Billy’s Playground

5 Star Route / Ridden and Reviewed by Gravel Girl & Captain ‘O

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Imagine the year 1843, joining Chief Billy Chinook as he guided you with John Freemont and Kit Carson through this amazing area: exceptional views of the Cascades and Lake Billy Chinook. 

These are roads to nowhere, a mixture of road and gravel and a mixture of terrain. From woods to grasslands with loads of flowers in the spring.  An artistic treasure.    

The route includes a stop at the tiny ghost town cemetery of Grandview.  And a blasting downhill at mile 29  … with open views of Lake Billy Chinook and mountains off in the distance … but, you just might want to dial it down a SMIDGE.   We also love the Balance Rocks … they are always a good conversation for the group.  And look out for the buffaloes on the home stretch …. of course, they are fenced, but they are still fun to see.  

Don’t be fooled by the word SHORT or the seemingly lack of elevation.  It’s a big ride, an all day adventure.  Don’t skip the water stop because you are going to need the extra water.   

**Adventure / Gravel Route
– Loop: 67 miles / 3800 ft gain
– Surface: ~ 50% paved, 50% gravel / dirt roads
– Rideable: Spring thru Fall. Summer can be hot. Early fall it can be dusty (i.e. “moon dust”).
– Location: Sisters, Oregon
– Course by: Captain “O”
– Date posted: April 2015 (updated October, 2018)

Intermediate / advanced.  Due to distance and elevation gain. Also, a tricky descent of 1000 feet in 4 miles.

**The Start
Creekside City Park in Sisters, OR. Flush toilets and water across the foot bridge.

**Food / Water
(a) Water at the fire station at ~mile 40. Note that they have given us permission to grab water out of the hose if they aren’t around. (b) Food and water at Lake Chinook Village store. Just before mile 42, instead of turning right, continue on the pavement for another mile or so to Lake Chinook Village store (241 SW Jordan Rd / 541-420-3704).

Wahoo / Garmin Direct Download
GPX file / TXC file

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  • Phil says:

    I rode miles 39-66 on this route today. Didn’t do the full loop but just out and back from Sisters, maximizing my time on gravel. It was about 52 miles roundtrip or so. I started by parking in the school parking lot. No issues with the route – it’s a good wide road the entire way. I saw a dead rattle snake that had been run over, and later two guys stuck on the side of the road waiting for a rattle snake to leave from under their car. Apparently he’d rushed over after they pulled over to take a leak and was in the shade under the car coiled and ready to strike. I guess he must have finally left because they passed me a few miles later. Overall the route was good, but not quite as exciting as some of the bend-area recommendations on this page perhaps. Granted, I didn’t do the full loop, so take that for what it’s worth. The highlight was ripping along at 30mph for a very long section of slight downhill on very fast packed dirt heading north from mile 5 to mile 9.5 (on my route). What a blast that was. Also, I passed a caravan of RVs that were crawling along at 15mph. Don’t recall ever passing and leaving motor vehicles behind me before!

    • KevinE says:

      Thanks for the feedback. We do appreciate your honesty. It’s amazing to read different reactions to different routes. Happy trails…

  • August 18, 2018 Ride Report. The first unpaved section from mile 8.0 to 8.6 is currently sand and not rideable at present. Recommend continuing on Indian Ford Road until its end where you can pick up NF11 where it begins. NF11 is in good condition with some washboard towards the end. NF1170 was our highlight with spectacular vistas. Sections of Witt Road with its fun Roubaix surface were also beautiful. Water from the fire station is not easy with the hose is hard to find and security cameras alarmed. The store is an easier option; ice cream was welcome at 85F – the day started at 55F. A wonderful low-traffic density route with plenty of variety in road and scenery.

  • KevinE says:

    June 23, 2017 Ride Report. The second gravel sector of ~15 miles has been recently re-graveled. It is thick and loose. Over time, it should compact and get firmer and faster. Otherwise, spectacular ride.

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