We always called it cowboy coffee; the black coffee left swirling in a coffee pot for days, reheated, burned. Waitresses grab the orange or brown handle, topping off an entire diner in no time, then slamming the coffee pot back on the burner, keeping it warm for the next round. Can’t you smell those greasy eggs and fried potatoes cooking in the background?
That’s our image of a coffee pot, which is also the name of a cool meadow and a stream that keeps springing up on this route. And while that might sound rather ordinary, we found this route to be rather extraordinary.
The overall design is just the way we like it: climb 2,700 feet right out of the parking lot on gravel (let’s get that climb done with!), then roll up and down on more gravel, and then blast down on pavement (just about the time we were thinking our day was going slow!).
But we also just loved the variety; we like a route that evolves, transitions, like a good novel. The opening miles are sweet views of the whole valley around Paisley, then onto the National Forest, which offers up a mixture of woods. You’ll then slice through burn areas, with logging, until you start chasing streams and rivers and big open views on your way back to the car. When you hit a wonderful meadow, you are at Coffeepot Meadow.
The one caution on this route: you climb up to 7,000 feet, which is not particularly a hard climb. But it does mean you need to think about snow levels; you’ll see the signs for winter snowmobiling which should offer up a big hint
Adventure / Gravel Route
Technical Difficulty & Risk[what this means]
Moderate. Due to: (a) short pitches, up and down, in excess of 8%, (b) the remote locale of the gravel portion of the ride. There is limited cell phone (voice / text) reception along the route. The paved portion has several campgrounds. In August we saw a number of occupied campsites.
When we like to ride this …
Late spring through early fall. Be sure to check the snow levels, as the route tops out at 7000 feet of elevation.
A paved pull out just past the beginning of the gravel road climb on the 331 Road. An alternative, is to drive an additional 1.1. miles up river and take the dirt “road” to the left, by a big rock, that leads down to a nice parking area near the river.
Lat / Long: 42.688175, -120.569619 (alternative: 42.678978, -120.582140)
Food / Water
In Paisley there is a tavern, a diner, coffee stand and a small grocery store.
Ride Details**Read More
Miles 0 to 12 / Bald Hills – Fremont Forest Climb / Gravel
Head out northeast along the road you drove in on. In a quarter of a mile, go left onto the 331 Road [gravel], this marks the beginning of the climb: 2700 feet of gain, in 11 miles, with an average gradient of 5%.
Just as you begin to climb, you will notice a steam plume and hear a gushing sound to your right; that is the failed attempt at a geothermal power plant. In the early to mid-2000s Suprise Energy embarked on the building of the plant. The history of what occurred throughout the process is a bit murky. Cost overruns, a delayed opening, operational, and then shut down after eight months of power production.
Over the past four years Surprise Valley Electric has been developing a geothermal power plant in Paisley, Oregon. Our project consists of three geothermal wells which we drilled over the past couple years. Two of the wells will be used as production wells and the third for an injection well. Our plant will come online in the fall of 2013 and will produce 3MW of renewable, base load power. [Surprise Valley Electrification Corp.]
The first 5 miles climb up through a treeless hillside, dishing up big, expansive views to the south and east.[micro-video] There is a bit of washboard, but not much. The almost double lane road is hard-packed with small, pea-size gravel.
When you cross into the Fremont National Forest [~ mile 5], marked by several signs, the terrain changes over to a forest dominated by Ponderosa, Lodgepole, and Jeffrey pine; the views are less frequent, but still to be had. The climbing continues!
At mile 10.3, there is a false summit, followed by a shallow dip, and then a bit more of climbing to the true summit at mile 11.5.[micro-video]
Miles 12 to 17 / The Watson Creek Burn / Gravel
The next 5.5 miles has an elevation profile of a “U”, starting at 7100 feet, dropping down to 6500 feet,[micro-video] and then climbing back to 6900 feet. In August of 2018, the Watson Creek fire roared through the area burning intensely. The scarring of the hillside and the black, scorched earth is breathtaking. Timber salvaging operations are also on-going.
The Watson Creek Fire burned actively through the day Friday in dense standing and downed vegetation dominated by bug killed lodgepole pine. Access to the fire is difficult, challenging fire fighters on their ability to directly attack the fire. [Klamath Falls News]
During the six days the Watson Creek Fire has been spreading through the Fremont-Winema National Forest in south-central Oregon it has burned 32,104 acres 6 miles southwest of Paisley. Resources assigned to the fire include 15 hand crews, 34 fire engines, and 5 helicopters, for a total of 556 personnel. [Wildfire Today]
Miles 17 to 25 / Coffee Pot Sector / Gravel
Just beyond mile 17, make a 90 degree left onto a single lane gravel/dirt road [NF 349]. The next 8 miles are a modulated descent of 1400 feet with features like Coffee Pot creek, Elder Creek, pine forests, Aspen trees, meadows, red cinder road, and gravel road. Along the way, there are scattered burn areas, but from which fire we are not sure, possibly the Watson Creek fire (2018), the Toolbox Complex Fire (2002), or the Barry Point fire (2012). Also note that from mile 22 to 23.5, is the steepest gravel descent of the day, with an average grade of 9%.
For us, this was a really fun sector of riding.
Mile 25 to Finish / Chasing the River / Paved
At mile 25, take a left onto NF 28, a single lane paved road with turnouts, gently descending for the next 2.5 miles. Overall, the road is in good condition with only an occasional divot or dip. Just before mile 28, make a left onto NF 33. It is paved, but very course. You will swear that you have ridden smoother gravel roads. The terrain is a mix of meadow, forest, and small rolling hills for the next 4 miles.
At mile 32, you cross through Coffee Pot Flat meadow where Coffee Pot creek merges into the larger Chewaucan River. From mile 36 to the finish, you closely follow the river. Just before mile 39, there is a campground to your right and a newly constructed bridge over the Chewaucan River; this is the Oregon Timber Trail.
The Oregon Timber Trail is an iconic 670-mile backcountry mountain bike route spanning Oregon’s diverse landscapes from California to the Columbia River Gorge. [Oregon Timber Trail]
Just after mile 39, the road becomes much smoother. And … the closer you get to the finish, the more spectacular the views; a canyon back-dropped by big, barren hills covered in grass.[micro-video]
40 mm tires are more than adequate for this ride.
Red = paved road
Brown = gravel / dirt road
For help with GPS files, the RideWithGPs mapping app and to learn how to download our routes for free, see the “Using Our Rides” page.