Fifteen Dead Men
Don’t let the name scare you … the Fifteen is for Fifteenmile creek … the creek/watershed that you circumnavigate for most of the day. And Dead is for Deadman Gulch. A possible side excursion.
It was named “fifteenmile” because in pioneer days the main road crossed the creek about fifteen miles (24 km) from The Dalles. [Wikipedia]
We call this a picnic route: we offer up two options for the perfect lunch spot, the rewards for having polished off a good long climb. (One version tags on an additional 1,200 feet of climbing to reach Flag Point Lookout). For either picnic location, plan to snarf down as much food as you could have carried because the last 15 miles is easy as pie: a blasting downhill that will have you back to the car in no time. So loading up on extra chocolate chip cookies will just make you faster.
Miles 0 to 7 / Rolling Gravel Roads
From the Old Friend Schoolhouse, head east on the paved road for 0.5 miles. Go left on Heberlein Rd. The next series of roads, until ~ mile 7, are wide, fast, and rolling. There are a couple of short steeper, pitches of about 6% (both up and down), but they are very short in length. A quarter of a mile at most. The views are open and expansive – valleys, green fields, and big mountains (i.e. Mt. Hood). **Read More
At mile 5.7, there is a sharp left onto Taylor Grade road. This is a short but steep downhill pitch. 6 to 10%. At the bottom cross over Fifteenmile creek, the primary watershed for the area and the local water source for the town of Dufur.
Fifteenmile Creek originates at Senecal Spring on Lookout Mountain in Oregon’s Cascade Range. At 5,900 feet in elevation, Lookout Mountain is the highest point in the Badger Creek Wilderness. Fifteenmile Creek flows toward the northeast eventually joining the Deschutes River near its confluence with the Columbia River east of The Dalles, Oregon. [National Wild and Scenic Rivers System]
Jog right, jog left onto Ridgetop road. The turn onto Ridgetop road is easy to miss. It is the first left (gravel) from the paved road just after the creek crossing. There will be a sign marking the road as a dead end. Ridgetop road is a fun and scenic (forested) section of gravel with a steep initial pitch, 12%. This also marks the beginning of the one and only major climb of the day. 14 miles, 3400 feet of gain.
Mile 8 to 12.5 / Primitive Dirt Road
Just before mile 8 take a left onto an un-marked dirt road. It looks, and is, primitive. There is a sign in a tree to the right that states “No Propelled Vehicles”. Hmm? There are short sections along the road that are sandy, rutted or rocky. To your left will be remains of logging operations, to your right is a forested hill side. Some will find this road a fun challenge, others will find it a bit unpleasant.
Just before mile 12, the road surface changes to loamy, brown soils under large pine tree cover. This lasts for less than a mile but is a welcome change.
Mile 12.5 to 19 / Maintained Gravel Roads
At mile 12.5, there is a sharp left onto a gray gravel road. It is obvious that this is an improved and maintained gravel road by the Forest Service.
From here until ~ mile 16 (the watershed sign), Fifteenmile creek will be to your left. At times you will be on a ridge with the terrain falling off to the left and right of you. Mt. Hood will peek out at you, directly down your line of sight.
At the watershed sign, continue straight. Left continues down to Deadman Gulch and Fifteenmile creek as an out and back. Go right if you need a “bailout”, the road will intersect Dufur Valley road (paved) which leads directly back into Dufur.
The next 3 miles continues up in mostly forested terrain.
Miles 19 to 21 / Paved & Uphill
At mile 19, you intersect a paved road. Go left. The climbing continues, 8 to 10%, for another 500 feet of elevation gain. At the summit, and you will know when you reach the summit as the road rolls off in steepness, stop and walk out on the small trail to your left to a rock outcropping. This is a great spot to stop, eat, and take in the views.
Miles 21 to 29 / Paved & Downhill
The hard work for the day is done. It is all downhill from here.[micro-video] The road is single lane paved with some pull-outs. Be cautious of cars coming up the hill towards you.
At mile 22.3, Fifteenmile campground, you may want to stop and dip your toes into the creek. This is also a good stopping point for lunch, especially on a hot day.
At mile 23.6 you may want to take the out & back to Flag Point Lookout (to your right). This will add 6.5 miles and 1200 feet of gain. The road is mostly through pine forest with loamy soil. The riding is of moderate difficulty. The lookout gives wide-reaching views. We do like this as an out and back.
Originally constructed in 1924, Flag Point Lookout stands on a 5,650-foot tree-covered butte in the Badger Creek Wilderness. The 60-foot tower once held the original 6 foot by 6 foot cabin, but this has since been renovated to a roomier 16 feet by 16 feet. The main draw to Flag Point is the fantastic views of the cascade range from the east. Mount Hood sits right out your front door. To the north you can see Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier, and Mount Adams. To the south you can see Mount Jefferson and the Three Sisters. [Outdoor Project]
Mile 29 to 32 / Wide Gravel Road & Downhill
At ~ mile 29, you leave Mt. Hood National Forest, and boom! … the road is gravel again. It is wide and slightly downhill. For us, it was in good shape with little washboard
Mile 32 to Finish / Paved & Rolling
And finally, the road changes back over to pavement at ~ mile 32. Use this section of road to stretch out your legs and cool down as it is slightly downhill. When the terrain gives way to fields on you left and right, you are just about done.
40 mm tires are more than adequate for this ride. We started with lower air pressures for the initial gravel sector and added air at ~ mile 19.
Adventure / Gravel Route
Tech Difficulty & Risk[what this means]
Moderate. Due to: (a) some rocky and sandy terrain (~ miles 8 to 12), (b) several short, steep pitches above 6%, and (c) limited cell phone reception.
When we like to ride this …
On a warm summer day with an early start. Ideally, we like to top out near noon, take a break at lookout rock (maybe have lunch), or put our feet into Fifteen Mile creek just beyond the summit at ~ mile 22.
The old school house in Friend. Pit toilets.
Lat / Long: 45.345326, -121.276293
Food / Water
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.