Cool & Shady
Man, it’s a hot one
Like seven inches from the midday sun
Well, I hear you whisper and the words melt everyone
But you stay so cool
“Smooth” by Santana
Yes, you stay so cool, that’s why we call this route Cool and Shady. This route is perfect for that roasting hot day when you are sure you are going to get baked from the sun. You stay deep in the forest for a big chunk of the ride, hugging a lake for the first ten miles, and hugging a stream for the final ten. You start and end at a lake …. And while this has one, big long climb (a Category 1), most of it has enough shade to keep you sane. When we reached the exposed parts at the top of the climb, we were greeted with a nice breeze that felt just lovely.
Now before you pure gravel cyclists chide us for too much of the paved roads, we will be the first to admit that we almost called this route Oakridge Roadie. But it actually works out rather nice … there are two major paved sections. One is flat and let’s you fly along at superhero speeds. (Yes, I said flat which is hard to find near Oakridge!) And the second is a bombing downhill that drops 2,500 feet without hammering yourself on a gravel road.
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 local of the ride, and (c) limited, but sporadic, cell phone reception.
When we like to ride this …
This is a go to ride for us during the heat of summer. With an early 8 am start, this is a very enjoyable ride on a 90+ degree day. But, you still want an ample supply of water. For us, it was 70 to 100 ounces.
At the makeshift dirt pull out on the south side of the Hills Creek Crossing bridge. At the intersection of NF 2118.
Lat / Long: 43.696490, -122.381266
Food / Water
Note that the “downtown” of Oakridge is not along the highway. It is just north of the highway by several blocks. There is pub and a bistro in town.
And if you’re looking for a bike shop, consider Oregon Bike Shop and Willamette Mountain Mercantile.
Ride Details**Read More
Miles 0 to 11 / The Reservoir / Gravel (mostly)
Head out directly south, with the reservoir to your right. The first mile is paved, then the road becomes gravel with a smattering of potholes. They are easy to miss and but also make for better cycling than driving experience. At first, the views of the lake are obstructed by the trees. But in the later miles, the views become more open and appealing.[micro-video] In the early morning, this entire sector is shaded.
Miles 11 to 27 / Willamette River / Paved
At mile 10.7, make a left onto a 2-lane paved road [NF 21]. This sector is paved for its entire length, 16 miles. To your right will be the Middle Fork of the Willamette River. From the road, its beauty is mostly hidden. At mile 16.4 and 20.7, we recommend you make a short detour by going right. This will bring you to a bridge crossing and an unobstructed view of the river. We used these stops to get a drink or a bite of food.
This 16-mile sector has an average uphill grade of 1% resulting in an elevation gain of 1200 feet. Again, mostly in the shade from the forested canopy of trees.[micro-video]
Miles 27 to 37 / Swift Creek Climb / Gravel (mostly)
As soon as you turn off NF 21 and onto NF 23, the road pitches up, marking the beginning of the real climb, a Category 1 climb. 2800 feet of gain in just under 10 miles, with 8 miles on gravel. The first 2 miles is a single lane paved road with turnouts. After that, the road is gray, hard-packed, with pea-sized gravel. The grade averages about 6% and stays between 4 to 6% almost the entire way.
To your right is Swift Creek. If you look carefully, you will get a couple of scenic glimpses of the creek. From your left, several small creeks will flow across and under the road: Chaco, Coulee Creek, Minnehaha, Baboon, and Moss Creek. At mile 31.5, in a small meadow, Swift Creek crosses under the road. Shortly after this, Forest Service road 2749 bears right. Stay left.
To this point, the climbing has been mostly in the shade cover of the trees. From here, though, you will need to dart to the left or right side of the road to find the shade. Even at noon, on August 1st, we were able to find shade cover.
At mile 34.5, make a hard right to stay on NF 23. The climbing continues. In a little over a mile, there is a flower-filled high alpine meadow, signaling that the summit is nearly in hand. Continue. Just before the summit, and just as you are leaving the meadow, stop and turn around. Boom! Diamond Peak. The best view of the day. The summit lies ahead by about 100 yards.
Mile 37 to Finish / Hill Creek Descent / Paved (mostly)
Get ready to descend! The first 3 miles are gravel with big, sweeping views to the left. The grade is 8%.
Just before mile 40, the road returns to a single paved lane. The trees are big, giving nearly 100% shade cover. At mile 41, Hills Creek appears to your left. The descent is a zippy, almost brake free, but use caution. The road is sloughing off to the left in spots, there are some divots, the sightlines are limited, and you are popping through several brightly lit patches.[micro-video]
As the road becomes wider and 2-lane, you are approaching the finish. Cut across the bridge and over the reservoir and smile!
Our tire recommendation: 35 to 40 mm.
We recommend a red blinky safety light as you will encounter traffic on the paved sectors, especially on a weekend. We particularly like those lights with a rear looking radar.
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.