Green Ridge Lookout
Note: This is a 5 Star Route, meaning that it is a highly curated, premier riding route.
The Green Ridge Lookout perches high up on Green Ridge; one of the rare places that dishes out a full panorama of the Cascade Mountains. On a glorious clear day, you’ll be pointing at Mt Saint Helens (which is in Washington!), Mt Hood, Mt Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Mt Washington (which is in Oregon!) and all the Sisters. Wowzzz!
The Cascades are part of the Pacific Ocean‘s Ring of Fire, the ring of volcanoes and associated mountains around the Pacific Ocean. All of the eruptions in the contiguous United States over the last 200 years have been from Cascade volcanoes. The two most recent were Lassen Peak from 1914 to 1921 and a major eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980. [Wikipedia]
But not so fast on the download button yet: there are loads of other reasons to polish off this route: Big red ponderosa that seem perfectly coordinated with red cinder roads. A visit to the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery, which crosses over the Metolius River on a bridge that lets you peer into the depth and feel the power of all that water rushing by. A trip to the quaint Camp Sherman store, and a visit to the Head of the Metolius, the bizarre place where the river just pops up from nowhere. By the end, you’ll wonder why we didn’t call this the Tour of Camp Sherman!
For surfaces, this route is a real variety pack with a perfect blend of gravel roads, single track, and paved roads. The single-track has a smidge of the rocky stuff. The gravel roads, for the most part, are hard-packed, with a bit of washboard, mostly avoidable. And then there is a section on the big downhill with some solid bumps and lumps.
We didn’t break any speed records, but the views of the mountains, river, and ponderosas kept us well entertained. And honestly, we thought the climbing seemed pretty mild.
Adventure / Gravel Route
Technical Difficulty & Risk[what this means]
Moderate. Due to: (a) 6 miles of single track with several rocky sections and (b) the steep, rugged downhill at mile 19.
When we like to ride this …
Before mid-May, June to mid-September. These are the times when the lookout is not rented out to the public and is accessible to all.
Food / Water
Wizard Falls fish hatchery, mile 26. Camp Sherman store, mile 30.5.
Near the end of the ride [~ mile 30.5], make a stop at the Camp Sherman store. They have sandwiches, cookies, and ice cream. Make a stop of it; sit on a picnic bench and enjoy the moment with your friends or stick your head into the river to cool off.
Ride Details**Click to Read More
Miles 0 to 6 / Red Cinder Climb / Gravel (mostly)
Before you even begin the route, head down the path [west] to see the Head of the Metolius; this is the origin of the Metolius River. It is spring-fed and percolates out of the ground. Now, begin your ride.
From the parking lot head south on NF-14 [paved] for ~ 1 mile. Turn left onto NF 1430, a red cinder road lined with Ponderosas, that has exceptional color in the early to mid-morning. The road climbs moderately[micro-video] along the northern flank of Black Butte, an extinct stratovolcano, for 3 miles gaining 900 feet [ ~ 5.5% average grade]. Along the way, there are views of Mt Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, and Mt Washington. At mile 3.9, to the left, there is a unique flat top butte; that is, Hayrick Butte.
Hayrick butte is tuya volcano. A tuya is a type of distinctive, flat-topped, steep-sided volcano formed when lava erupts through a thick glacier or ice sheet. They are rare worldwide, being confined to regions which were covered by glaciers and had active volcanism during the same period. [Wikipedia]
At the stop sign, take a right onto a more significant gravel road. Most likely, it will be a bit washboarded. The journey is only a mile and flat. Turn left onto the Green Ridge trail [single-track].
Miles 6 to 15 / Green Ridge Trail / Mix of Single Track and Double Track
The next 11 miles are a blast! The first 3 miles climbs 850 feet, with a few sections above 10% grade. The trail, a mix of single track[micro-video] and double track, on loamy forest soil, rolls along Green Ridge for the next 5 miles. There are two moderately short technical sections, rideable by some. The views of the Cascade Mountains to the west are inspiring.
Three to five million years ago, the rocks of Green Ridge were laid down. More recently (1.5 million years ago), the Cascade mountains formed. Ensuing pressure along north-south fault lines eventually lifted the older rocks of Green Ridge to form the magnificent miles-long hillside that cradles the Metolius River against the Cascade slopes. When Black Butte rose up, a mere half-million years ago, it plugged the south end of that trough, thereby ensuring that the Metolius River would ever after flow north. [The Nugget Newspaper]
At mile 14.5, you intersect a proper gravel road with a gate. Beyond the gate by 0.5 miles is the Green Ridge Lookout; this is not to be missed! But, take notice that it may be in use by guests. Please respect their privacy.
Miles 15 to 24 / The Big Descent / Gravel
After leaving the lookout, climb back up to the gate and go left on the developed gray gravel road. The route will undulate for the next 3 miles, losing a net 200 feet. Just before mile 18, turn left back onto a red cinder road [NF 1490]. Shortly, the road begins to descend through an old burn with big views of Mt Jefferson.[micro-video]
Rainfall helped fire crews make progress containing the Wizard Fire, north of Camp Sherman. As of Saturday, crews had contained 90 percent of the fire, which has burned 1,840 acres. [October 5, 2008. The Bulletin]
In about a mile or so, the terrain becomes gnarly with large embedded rocks in the road; this does not last for long, but be aware. The total descent is 1800 feet in 5.25 miles [average gradient of 6%]. Halfway into the descent, the road surface transitions to a red cinder. There will be some washboard. Pick your line carefully.
Mile 24 to Finish / Metolius River / Paved (mostly)
At mile 24, you intersect a paved road [NF 14]. To your right [0.5 miles] is the Lower Bridge crossing of the Metolius River. If you have never been there, we recommend it.
When ready, continue south on NF-14. The next 4 miles are on a double lane paved road through ponderosa forest. Expect some traffic. We recommend a red blinky light for safety. At mile 26, the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery will be to your right. Make the short detour and go!! You will get a great view of the river at the bridge crossing and see some cool fish.
Nestled along the Metolius River, the hatchery raises Steelhead, Brook and Rainbow Trout along with Kokanee and Chinook Salmon. It has several display pools and a viewing pond for kids of all ages to feed the fish. Interpretive signage is available for self-guided tours or contact the Deschutes National Forest in advance to set up a group tour. The hatchery is surrounded by the Deschutes National Forest. [Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife]
At mile 28, go right onto a smaller paved road [Metolius River road]. The river will be to your right and visible most of the way. At mile 30.5 is the Camp Sherman store. We like to stop here, grab an ice cream, and sit by the river.
When ready, continue south along the gravel road [Roberts Bridge road]. At mile 31.4, continue straight onto the single track (do not cross the river). When you come to the power lines, go left, and follow them back to the parking lot.
40 mm tires are more than adequate for this ride.
We recommend a red blinky safety light for the paved sector of the ride. We particularly like those with a rear looking radar.
This route rides well in both directions. Some prefer the opposite direction than what is mapped and described here.
Another option is the route mapped and documented by Our Mother The Mountain, Metolius: Green Ridge + Wizard Falls.
Red = paved road
Brown = gravel / dirt road
Blue = single track
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.