This is a 5 Star Route: highly curated, fully documented and a great ride!
This route may have been impacted by the unprecedented and historic wildfires in Oregon during the summer of 2020. Thus, we are uncertain of the route condition and are uncertain if the route description is accurate. If you attempt the route, we would really appreciate your feedback in the comment section at the bottom of the page.
You can have all four seasons in one day; you can have four distinct sections in one route. The variety on this route is really amazing.
The gist of the ride is that you start with a pancake flat paved section that heads you through lovely cattle farms (including the ZX Ranch, which is one of the largest working ranches in North America, started in 1880). Then you hit a good ole gravel forest road that has you climbing like a fool with some impressive pitches, following Schoolhouse Creek. The third section, which is part of the Oregon Timber Trail, is an old school mountain bike trail with big views of the whole surrounding area (and includes Skunk Hollow.) And the fourth section has you cross a lovely red bridge to enjoy a fun, Chewaucan River hugging paved section (a nice way to end a ride.)
We also found the whole route to be a continuous change in views. Starting with the cattle, moving into open grasslands with views of Lake Abert off in the distance, then evolving into ponderosa, juniper, and aspen forest. The single track offers up bold views of the valleys below, including Coffee Pot Meadow. And in the final section, you will enjoy the Chewaucan River until you are almost back to the gritty town of Paisley.
Adventure / Gravel Route
Technical Difficulty & Risk[what this means]
Advanced. Due to: (a) the 7 miles of single track rated rated mountain bike intermediate, (b) the demanding 1.5 mile climb at a 9% average grade, and (c) limited cell phone reception.
When we like to ride this …
The Oregon Timber Trail sector becomes sandy in dry summer conditions. Thus, our favorite time to do this route is late spring, when the trail is dry but not sandy, or fall when moisture is being “sucked” back into the ground with freeze / thaw cycles.
Paisley City Park next to City Hall. Flush toilets. Picnic tables.
Lat / Long: 42.693062, -120.544897
Food / Water
In Paisley there is a tavern, a diner, coffee stand and a small grocery store.
Ride Details**Click to Read More
Miles 0 to 9 / Clover Flat Sector / Paved
Head west on Highway 31, the major road through Paisley. You will pass by the Ranger Station and shortly after that the ZX Ranch, both on your right. We were pleasantly surprised by this sector. The road is along the valley floor where cattle are grazing, and fields abound. To your left between the 9 and 12 o’clock positions are the Coyote Hills and Hart Mountains and to your right [west] the Parker Hills and the Fremont National Forest.(Micro-video)
In addition to a 200-head remuda (a herd of horses that ranch hands select their mounts from), the ZX Ranch runs 11,000 head of mother cows, 500 head of bulls, and 9,000 calves, bringing their annual herd size to somewhere around 20,000 beeves (… the plural form of beef). [American Cowboy]
The highway does not have a shoulder. We recommend riding single file and using a red blinky light. We had about 10 to 15 cars pass us in the first 6 miles, before turning right onto Clover Flat road.
The next 3 miles are quiet riding, with little to no traffic. The fields give way to open desert scrub, but the views remain big!
MM Gillespie brought cattle to the area in 1871 and started the valley’s first ranch. Ranching and logging quickly became the primary source of income for early settlers. Many descendents of early settlers are still in the area today, evident by the areas “Century Farms” — family farms operated for at least 100 years. [Kiosk at Paisley City Park]
Miles 9 to 15 / Avery Pass Climb / Gravel
At mile 9.3, make a right onto a single lane gravel road [hard-packed, pea-size gravel]. There is a brown Forest Service sign giving distances to the trail access points at Morgan Butte and Avery Pass. The road immediately begins to climb, first in open grasslands, then in the forest.(Micro-video) To your left is Schoolhouse Creek, which flows seasonally, in mid-August there was little to no water in the creek.
Just before mile 12, a Forest Service road takes off to the left. The intersection is signed with Morgan Butt / Avery Pass straight ahead. For the next 1.5 miles, the road climbs at an average grade of 9%. A second intersection and sign mark the end of the steep climbing. Go right. (Note – this is the take-off for the optional Morgan Butte Lookout section, see below under Route Options.)
From here to Avery Pass, you continue to climb but on much more undulating terrain with an average grade just under 5%. Just after mile 15, you arrive at Avery Pass, marked by a trailhead sign and the start of the Oregon Timber Trail.
The Oregon Timber Trail is a world-class bikepacking destination and North America’s premiere long-distance mountain bike route. It runs south to north and travels through a variety of landscapes, communities, ecosystems, terrain, and, most importantly—mountain bike trails. [Oregon Timber Trail]
Miles 15 to 23 / Oregon Timber Trail / Single Track
Get ready for 7 miles of fun, but challenging single track riding with enormous views. It is old school single track, narrow and tight.(Micro-video) The general trend is downhill [1800 feet of descent], but don’t be fooled as there is some uphill. All but the best technical riders will end up walking short bits.
The first 3 miles leading to Skunk Hollow, where you cross a small stream via sticks and tree branches laid into the creek, is the most challenging. Most of the time, you are traversing a sloping ridge that falls off to your left at a 20 to 30-degree incline. Some of the corners are loose and sandy (at least in August they were). Deep down below you is the Chewaucan River valley.
The Fremont Tier (of the Oregon Timber Trail) is one of the most challenging Tiers but also one of the most rewarding …the landscapes you’ll pass through are unparalleled in the state. [Oregon Timber Trail]
After Skunk Hollow, the riding becomes more relaxed. The side slopes become less intimidating, and the forest begins to open up to high desert rangelands with rolling hills. The last 2 miles to the red bridge are zippity fun and fast on a hard pack clay base. Watch out for grazing cattle and do not attempt this section when wet. It will be hike-a-bike with pounds of mud stuck to your bike.
Mile 23 to Finish / Chewaucan River Sector / Paved
Cross the Chewaucan River on the red bridge and make a right onto NF 33. From here to Paisley, it is a gradual downhill on a quiet paved road. The closer you get to Paisley, the more stunning the views as the hills press into you tighter.(Micro-video) At mile 29.2, there is a beautiful swimming hole and/or lunch spot. It is marked by a small parking area to the left and a rock outcropping to the right.
Collectively 15 miles of stream habitat have been restored within the Fremont-Winema National Forest and the J-Spear, Murphy, and O’Leary ranches. Riparian have been improved and floodplain reconnected — all in an effort to ensure long term sustainability of native fish and wildlife species, as well as the livelihood of local ranchers and their families. [Kiosk at Chewaucan Crossing]
If you’re looking for a bit more climbing, add in the Morgan Butte Lookout. At mile 13.2, stay left and climb to the lookout (3.4 miles, 1300 feet). At the lookout, you can backtrack to the 13.2-mile junction and continue on route or be brave and catch the Oregon Timber Trail here. Note, we are unsure if the trail from Morgan Butte to Avery Pass is suitable for a 50 mm tired gravel bike.
To increase your fun factor, we recommend 50 mm tires or greater. The Oregon Timber Trail sector is very rideable on a rigid bike or hardtail mountain bike.
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.