Category Archives: Oregon

Shotgun Creek Road

Distance: 29-mile loop
Elevation gain: 2670 ft

This ride may not be for everyone.   It’s a rough and tough little loop with one hard climb, pavement that is consistently poor (not broken—just rough), a descent so steep you have to brake constantly, and 15 miles of shoulder riding.  It’s more work than the elevation numbers suggest, because most of the 2670 ft of gain is in one 4-mile climb, and the lone descent is so jarring that it beats you up.  Still, it has its merits.  The back road half is often beautifully wooded, the isolation is remarkable (3 vehicles in 15 miles), and even the shoulder riding is through lovely scenery.  At points the road is so narrow and the solitude so extreme that you’re as close to trail hiking as you can get on a road bike.  So it’s a ride where it’s less about the riding and more about being in this extraordinary place.

I wouldn’t do this ride without at least some sunshine.  The primary reward here is the magical woods, and you need light coming through the trees to get the full effect.

Navigation is in one sense easy, because there are few ways to go wrong, but in another sense challenging because there’s no cell service (so no Googlemaps) and several completely unmarked forks, and many of the roads are unnamed or confusingly named on maps.  So I’m going to be particularly specific about directions.  I’d carry a map, not because you’re going to get lost, but because it’s comforting when you’re alone for mile after mile.

See note about OHV traffic in Afterthoughts below.

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North Fork Siuslaw Road

Distance: c. 45 miles out and back
Elevation gain: c. 2830 ft

This is another ride leaving Hwy 101 and following an Oregon river upstream.  It’s different from our others (Gardiner to Eugene, Elk River Road) because the North Fork of the Siuslaw River is big, and the land around it is that wide, open flat marsh/meadow unique to big Oregon river mouths.  So for the first half of the ride you aren’t in forest or canopy—you’re in full sun, with trees on your L and the marsh/meadow on your R.  After 12 miles, you leave the river and the ride becomes conventional, lovely western coastal Oregon forest.  Like our other Oregon coastal river routes, it’s an easy ride—in the first 12 miles you’ll climb 350 ft.  Not a life-changing ride but a very pleasant day on the bike.

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Elk River Road

Distance:38 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 1200 ft

This, like many of the Oregon rides, was suggested by Friend of Bestrides Don.

Is there such a thing as a perfect ride?  Elk River Road is as close as it gets—a beautiful, essentially flat out-and-back roll through my beloved Southwest Oregon coastal rain forest on a good road surface with little traffic and just enough pitch to make the return ride a brisk romp.  Add a spritely rock creek along the entire length, an optional ride to a lighthouse for character, and free snacks in the form of wild blackberries.  Most of the road is on National Forest land, and the road turns to dirt at our turn-around point, which means there aren’t many people up there except campers in the undeveloped campsites along the road.  Once into the Forest, I met 5 cars on the ride in (in 12 miles), on a lovely August Saturday at midday.  The only drawback is…nope, can’t think of any.

This ride is a lot like the first 40 miles of our Gardener to Eugene ride—both gorgeous, canopied forest on a basically flat road along a pretty river—so which should you do if you can’t do both?  GTE is longer, it’s flatter (so there’s no sense of downhill if you ride back downstream) and straighter, it doesn’t turn to dirt (so you can through-ride it), it’s not in National Forest so it’s a little more developed, and the scenery has less variety.  The Elk River canyon is narrower and steeper, and thus the river does more tumbling that the Smith does.  Overall, Elk River Rd is a more dramatic, more intense ride.

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Brice Creek Road

Distance: 52 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 6490 ft

A longer version of this ride is expertly covered in Jim Moore’s 75 Classic Rides Oregon (see the “Oregon” section in Rides by Region).

The Dorena Lake/Cottage Grove area is one of the richest troves of cycling roads in Oregon.  You could spend a couple of weeks here and ride a different good road every day.  See Adding Miles for suggestions.  This ride is just the best of them.

Our route is half of the legendary ride from Dorena Lake to Oakridge.  It’s a good ride all the way to Oakridge, if you can figure out a way back (iron men ride to Oakridge and back in a day, exactly 100 miles), but this route just goes to the summit and returns.  It’s the prettier (lusher) side of the divide.  The appeal here is scenery: some of Oregon’s prettiest rainforest, and a very pretty creek alongside you much of the way.

This route used to be plagued by gravel sections and tricky to navigate, but both problems are history—I saw one short gravel section, and it’s impossible to get lost if you stay on the pavement.  That being said, the upper reaches of this ride are remote and wooly, so come prepared for solitude and self-sufficiency, especially on a weekday.

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Quartzville Road

Distance:  44-mile out and back
Elevation gain:  4380 ft 

This is one of the Oregon rides that is expertly covered in Jim Moore’s 75 Classic Rides Oregon (see the “Oregon” section in Rides by Region).

There is very little to say about this simple, perfect ride.  It has no grand vistas, no exhilarating descents, no craggy monoliths—no breath-taking features of any kind.  It’s just 22 miles of lovely, pleasantly meandering, gently rising and falling two-lane road through the faery Western Oregon rain forest, then back.  It follows Quartzville Creek, which for 10 miles of our route is widened by Green Peter Dam into Green Peter Lake.  There is in fact 50 miles of Quartzville Road (or Drive on some maps), which is officially the Quartzville Road Back Country Byway (though I saw no evidence of this along the route), and runs from Sweet Home on Hwy 20 to its dead end at Hwy 22.  I’ve selected the miles I think have the best scenery, but feel free to ride them all.   There are no bad miles on this road.  I have a friend who thinks the miles after my route turns around are the best.

This is one of the easier rides in Bestrides.  The road is rarely flat, but the pitch is often so mellow you can’t be sure if you’re climbing or descending, and it’s never enough to make you break a sweat.  I have no idea where Mapmyride gets that 4300 ft elevation figure, but it’s not on the road, I assure you.  I recorded 2370 ft of gain in 45 miles, which is a stroll.

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McKenzie Pass

Distance: 44 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 4100 ft

(A Best of the Best ride)

This is one of the Oregon rides that is expertly covered in Jim Moore’s 75 Classic Rides Oregon (see the “Oregon” section in Rides by Region).

This ride is the greatest climb and descent in Oregon.  ‘Nuff said.  And in addition, you get class-A Oregon forest and an enormous lava “moonscape” you’ll never forget.

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Siletz Bay to Newport Inland

Distance:  37 miles one way
Elevation gain: 2400 ft 

This ride is expertly covered in Jim Moore’s 75 Classic Rides Oregon (see the “Oregon” section in Rides by Region).

You can ride from Siletz Bay to Newport along the coast, and it’s nice, but it is Hwy 101 (busy), so I prefer this inland route.  It’s never high drama—it’s easy riding through lovely, unpopulated riparian woods and the road contour is utterly charming, constantly weaving and rising and dipping gracefully.  This is what a road ride would be like if Disneyland built one.  In addition to a lot of pretty woods, you get one very small village (Siletz), the outskirts of one mill town (Toledo), a flat ride along a classic Oregon coastal river, the pleasure of watching Newport, your final distination, grow on the horizon, and a final landing in Newport’s Old Wharf district.

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Three Capes Ride

Distance:  38 miles one way
Elevation gain: 2900 ft 

This ride is expertly covered in Jim Moore’s 75 Classic Rides Oregon (see the “Oregon” section in Rides by Region).

The Oregon coast is a legendary destination for touring cyclists, and it’s certainly leaps and bounds better than California’s coast—fewer cars, kinder motorists, far more towns for R and R and refueling, and only slightly less spectacular scenery.  But I’m not nuts about it.  Notice I only have two rides that explore it, and the other (Gold Beach Century) does it as much out of necessity as out of choice.  Perhaps it’s because I did my north coastal riding on the July 4th holiday, and the place was a zoo.  This is the best ride on the Oregon coast and is well worth doing, in large part because here Hwy 101 goes inland and the coastal riding is on smaller secondary roads.  The rewards keep on coming—four charming coastal towns, grand bays, miles of deserted beaches, grand ocean vistas, and one easy but delightful hike.

A word of warning:  the map and the elevation profile below are accurate as far as they go, but they fail to cover the entire ride—see below for an explanation.

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Vernonia to Astoria

Distance:  66 miles one way
Elevation gain: 3440 ft 

This ride is expertly covered in Jim Moore’s 75 Classic Rides Oregon (see the “Oregon” section in Rides by Region).

For the first 63 miles, this is not a dramatic ride.  It is instead a perfectly pleasant, easy meander through nearly-flat, charming farm country—little wilderness here, few deep, solitary woods.  It’s on a numbered state highway, which is usually a no-no for Bestrides, but it’s a remarkably untrafficked one.  I did this ride on a sort of recovery day, and I found it to be magically mellow.  Rarely have I been so glad to be on a bike.  After 63 miles, the road begins to roll, then enters the city of Astoria, and finally ascends steeply to a dramatic finale at the very summit of the city, the Astoria Column and its stunning vistas of the surrounding land and water.

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Sweet Creek Road

Distance:  22 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 2660 ft 

This ride is expertly covered in Jim Moore’s 75 Classic Rides Oregon (see the “Oregon” section in Rides by Region).

This is the only ride in that isn’t primarily about the riding.  Oh, the riding is fine—pleasant miles along a pretty river followed by a sweet climb through a pretty forest.  But the jewel in the crown is Sweet Creek Trail and its many waterfalls.  So bring walking shoes.

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