Distance: 35 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 2450 ft
(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.)
The network of roads southwest of Eugene are an amazing cycling resource. South of Hwy 126, west of Hwy 5, and west and south almost without end, every road is good riding.
It’s all pretty much the same sort of thing: rolling gently through open, postcard-pretty farm and ranch valleys, along wooded streams, and over mellow hills, on small, relatively untrafficked roads with excellent pavement. Not an ugly mile to be found. No long, tough climbs. No busy highways to avoid. Courteous drivers. No litter. No broken glass.
Nothing here makes Bestrides’ Best Of lists, because it’s all classic PPO riding (Perfectly Pleasant Oregon). Nothing will take your breath away, but you’ll be happy. There is no such thing as a best route here. Feel free to wander. Loops can be effortlessly constructed, of all sorts of lengths.
To represent the area, here’s my favorite stretch of Southwest o’ Eugene road. It’s canopied riparian mossy maple creekside riding, but if you’re in the mood for open farm country it’s easy to make it a part of loops that include the best of the valley riding (see Adding Miles).
Begin in Lorane, which is an intersection with a convenience store. Ride Siuslaw (pronounced “sigh-OOH-slaw”) River Road (also signed Siuslaw Road) to its intersection with Wolf Creek Road, then ride back. 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.
The miles from Lorane to Letz Creek Rd are merely fine, and if you are only interested in outstanding you can skip them.
At first the road has a nice, almost effortless contour as it meanders along the river, which is 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. Traffic is next to nothing—on a lovely August weekday midday, I saw 3 vehicles in two hours. The water itself isn’t pretty, and you can almost not see it even though it’s right beside you. You’ve come for the riparian vegetation—grand mossy maples mostly, often thick enough and backlit enough to give you that Oregon “nature’s cathedral” feeling. The foliage varies from good to breath-taking, between the inevitable Oregon clear-cuts and tree farms. Try to ride on a sunny day—without the light, the ride would be a couple of notches less dramatic.
You will ride past Fire Rd., which made me wonder if there was a road named Logging Rd. nearby. A short way into the ride you pass Siuslaw Falls County Park. It’s pretty lame—just water passing over a low shelf—but the half-mile ride in is pretty and fun.
Siuslaw Road is almost effortless until you hit the first real hill, and from then on it’s pretty constantly up and down, with three noticeably long pitches that won’t hurt but will make you say, “Hey, this was supposed to be my recovery ride!” (on the return ride, there are only 2 hills). 2450 ft of gain in 35 miles isn’t a lot but it isn’t nothing. Stick with it—the last couple of miles before the turn-around are as pretty as any on the ride.
Shortening the route: Start at Letz Creek Road. There is no turn-out but ample shoulder parking on LCR. Turn around at the first significant hill (but you’ll miss some pretty stuff).
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. 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. Some riders fear Territorial Hwy because, while it’s very pretty and has a wonderful contour, it’s narrow, has no shoulder, and is a bit trafficky, so there’s little room for you. It looked OK to me. If you’ve got more legs, keep going north when Wolf Creek deadends at Territorial Hwy by jogging over to Crow and working your way east by any number of routes (all good) so you can come south on Lorane Hwy, my favorite of the open ag valley roads. A little further east will net you McBeth Rd and Fox Hollow Rd, two more of my favorites.