Distance: 35 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 2010 ft
(A Best of the Best ride)
(This ride is discussed as part of a much larger loop in Jim Moore’s 75 Classic Rides Oregon: the Best Road Biking Routes from Mountaineers Books.)
I talk about the network of roads southwest of Eugene in the Briggs Hill Road/McBeth Road ride, which represents the area. It’s all very nice, but not much in the way of a “Wow!” factor. If you want something more intense, ride Siuslaw River Road. Bestrides actually has another ride on the same river, North Fork Siuslaw Road, but that one’s on the coast where the river, now much larger, meets the sea. This one is inland, near Hwy 5. Whereas the rest of the area is merely fine, Siuslaw River Road is great. It’s through a canopied riparian cedar/mossy maple/fern forest that is as pretty as anything Oregon has to offer, which means as pretty as Earth gets. I think you’ll see two houses. The road surface is glass. The contour for the first 12 miles of the ride is not-quite-flat—constantly rising and falling at 1-3%—and always meandering back and forth, so it offers constant effortless variety. The contour for the next 5.5 miles is a series of 0.5-1.0-mile climbs and descents, 5-7%, never seriously taxing or lasting long enough to lose the novelty. The descents are just at that pitch where you can carry some speed without having to ride the brakes, and the curves are sweetly shaped so you feel like a champ. There is no traffic—on my last ride, midday on a Tuesday in August, on the ride out I encountered 0 vehicles (3 on the way back). A basically perfect ride. And you are in total control of the work load: since all the work is in the second half of the route, if you’re on a recovery day you can simply turn around when the climbing starts.
(RidewithGPS’s elevation profile is more revealing.)
Begin in Lorane, which is an intersection with a convenience store. Ride Siuslaw (pronounced “sigh-OOH-slaw”) River Road (always signed Siuslaw Road, but called SRR on maps) to its intersection with Wolf Creek Road, then ride back.
The miles from Lorane to Letz Creek Rd are merely good, and if you are only interested in out-standing you can skip them. The name of the road is easy to remember: “Shall we skip the first few miles?” “Letz!”
The first miles of the route meander along the river, but it’s a river in name only—it’s a big stream where it meets the sea but here it’s a mere trickle in late summer. The water itself isn’t especially pretty, and you can almost not see it even though it’s right beside you. The foliage varies from good to breath-taking, from Forest Primeval to clear-cuts and tree farms. Sun lights up the maples, which is nice, but I’ve done the ride in overcast and it’s still stunning.
You ride past Fire Rd., which made me wonder if there was a road named Logging Rd. or Dirt Rd. nearby. A short way into the ride you pass the turn-off to Siuslaw Falls County Park (clearly signed). The falls are lame—just water passing over a low shelf—but the half-mile ride in is pretty and fun.
After you hit the first real hill it’s pretty constantly up and down to the turn-around. The workload isn’t burdensome—2010 ft of gain in 35 miles isn’t nothing but it isn’t a lot. After the climbing starts, the woods dry out (because you’ve left the riparian ecosystem) and you hit clearcutting, so it’s much less pretty, but continue, because the woods return in the last couple of miles before the turn-around and they’re exceptionally beautiful.
Shortening the route: Start at Letz Creek Road. This saves 10 miles of pleasant but fairly domesticated riding. There is no turn-out on Siuslaw River Rd. near the intersection but there is shoulder parking on LCR if you look for it.
Adding miles: Literally, just go anywhere. Siuslaw River Road continues west from our turn-around, all the way to Hwy 126, which was a traffic nightmare the last time I saw it. At our turn-around point you’re actually on the route of our Gardiner to Eugene ride, which will let you ride west all the way to the sea if you ride it backwards. To the east, from our starting point in Lorane you can ride Cottage Grove-Lorane Road, 12 miles (24 miles out and back) of sweet Oregonian farms and woods with a noticeable but not hard hill in the middle (thanks, Andrew). It’s bigger, more developed, and busier than some other roads in the area but well worth riding nonetheless.
Wolf Creek Road heads north back into the Southwest o’ Eugene road network from our turn-around, so take it if you’re looking for a loop. The obvious loop is Wolf Creek to Territorial Hwy back to Lorane. If you’ve got more legs, keep going north when Wolf Creek dead-ends at Territorial Hwy by jogging over to Crow and working your way east by any number of routes, then come south on Lorane Hwy.
I actually don’t recommend that you follow that route, because I think Wolf Creek, Crow, and the roads immediately surrounding them are fairly dull. Instead, I recommend you ride Siuslaw Rd. out and back, then follow this prettier route from Lorane north:
Whatever your route, try to incorporate McBeth Rd. and Fox Hollow Rd. north to south, a beautiful climb (up McBeth) and ripping descent (down Fox Hollow) that will be the high point of your loop.