McKay Creek Lollipop

5 Star Route / Ridden and Reviewed by Gravel Girl & Captain ‘O

This is a classic (4.5+ star) spring time ride.  The flowers will be in full bloom, the grasses green and the streams running full. The gravel is Ochoco good, a nice clay base. This ride is also exceptional in October when the leaves are changing colors.

The route climbs to Harvey Gap, follows a beautiful ridge with deep views into the Ochoco National Forest and Steen’s pillar, and climbs a bit more to its high point. A quick but fun descent down pavement, and then hit the rollers deeper into the Ochocos followed by a long descent on gravel that shallows out onto pavement and back to the start.

The long gravel descent can be avoided and the route shortened (by one gravel segment) by staying left on the pavement at mile 20.5 and continuing back to the start.  This detour gives a route of 33 miles with 2800 feet of ascent.

Adventure / Gravel Route

– Lollipop: 38 miles / 3700 ft gain
– Mixed route: 2 gravel sectors,  20.5 miles total
– Location: ~ 12 miles north of Prineville, OR
– Best Ridden: Late spring, when the creeks run full and the flowers are in bloom. October, when the leaves are changing color.
– Course by: Captain “O”
– Date Posted: October 2015 (updated October 2018)



The Start

The intersection of McKay Creek road and Allen Creek road. Park on the dirt shoulder on the north side of the intersection.

Food / Water



Cue Sheet / GPX FileTCX File


Red = paved road
Brown = gravel / dirt road

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  • Alex Seidel says:

    Rode a shorter version today (10.31.20)- parked at the base of the loop, and cut down the paved road back to the car. Great views, nice and dry. A bit chilly, but not too bad at all! Can’t wait to come back to this area.

    • Kevin / Co-Founder @ Dirty Freehub says:

      Great! Yes, we have encouraged riders to look for lollipop routes and take off the stick if they are looking for a shorter version. Thanks for the update!

  • Riding very well. Experimented with higher psi (45 vs normal 32 on 40mm tires). Was great until final gravel downhill. Washboard made me rethink my experiment. Alder trees and Larch trees were in full autumn glory. Nippy, with a low of 34.

    • Kevin / Co-Founder @ Dirty Freehub says:

      I carry a small pressure gauge with me … and with many routes will change pressure during the ride. Especially if there is a large section of pavement. Will air up and then air down when back on gravel.

  • DavidB (aka: The Chairman) / Route Ambassador @ Dirty Freehub says:

    6.27.20 Riding really well. Minimal washboard with hard surfaces all the way; right now you could ride this on 32 mm tires with no problem. If you have the fitness and want to sample what this gravel thing is all about, this would be a good one. Between the scenery and variety of climbs and descents you could say this ride has a lot of “texture”. It’s exhilarating. Still abundant wildflowers but the meadows are starting to brown up in places, so if you’re thinking of doing this ride, go now.

  • Pete says:

    Are cars allowed on this route?

    • KevinE says:

      Yes. It should be a go for a normal, everyday car. A few steep sections. And … this is all open to change as it is gravel. This is based on being on the route last year, 2019. ?

  • KevinE says:

    October riding with the leaves changing colors in phenomenal. Riden October 20th, no hunters.

  • Heidi says:

    Phenomenal! Good mix of road and gravel, nice to have shade, and sweet views.

  • KevinE says:

    May 3, 2017. Ride report. Within 200 – 400 yards of NF 27, we ran into a significant amount of snow. The north facing roads were still holding 2 to 4 ft of snow. This year, 2017, has been a very heavy snow year. Streams flowing with a lot of water. Beautiful. Flowers not yet out.

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