•Tour preview booklet: 57 pages; 69 photos; 7 maps
Beginning and ending near Eugene, the Northern Oregon Tour follows a counterclockwise loop: first two days moving from west to east, up and over the heart of the Cascade mountain range; then two days heading north through the dry, austere beauty of Central Oregon, east of the Cascades; one fabulous stage riding downstream in the Columbia River Gorge; and finally two days heading south amidst the wooded foothills, farmlands, and rivers on the west side of the mountains.
This tour can be modified for overnights in lodgings. It would require changes to a few stages—not discussed in the copy—but I’ve figured them out and would be happy to share my ideas with you, if you’re interested. As I have it laid out, this alternate tour also does away with the longest stages by breaking the miles up differently, but this does mean at least one and possibly two extra days to complete the loop.
For more observations on this tour, read my column at BikeCal.com.
Stage 1: Springfield to Frissell Crossing
76 miles, 3500′ up, 1450′ down
Upstream toward the headwaters of the Willamette River, first amid a mix of farm fields and woods—including visiting three historic covered bridges—and then, beyond the village of Westfir, along the nearly perfect Aufderheide Forest Drive, through deep forest, up and over 3748′ Box Canyon summit (a long but easy climb) and down to a remote Forest Service camp along the headwaters of the McKenzie River. No showers, but the creek is there…
Stage 2: Frissell Crossing to Sisters
70 miles, 5000′ up, 4400′ down
Begins with 18 more dream miles, mostly downhill along the balance of Aufderheide Drive…almost perfect cycling. Then it’s uphill to legendary McKenzie Pass (5324′), and down, down, down to the roll-out to the town of Sisters in high, dry Central Oregon. Camp in the city park or find lodgings in the town.
Stage 3: Sisters to Kah-Nee-Ta
76 miles, 3500′ up, 4800′ down
Meandering north and west through open ranch lands, up and over buttes and down into canyons. Highlights include the spectacular Crooked River Gorge, an optional side trip to Smith Rock State Park, and impressive Lake Billy Chinook. Overnight at Kah-Nee-Ta resort on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. Camping or motel available, as well as their huge hot springs pool.
Stage 4: Kah-Nee-Ta to The Dalles
80 miles, 4500′ up, 5800′ down
More miles through the wide open spaces of the American west. (We rode with herds of wild mustangs on this stage.) One long climb mid-stage (seven miles to Tygh Ridge summit), then a long, long descent to the Columbia River and the town of The Dalles. We camped at the high school, but you will probably prefer finding accommodations in town. There are plenty.
Stage 5: The Dalles to Troutdale
77 miles, 4000′ up, 4200′ down
The Queen Stage of this tour: the run west along the magnificent Columbia River Gorge, usually on the Historic Columbia River Highway, one of the most beautiful roads in the world. Highlights around every bend, from Rowena Crest to the Vista House, from the trendy town of Hood River to numerous towering waterfalls. Spend the night at the quirky, quaint Edgefield Resort, one of the most creatively colorful hotels you’ll ever encounter…a fitting finale on a day that is off-the-chart wonderful from start to finish.
Stage 6: Troutdale to Silver Falls State Park
93 miles, 9000′ up, 7500′ down
Probably the hardest day of the tour, with long miles and many climbs, as the route heads south from the Columbia through the wooded foothills on the west side of the Cascades. No notable highlights along the route, but beautiful back road scenery throughout. Camp at Silver Falls State Park and visit some of the ten impressive waterfalls within the park.
Stage 7: Silver Falls to Springfield
96 miles, 4000′ up, 5100′ down
85 miles, 3000′ up, 4100′ down
Big miles for this final day, but generally easy riding. Not exactly flat, but less steeply hilly than the day before, as the route meanders out of the mountains and down into the Willamette Valley. If you do the long route, you will pass or cross as many as seven historic covered bridges. (There are more covered bridges in this region than anywhere else in the country.) Return to the motel in Springfield where the tour began.