Distance: 61 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 5048 ft (claimed, but see below)
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 passes through three very different ecosystems, all rewarding. The first stretch, from Indian Mary County Park to the Rogue River bridge, is mostly through a grand, open river canyon, with the road clinging to the face of a steep rocky canyon wall. Very dramatic, very nice. Lower Graves Creek Rd, the second leg, is almost carless, narrower, tighter, through riparian woods. For Oregon, the woods in this stretch are a trifle thin and the road surface is a trifle rough, but still it’s very good and the road contour is tons of fun. The third leg takes you along a mostly flat road through sun-lit forests to the interesting ghost town of Golden.
(To see an interactive version of the map/elevation profile, click on the ride name, upper left, wait for the new map to load, then click on the “full screen” icon, upper right.)
Mapmyride’s elevation total and profile are whack. Moore lists total vert as 3127 ft, and his elevation profile and Mapmyride’s don’t look anything alike. My computer recorded 2700 ft., which is nearly flat for a 60-mile ride, and that’s what I recall. Ignoring the imaginary sawteeth. the mapmride map shows an elevation gain of about 1000 ft in 18 miles, which is nothing.
The ride actually begins in Mary County Park, a short ride before Galice, but I liked the “G to G” alliteration. Ride north on Galice Rd., with the Rogue River continuously on your R, until the road unmissably crosses the river on a bridge and the road immediately forks. Go R onto Lower Graves Creek Rd, which turns into Lower Wolf Creek Rd and takes you to the town of Wolf Creek.
Wolf Creek is tiny but worth a stop. There’s a classic general store and a wonderful old inn with lots of history and a welcoming attitude toward droppers-by. It was a stop-over for outdoorsy celebrity types, so there are lots of memorabilia related to famous guests like Clark Gable and Jack London. Ask about the faked John Wayne photo.
You might be tempted to skip the few miles between Wolf Creek and the ghost town of Golden, but it’s a lovely stretch of easy, ideal riding through classic woods, and Golden itself is of interest. Head south out of town on Old Highway 99 (the obvious main street) briefly, take the L that takes you under Highway 99 (the new one), go R immediately on the other side of the underpass onto Coyote Creek Rd, and follow CCR to Golden.
Don’t expect something on the level of Bodie, CA. There’s not much to Golden. It’s only a sweet little church, two or three other unprepossessing shacks closed to visitors, and a few historical placards. Still, it was interesting enough that I drove back on a later date to show it to my wife. The church is still used for weddings and such. I was lucky enough to arrive when a family was decorating the church for an approaching wedding, and I’m sure that added to my fondness for the place.
Adding Miles: The miles from Merlin to our start at Indian Mary County Park are very good. The ride on Bear Camp Rd. (which takes off to the L shortly after our ride begins) to the ocean is bucket-list epic (long, remote, rough, lots of climbing, lots of gravel sections) and only to be undertaken by the adventuresome and well-prepared. Our Tour de Fronds ride is on the next east-west road to the north.