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 Quartzville 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. See the comment below by John, 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.
Begin at Sunnyside Park, a lovely county park that is friendly, cheerful, and free. Ride up Quartzville Road/Drive for the entire ride. The scenery is gorgeous—mossy maples, golden canopies—almost from the gun. It isn’t going to get any prettier, so don’t hurry through these early miles to get to the mythical good stuff. I recommend riding in the morning if possible, so the sun backlights the trees on your R.
The road surface is excellent, and made better by the fact that new shoulder strips have recently (summer 2016) been added on both sides of the road, and this new surface makes climbing practically effortless. On my last ride I met a flagman who told me they were about to repave the road “to make it really nice for you,” but I can’t imagine how it could be better. He also said they were going to be adding guardrails, which might a) mean you run into some construction and b) impair the road’s sense of intimacy a tad.
In 3.6 miles you reach the unfortunately named Green Peter Dam and Lake. The view of the lake from the dam is usually quite striking. Take it in, because hereafter it’s not a pretty lake, and you can’t see it very well anyway. You’re here for the road and the forest, not the water views.
In about 10 miles (about where you cross on the obvious but unsigned Rocky Top Road bridge spanning the headwaters of the lake), the creek returns to being a creek and the character of the ride changes. The scenery is rougher, drier, and rockier. The land is more open, so for the first time in the ride the road is often in full sun (if it’s sunny). To my mind, the scenery is now only good, not grand—turn around if you don’t like what you see. Now the creek is strewn with boulders that form lovely, large swimming holes you should try if it’s hot enough. The road is now also marked by miniature camp sites in most of the dirt turn-outs, which is a handy thing because water sources are scarce along this route and you may need to beg water from a camper.
In the last miles before my turn-around spot the road stops rolling up and down and does a steady, easy climbing grade you’ll hardly notice until you turn around and discover it’s now a descent.
At 22.2 miles you reach Yellow Bottom (or Yellowbottom), a lovely spot with a rocky beach and swimming hole on one side of the road and developed campground on the other. I turn around here. The ride back is close to effortless—just a few easy climbs to break up the long, gentle descents.
I love this ride in sunshine, but it has a different kind of beauty when wet, also wonderful, so I wouldn’t write it off because of rain. The pitches are never steep enough to cause you any wet-road bike handling concern.
Shortening the ride: The ride begins lush and moist, and gets rockier and drier as it climbs. Pick your foliage.
Adding Miles: You can extend the ride in either direction. You can go all the way to Hwy 22 to the east—another 20 miles. Starting about where we turn around, the riding gets wilder, steeper, and tougher. You may prefer it to my route. The road becomes NF 11, then Straight Creek Road. If you go all that way you’ll probably want to ride north on Hwy 22 the few miles to Marion Forks to resupply for the ride back. The miles to the south and west of Sunnyside Park are also very good—classic farm and foothill riding. Don’t follow Quartzville Drive to Hwy 20; instead, take the almost-immediate R off Quartzville onto N. River Drive and follow it along the north side of pretty Foster Lake. From Sunnyside Park to Sweet Home this way adds 8 miles (one way) of very pleasant riding.
Afterthoughts: I know of no guaranteed water sources between Sunnyside Park and Yellow Bottom, but there are frequent bathrooms—at campgrounds, at Green Peter Dam, and at road intersections for some reason.