Note: This is a 5 Star Route, meaning that it is a highly curated, premier riding route.
The Klamath Marsh is an artist destination, with colors so vibrant you’ll be dashing home after to whip out the watercolors. But even if your only artistic ability is a paint by numbers kit, you’ll still be inspired. Klamath Marsh is one of the biggest, the most pristine marshes with plenty of water birds that call this home. We also love this route because it’s flat, but we’ve got you swapping road textures enough to keep you guessing.
If you like wetlands, birds, flowy double-track roads with big Ponderosa trees, flattish terrain, and few people … this ride is for you!
Adventure / Gravel Route
– Lollipop: 26 miles / 1000 ft gain
– Surface: ~ 100% gravel road / double-track
– eBike Friendly: Yes
– Location: ~ 1 hour north of Klamath Falls or ~ 1 hours, 40 minutes south of Bend, OR
– Published: May 2021
Terrain & Technical Riding Difficulty[what this means]
The terrain is mostly primitive forest service roads, single lane with minimal maintenance. However, they are mostly in good condition.
There are several easy to miss turns along the loop portion of the route …. from an improved road to something resembling a double-track trail. A missed turn here will usually lead back to the main route.
This area is remote but has some cell phone reception. On a Saturday in May, we saw not one person or vehicle.
When we like to ride this …
May through June when the marsh is full of water, and the grasses are green. Birding season is from February through June.
A makeshift dirt pull-out at the intersection of Silver Lake Road (Highway 676) and NF 690.
Lat / Long: 42.899561, -121.655000
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.
“The Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1958 ‘… as an inviolate sanctuary … for migratory birds.’ The refuge primarily consists of 40,000 acres of wet meadows and open water wetlands. With a backdrop of the Cascade Mountain Range, this large natural marsh encompasses the upper reaches of the Williamson River. It provides important nesting, feeding, and staging habitat for waterfowl and sandhill cranes. The refuge also appears to be one of the last remaining strongholds of the spotted frog, a candidate for the endangered species list. This refuge, along with the 15,000 acres of wetlands on the nearby Upper Klamath Refuge, has a rich cultural heritage. It includes part of the historic lands and former reservation used by the Klamath tribes.” [US Fish & Wildlife Service]
A couple of notes before you begin the ride: please stay on route and respect any seasonal closures the Fish and Wildlife Service and / or the Forest Service put in place for wildlife nesting or deer/elk calving/overwintering. This is also an important area for The Klamath Tribes; please do not disturb any artifacts. And lastly, if you see any illegal activity, please report it promptly to the local Sheriff’s office.
Miles 0 to 7 / The Stick (going south) / Dirt Road
From the parking area, head south on the dirt road. The first 2.5 miles are jaw-dropping gorgeous. Open views of the Klamath March are backdropped by the Cascade Mountains. From south to north, the dominant peaks are Mt McLoughlin, Mt Scott, Mt Bailey, and Mt Thielsen. Each of these mountains is 8000+ feet.
Just after mile 4, there is a signed turnout to a canoe launch. Take this turn. It will bring you to the edge of the water and with some more fantastic views.
Miles 4 to 7 hug the marshland, but the dirt road is just deep enough in the woods that the views are very limited.
This entire sector is a one-lane dirt road that we would classify as primitive but not technically demanding.
Miles 7 to 19 / Wocus Loop / Gravel & Dirt Roads
The next 12 miles loop around Wocus Butte in a counter-clockwise direction with the Klamath Marsh to the outside. You dance along on small roads darting out to the marsh and back into the forest. At times it almost feels like you are riding a flowy mountain bike trail — but this is all double-track or dirt road. The Ponderosa trees are red and tall. Green wolf moss hangs downs from the limbs of trees.
Miles 19 to Finish / The Stick (going north) / Dirt Road
The next 7 miles are the reverse of the first 7 miles. It starts with a pedal free descent on a wide red cinder road, then a left turn back onto NF 690. Wooded at first and then an explosion of views (again!) — wetlands backdropped by the Cascade Mountains.
Food & Water
40 mm tires or larger.
The RideWithGPS elevation profile is a bit misleading. It looks as if the route is jagged with steep ups and downs; it is not! Remember, for the 26 miles; there is only 1000 feet of gain. The ride has one significant hill of about a mile in length with an average gradient of 4%.
For a longer ride, this option adds in the circumnavigation of Little Wocus Butte to the east. Note, we have not ridden this version and would appreciate feedback if you do it!
- May 2021 / Original Post as a 5 Star route.
To learn more about the Klamath basin and the associated wetlands we would encourage you to check out Oregon Wild. Oregon Wild works to protect and restore Oregon wildlands, wildlife, and waters as an enduring legacy for future generations.