Lolo Pass Back Road

Distance:  12.3 miles one way
Elevation gain: 2500 ft 

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

East Lolo Pass Road is a chestnut Oregon ride, a twelve-mile out-and-back climb up a wide, clear-cut valley dominated by a huge rack of power lines.  I hate it.  But the back road that parallels it, FR 1828, is sublime—8.5 miles of the densest, most magical woods I found in Oregon.  And one grand glimpse of Mt. Hood.



(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.)

Carry a map on this ride, and I recommend a compass.  You have three turns to negotiate, and all are apparent but totally unsigned.  Park where E. Lolo Pass Road crosses the Sandy River and head up ELPR through classic Oregon vacation cabin country.  Go R on Muddy Fork Rd. at 3.3 miles (turn #1).  When Muddy Fork Rd. turns R to cross the creek, don’t make the turn—take the unsigned one-lane road L (almost continuing straight on, but we’ll call it turn #2).  That’s FR 1828.  It has no other name.

Typical 1828 canopy

Typical 1828 canopy

FR 1828 immediately begins to climb, and will climb vigorously—some might say dauntingly—for the next 4 miles.  Overall vert for the ride is 3860 ft, and most of it is in these four miles.  Oregon has few really steep pitches, and this is one of them.  But you won’t mind, because you’ll be gawking at the scenery and marveling at the solitude.  The road is so narrow and primitive you’ll worry it will turn to dirt at any moment.  The canopy is unequaled, and the privacy is near-absolute, since there is no earthly reason why a car would be on this road.   This is truly a magical place.

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Nothing’s prettier than these woods

About 1 mile past the obvious summit on Rd 1828 (there’s a “KOM” marked on the road) there is an unmissable Y that Moore’s text and map ignores (turn #3).  The R fork goes slightly up and the L fork goes more steeply down.  Both roads are about equal in size, and neither direction looks promising.  Go L and trust.  The road surface will deteriorate, adding to your fear that you’ve gone wrong.   Ride the last, relatively flat, miles to the end of the road, dead-ending at E. Lolo Pass Rd., also (incredibly) unmarked.

My route ends here, because there is no Bestrides-worthy route back.  FR 1828 has such a broken surface that descending is a daunting prospect unless you’re on a mountain bike.   So you’re left with the descent on E. Lolo Pass Rd., a classic example of long, featureless, straight bombing through mediocre scenery.  OK, there are splendid views of Mt. Hood over your L shoulder and an easily-spotted waterfall on your R that’s worth a stop and/or hike, but that’s it.  The descent also has its spots of problematic road surface.  I was literally looking forward to the ride being over.

By the way, Moore warns of a stretch of gravel at mile 20.5 on his route.  It’s there, it’s not a big deal, but it’s hard to see coming because you’re in heavy dappled shade, and for me it came a mile later.  He also warns of a spot with a stop sign, a washout, and a one-lane section, all of which aren’t there any more.

Mount Hood and a break in the canopy

Mount Hood and a break in the canopy on FR 1828

Adding Miles: Moore recom- mends E. Barlow Trail Rd., which leaves E. Lolo Pass Rd. to the L a stone’s throw uphill from our starting point.

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