 entrants.
Cost: Early Bird 2018 fees $125. Regular fee $140
Official Race Website: Tour of California Alps Death Ride
Sponsor: Alpine County Chamber of Commerce


Race Course

The race begins at Turtle Rock County Park, 3 miles north of Markleeville. The main race starts as 5:00 AM, with those choosing to do only part of the course setting off later at staggered times.

Photo of cyclist

Monitor Pass: Riders go south on Highway 89 and then east up over Monitor Pass (8,314'). They descend the east side of the pass to its junction with Highway 395 and then return over the same summit, coming down to its base at the junction with Highway 4

Ebbetts Pass: Riders follow Highway 4 up the east side of Ebbetts Pass (8,730'). They descend the west side to Hermit Valley before turning around and going back up over the pass. The descent of the east side of the pass is especially dangerous as there are numerous sharp turns and steep drop-offs in many places. Infamous Cadillac Curve has the ruins of a car at its base, a reminder of the danger of trying to go too fast on the mountain road.

Carson Pass: The cyclists then head back through Markleeville and on to Woodfords where they turn west up Highway 88 toward Carson Pass (8,573'). At the top of the pass riders turn around and race back to Turtle Rock County Park for the finish.

Elevation Map of the Death Ride


Road Closures

Photo of cyclists on Death Ride

Markleeville to Highways 89 and 4 Junction

5:00 AM - 7:15 AM

Monitor and Ebbetts Passes

Close: 5:00 AM
Monitor Pass Opens: 12:00 PM
Ebbetts Pass Opens: 3:00 PM

Carson Pass

Not closed, but all vehicles limited to 35 MPH

Check the race website for the most up-to-date information:
Tour of California Alps Death Ride


Where to Watch the Race

Spectators who want to watch the race along its course should arrive well before 5:00 AM and be prepared to spend most of the day in place. The roads are closed to traffic at 5:00 AM. RVs make a good choice as a base from which to enjoy the race. Be sure to follow all local parking regulations, especially parking completely off the pavement.

The area around Markleeville is heavily congested on race day. If you want to be around Markleeville, check the race website for details about parking and lodging.

Markleeville - Monitor Pass Race Section

Since the road from Markleeville up over Monitor Pass closes at 5:00 AM on race day, you have to be up early to find a place to watch the race. Be prepared to stay where you are for at least 7 hours, because Monitor Pass does not re-open until Noon. There is a large pull-out area on the east side of the pass. Race rest areas are at Heenan and the top of the pass. The are many places along the East Carson River to pull off the pavement and spend the day watching the racers. You can watch the riders at the junction of Highways 89 and 395 and still be able to leave whenever you want along Highway 395.

Silver Creek - Ebbetts Pass Race Section

The road closes at 5:00 AM on race day, so you have to be up early to find a place to watch the race. Be prepared to stay where you are all day, because Ebbetts Pass does not re-open until 3:00 PM.

Photo of Hermit Valley

For those who want to be able to leave at any time, Hermit Valley (shown left) is a good place to be. Racers turn around there after coming down the west side of Ebbetts Pass. There is plenty of parking at Hermit Valley. In other places along Ebbetts Pass parking is limited, but there are spaces at the trailhead parking lot near the summit and in a few spots high on the east side of the pass. Parking is available off the pavement in places along Silver Creek.

Carson Pass

Carson Pass does not close on race day, but traffic will be slow. Some parking can be found at Red Lake, only a short distance off Highway 88. Hope Valley offers some good spots to pull off the road and watch the race, especially near the junction of Luther Pass (Highway 89) and Highway 88. At Blue Lakes Road is the Sno-Park parking area. The Woodfords region is another good place to watch the cyclists. The summit of Carson Pass has only very limited parking and probably should be avoided.