5 Star Route / Ridden and Reviewed by Captain ‘O’
“Like much of Central Oregon, the Ochoco Mountains were born from a violent past that includes massive mudslides, volcanic eruptions
Yes! That is this ride. A geological journey through the Ochocos where the riding is never too demanding, never too steep, but still makes for a big day in the saddle.
The ride circumnavigates the 40 million-year-old Wildcat Mountain Caldera. Within the caldera lie two eroded volcanic spires: Twin Pillars to the north, rising 200 feet above the forest and Steins Pillar to the south, rising 400 feet above the forest. Within the
In 2000, a lightning-caused wildfire burned over half of the 17,400 acre wilderness. Though much of the fire burned at a high intensity, the area is quickly recovering and there are still some examples of a climax forest (one that has reached its peak of growth) of ponderosa pine, providing habitat for elk, mule deer, bobcats, mountain lions, and the occasional black bear.
Along the ride, you will also see signs for the Lucky Strike Mine. It is one of the most famous locations for mining and collecting thundereggs in the Ochoco Mountains. The thunderegg is the state rock of Oregon.
From the start, at the Steins Pillar overlook, you get several miles of “flattish” gravel for a good warm up. The route then “kicks up” as you climb to Harvey Gap … and beyond to NF 27, a paved forest service road. Along the way, to the right, you can see the Twin Pillars in the distance. In the first 12
NF 27 is paved, rolling and fun and leads into the next sector of gravel, historic Summit Trail. The road feels more like a forest road than a gravel road. It has a tendency to hold water (
After traversing along high prairies and beautiful, mature forests the road returns to pavement. Yippee!! Get ready for a fast, but not to fast descent. The grades are initially 4 to 6% downhill, but back off to 1 to 2%. Look out for debris (i.e. rocks and sticks) on the road but don’t forget to look left for the big views! A descent of 1800 feet over 7 miles.
At mile 26, turn west on Highway 26. After a quick, slightly downhill
For the next 14 miles, the route traverses through lush forests with a moderate climb of ~ 1000 feet and a similar descent. This area is home to the Big Summit wild horse heard. In the spring of 2019, we were lucky enough to see the heard, 12 horses and 2 foals.
At ~ mile 35 you can make a 3-mile detour (with 350 feet of loss and 750 feet of gain) to the old Ochoco ranger station to get water. The ranger station no longer exists, but there is a hand pump on the south side of the parking lot for water.
Cross Highway 26 and begin climbing, again! About 1350 feet over 6.5 miles. Just beyond mile 45, there is a sharp left onto a primitive road. It rolls up and down with several short, steep pitches of 15%. The road transitions back to “good” gravel and then at mile 50, it looks as if the road dead ends. It does not! Ride into the thicket, you will find an old abandoned road … possibly decommissioned due to rock fall. This sector lasts for about 300 yards and then you pop back onto good gravel. From here it is mostly downhill (1650 feet lost in 4.5 miles). At Mill Creek road, turn right, spin the legs and take in the great views of Steins Pillar.
Bonus points: Why the name “Major Enoch”?
An alternate start that adds about 2 miles and 300 feet of additional climbing is the old Ochoco Ranger Station. Some people find this start a little less remote. Lat / Long: 44.396166, -120.426081
Adventure / Gravel Route
– Loop: 54 miles / 5900 ft gain
– Surface: ~ 85% gravel / primitive forest service roads, 15% tarmac
– Location: ~ Prineville, Oregon
– Rideable: Late spring through fall. Especially beautiful in the late spring / early summer with the creeks running full and the wild flowers.
– Course by: Captain “O”
– Published: June 2019
Moderate+. Due to length, elevation gain, and some primitive Forest Service roads.
Steins Pillar viewpoint. No services.
Lat / Long: 44.417175, -120.618701
Food / Water
Old Ochoco ranger station. 3-mile diversion. 750 ft gain / 350 ft loss.
Red = paved road
Brown = gravel / dirt road