5 Star Route / Ridden and Reviewed by Captain ‘O’
“Being at the edge of solitude gives you a world full of geological wonders … formed 40 million years ago … desert canyons and mountain peaks reaching as high as 6900 feet. Forested areas of majestic stands of ponderosa pine contrast with wildflower filled meadows and expansive oceans of of grass…. creating scenic views unlike any other.”
This is the description of the area that we borrowed (stole) from a sign at Bandit Springs Sno-Park which best describes the ride. This ride isn’t for everyone, just the adventurous souls who aren’t afraid of tougher gravel.
Head back towards Prineville (west) on Highway 26. Ride single file and maybe even ride with a blinky light. This section goes fast as you are heading slightly downhill. Turn left onto Coyle Creek road / NF-2620 (gravel). **Click to Read More
The road meanders south through lush meadows and pines initially climbing 400 ft over 1.5 miles. It then rolls up and down until the first real climb at ~ mile 8. The climb is steady at consistent 5% grade. In this area we have seen pronghorn and the Big Summit Wild Horse herd. At the top of the climb the views to the south open up, Lookout and Round mountains are in the distance.
Drop down a bit, regain the elevation as you climb through big old Ponderosa trees. Turn off onto Vowell road. In a mile or so (~ mile 19), take another left onto a more primitive road. This is where it can be muddy and boggy and technically demanding as the West Branch Bridge creek is just to your left. After crossing the creek the road conditions improve and you soon intersect the Old Ochoco highway (gravel).
Finish off the last climb of the day, a moderate 3.5 mile effort, while you get sweeping views to the east and see the destruction and regrowth of the Bailey Butte fire from 2014.
Make a right turn onto NF-2630 and cruise back into the start, past more lush meadows and creeks, on the gradual downhill.
This route likes big fat tires, 40 mm are ideal. The gravel surfaces vary from pleasant to demanding to primitive. Miles 19 to 21 are the most demanding – rutted, primitive and steep down (-7.5 % on average). This section can also be muddy / boggy. Let the snow in the high country melt before attempting this ride.
The picture of “gravel girls” carrying their bikes through the mud, was not taken the same day as the other pictures in the gallery.
This route rides “slow”. Expect 10 to 20% slower than your average gravel / adventure ride.
EBikes are allowed on this route, but we do not consider the route eBike Friendly due to the the thick, gloppy mud when the route is wet. The risk of walking / pushing your bike are real and significant.
Adventure / Gravel Route
– Loop: 31 miles / 3300 ft gain
– Surface: ~ 93% gravel, 7% paved
– eBike Friendly: No
– Location: ~ 35 minutes east of Prineville, Oregon
– Course by: Captain “O”
– Published: June 2018 (updated September 2019)
When we like to ride this …
Late June / early July until the first rains of fall. This course needs to be dry to be rideable. If the roads within the first 15 miles have puddles and standing water, do not continue. Miles 19 to 21 follow the eastern edge of a creek (a bog type area) and can be very muddy and unrideable.
An alternative in the area is Big Summit Prairie ride.
Bandit Springs sno-park on Highway 26. North side of road. Pit toilets.
Lat / Long: 44.486632, -120.397040
Food / Water
Red = paved road
Brown = gravel / dirt road