Distance: 71-mile out and back
Elevation gain: 4820 ft
This ride has one spectacular virtue: isolation. If you like riding where there are no cars, no cyclists, no signs, no fences, no mailboxes—just nature—this is your ride. It’s very good riding, with fine scenery, a nice road surface, and nice road contour, but there are other Oregon rides in Bestrides just as good or better in those regards. But on no other Oregon ride will you be so alone. In four days of riding these roads—on weekends no less—I saw zero bikes and only a handful of cars. And, while there may be rides in California with similar isolation, the road surface will almost certainly be poor. Only in Oregon do they see fit to keep the surfaces of roads no one uses so pristine.
71 miles is a lot of miles, so we’ll talk later about cutting it down, but it’s all good stuff and I wanted to tell you it’s there because no one seems to know about it. In fact, the route connects with a remarkable number of attractive roads, so adding on miles is highly recommended, if you’re an ironman or you have another day to spend in the area (see Adding Miles). If you plan to shorten the route, the riding goes from good to better to best, so I’ll encourage you to cut from the Wimer end.
Despite the mileage, the ride isn’t all that hard. The elevation gain, only a little over half our 100 ft/mile benchmark for difficulty, doesn’t lie. You’ll climb noticeably 4 times on the ride, a 2-mile climb and a 1-mile climb on the way out and a 4-mile climb and a 1-mile climb on the way back, all of it moderately pitched (5-7%). The rest of the route is imperceptible climbing or descending, just enough to avoid flat/boring.
This is non-coastal southern Central Oregon, which is pretty dry, so the woods don’t have the rainforest lushness of the rides on the coast or around Cottage Grove. No ferns, no mossy maples, no riparian alders. But still very pretty, I promise—like the other Bestrides rides around Ashland and Grants Pass.
A lot of people don’t like out and backs, and those people will immediately start thinking about making this ride a loop. Indeed, at the turn-around you could continue west on Upper Cow Creek Rd. and ride to Azalea, a little community on Hwy 5, but from there finding an alternate route back to the trailhead in Wimer is a big ask—you’re going to end up riding an enormous number of miles. Your other loop option is to turn R at the top of our route, Upper Cow Creek Rd. eastward and turn R on Applegate Creek Rd., which will drop you back at the top of W. Fork Evans Creek Rd., but it’s all dirt. So I’m leaving the ride as an out and back—if you find a workable loop route, let me know.
(To see the map in a more user-friendly format, clip on the drop-down menu in the RWGPS box in the upper R and select “map.”)
Our route starts at the unprepossessing intersection of East Evans Creek Rd. and Covered Bridge Road, 1/2 mile from the tiny town of Wimer, which is nothing more than a classic country grocery store and a very few houses. Ride Covered Bridge Road to Wimer so that you can have the pleasure of stumbling upon and riding through “the old covered bridge” (it says that right on it) just before town. Parking at our starting place is difficult, so if it’s more than you want to contend with, or you’re sick of riding through Oregon covered bridges (hard to imagine), drive to Wimer and park in the large dirt parking spot across the street from the grocery store. You’ll cut a mile off our route if you do. While in Wimer, now or after the ride, check out the grocery store, which is pleasant and friendly and has a sign reading, with tongue firmly in cheek, “Best hamburger in Wimer.”
From Wimer, ride East Evans Creek Rd. east to mile 11.3, which is the intersection of EECR and West Fork Evans Creek Road. EECR is the most domesticated and built-up leg of the ride. It’s a pleasant meander through woods and unpretentious farms, and you should see a vehicle every couple of miles. Most of them will say “Joe’s Stump Removal,” “Bill’s Horse Shoeing,” or something equally rural on them.
At the intersection go L (the only possible way) onto West Fork Evans Creek Road. The only sign at the intersection reads “Elderberry Flat Recreation Site” and “Cow Creek.” Now things get good. The traffic should drop away to almost nothing—both times I rode it I saw 4 cars, and they were all in the first couple of miles. After those first couple of miles, all signs of human interference, except for the road itself, vanish—no fences, no power poles, no driveways, no mailboxes, no “No trespassing” signs, and, except for one sign marking the Elderberry Flat campground, no road signs at all. Perhaps because of this, someone has painted large mileage markers every half mile in the middle of the road, so it’s easy to know where you are and when it’s time to turn back if you’re out for a short day.
The riding itself is lovely, for 14 miles an almost imperceptible climb you can do all day without effort, through pretty woods and with a pleasantly varied road contour. At mile 14 (Mile 27.5 on the total tripometer) you hit the first real climb, 2 miles of moderate up that take you to Mile 16, where a number of things happen:
You hit a major intersection, with 3 roads heading off to your right, an intersection called Goolaway Gap on Googlemaps, though there is no sign saying so there.
You continue straight onward, staying on the obvious main road (despite some maps making it look like you take a fork to the R).
The road changes its name (with no signage, of course) to Snow Creek Rd. The first and only time you will see this name used is on the road sign where SCR dead-ends into Upper Cow Creek Road. There is a small sign reading “32-3-5,” the Forest Service number for the new road.
The mile markers stop going up and begin counting down from 8 (because it’s 8 miles to the end of Snow Creek Rd.)
If you ride down SCR 20 ft and turn around, you’ll see a sign (OK there are 2 signs on the route) reading “W. Fk. Evans Cr.”
The road changes its character.
Snow Creek Rd. is smaller, curvier, and even more isolated that what you’ve already done. There are no sign of human presence other than signs marking buried optical cable. If you meet any vehicles at all it’s news-worthy. I have ridden it twice and never seen a human being. I met so many deer hanging out on the road I had to shoo them away like mosquitos. The road surface is a step less fine that WFECR (it’s that Oregon flat-rolled chipseal), but it’s still totally rideable. It’s considerably more up and down that what you’ve done so far—most of the work in the ride is in these 8 miles (16 miles out and back).
When SCR dead-ends at Upper Cow Creek Rd., notice the two road signs telling you you were in fact on Snow Creek Rd. all along, turn around, and ride home.
Shortening the ride: If you like mellow climbing and smooth road surfaces, start at the intersection of East Evans Creek Rd. and W. Fork Evans Creek Rd. and turn around when you want to. If you like more challenging up and down and don’t mind chipseal, start at the intersection of Upper Cow Creek Rd. and Snow Creek Rd. and ride south as far as you want, then turn around.
Adding miles: The roads around this route offer a superfluity of riches:
1. East Evans Creek Rd. continues for a few good miles beyond the W. Fork intersection before the pavement ends.
2. Sykes Creek Rd. is paved for 3.4 miles, all pleasant moderate climbing through partially built-up woods.
3. Mays Rd. is only paved for 1 mile.
4. Six miles up W. Fork from East Evans Creek Rd., Rock Creek Rd. forks off to the R and climbs at a challenging rate for 6 miles of pavement—a real adventure, very narrow, with a less groomed road surface. This gets my vote as the add-on to ride first. As always, there is no sign, but someone have helpfully written “Rock” across the road at the fork.
5. At the north end of the ride, Upper Cow Creek Rd. runs for 13 miles from Snow Creek Rd. to the tiny town (in other words, country grocery store) of Azalea. It’s a big, polished two-lane road with a pleasant contour and next to no traffic through pretty woods and farm country, but it’s been recently repaved (as of 8/23) with a nasty chipseal, so I’d avoid it for a couple of years at least.