McKenzie Tough!

Development Route / by Captain ‘O’ & Gravel Girl

Note: This is a Development Route, meaning that it is a work in progress and currently does not meet the Dirty Freehub 5 Star standard for great routes.

One comment we frequently get at Dirty Freehub is that we don’t have many … Big. Gnarly. Tough routes. Well, here you go!

What this route has:

  • Big views of Mt Washington, Three Fingered Jack, and Hayrick Butte.
  • A stop at one of the clearest lakes in the Cascade Mountains.
  • Scenic trail riding along the McKenzie River.
  • A long, paved climb that twists and turns up the Cascade Mountains topping out at an observatory.
  • And, a no brakes descent (almost) back to the start.

We have ridden most of the route, except some of the roads on the McKenzie River sector. This sector is the big unknown of the ride. We are unsure if the single track connects to the gravel roads as we have mapped it out. The maps and satellite photography all show that it is a go… but sometimes we miss something.

This is not a ride for everyone. It is demanding and has some difficult riding sections. Thus, read the below description in its entirety to make sure you know what you are getting into. However, we anticipate this route becoming a 5 Star route when we complete the documentation. So go forth with a big smile and a sense of adventure.

Note, the pictures are only of the Old Santiam Wagon Road sector (miles 0 to 27).

If you do give this route a go, we would love to hear from you. And … if you have ideas on how to make the route better, we are “all ears”! Leave us a comment below.

Adventure / Gravel Route

Loop: 79 miles / 7300 ft gain
– Surface: 50% gravel / dirt road, 5% single track, 45% paved
eBike Friendly: No
– Location: ~ 35 minutes northwest of Bend, Oregon
– Published: November 2020

Technical Difficulty & Risk[what this means]

Moderate+. This route has a significant amount of primitive dirt road / jeep track on the first leg (that may require a bit of hike-a-bike) and some single track on the second leg.

There is limited cell phone reception along the route. However, many areas of the route are frequented by campers, moto bikes and mountain bikes.

When we like to ride this …

… in the late fall after a snow or two has fallen in the high country and then melted out. Nights need to be below freezing temperatures. The first leg of this route needs moisture in the soil; otherwise, it is almost an unrideable sandbox. Also, we prefer the route mid-week as there is a lot less moto traffic on the trails.

The Start

Cold Spring Campground. Pit toilets.
Lat / Long: 44.309256, -121.630944

Food & Water

Clear Lake Resort (seasonal), ~ mile 27. Call before hand to ensure that they are open and food & water is available.

Ride Details

Miles 0 to 27 / Old Santiam Wagon Road / 100% Gravel

This first 27 miles has “killer” views of Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, and Hayrick Butte. But it also has chunky dirt road and soft jeep / moto track (~ 4 miles in total): the Old Santiam Wagon Road (sectors 9, 10, and 11).(Micro-video) Just after mile 21, there is a gate, access is allowed for non-motorized use. Continue. **Click to Read More


Wahoo / Garmin Direct Download
Cue Sheet / GPX file / TCX file


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.

Researched by …

Gravel Girl / Team Dirty Freehub

She loves a good day of gravel like most people like a good book. She’s always amused by the outdoors and the wild adventures. Gravel Girl is a Co-Founder of Dirty Freehub.

Captain O / Team Dirty Freehub

He should have “Never Stop Exploring” tattooed on his chest! He loves adventures on bikes and is a Co-Founder of Dirty Freehub.

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