Wolf Mountain Lookout
Calling all “view chasers”: the climax of this route is the Wolf Mountain Lookout, which was built in 1947 (yes, they let you climb to the top!) and provides awesome views of the Black Canyon Wilderness and the eastern end of the Ochoco National Forest.
The first lookout on this site was a 50′ wooden L-6 tower and cabin one mile west of the present tower. In 1932 a crow’s nest was erected one mile east, which is still standing. The present 107′ treated timber L-4 tower, built-in 1947, is staffed every summer and still uses the old phone system with radio backup. [National Historic Lookout Register]
But there’s more to this than just the lookout, like more and more of the wonderful Ochocos. Ponderosas galore, streams, wildflowers, wildlife … more of the wild, wild west rugged rocky terrain and more of the rolling green ranchlands. Plus, the route includes the old Rager Ranger Station.
Now that should keep you entertained for the whole ride. We also love the constant surface switching …. Smooth pavement, gravel, tougher gravel … the variety keeps you guessing. **Read More
From the parking area at Sugar Creek Day Use area, go east on the paved road. The riding is slightly rolling and easy. A nice way to start. In about 2.5 miles, there will be a worn sign for the Rager Airstrip to your right. Take the next gravel road on your left.
The 1862 Homestead Act contributed to the settling of the Paulina Valley. In May of 1862, James A. Rager, who was born in Tennessee in 1832, filed for a homestead patent on land in the southwest corner of Section 33 of Township 15 South, Range 25 East, along what is now Rager Creek. [US Forest Service]
The road begins to climb in an undulating fashion. The grade never stays the same for long and is never much above 6%. The climb is roughly 2400 feet over 12 miles.
The riding is through ponderosa and pine forests with occasional grassy breaks, some mountain meadows, a few creeks, and mountain wildflowers. It is worthwhile to look back behind you as there are big views of the Post-Paulina valley.
Just when you have tired of the terrain, at about mile 9.5, it changes. The forest gets denser; the road varies between soft and loamy to rocky and gnarly.[micro video] It feels more wet and green. And there are fields of flowers. We call this section “Flower Power Alley”.
At mile 11.9, the route intersects the Dreamliner route. The road is wider and smoother. The gravel is gray and fast. But this is short-lived. At mile 12.2, take a 90 degree right. There is a sign stating “Narrow Rough Road, Trailers and Campers Not Recommended Beyond This Point.” The road is demanding, but not beyond reach for a moderately skilled gravel cyclist.
The road climbs, some in the forest, some in open grasslands with sweeping views to the south. At mile 14.5 is the turn to the lookout. This road is rough! … but rideable. It is a little over 0.25 miles in length, and the lookout is oh, so worth it.
There is a sign at the bottom of the lookout that states, “Climb at your own risk! These stairs are perfectly safe when you take your time.” We did the climb to the top. To your north is the Black Canyon Wilderness. This lookout is one of the best ways to get a view of that area, given that only hiking and horseback riding are allowed.
Black Canyon Wilderness is a layer cake of 17 million-year-old Picture Gorge Basalt flows, stacked one on top of the other. [US Forest Service]
Now begins the descent. The crux of the descent is the first 4 miles, a loss in elevation of 1400 feet. The gradient averages 6%, with much of it between 6 to 10%. The first mile or so of the drop is rocky, but just after passing through a cattle guard, the road becomes gray gravel and hard-packed and mostly smooth. There is some periodic washboard.
At ~ mile 20, the forest gives way to open rangelands. We saw cattle, and some wanted the road just as much as we did.[micro video] At mile 24.5, go right onto NF 58, a single lane paved road that continues to drop elevation. The flowers were abundant[micro video], and the views were big of the valley below.
Unexpectedly, you come to a “T” in the road. Both directions are gravel. Hmm?? Go right. This area is known as Powell Valley. It is the confluence of several creeks: Rager creek. Tamarack creek. Powell creek. North Fork of Beaver Creek.
The road is wide, the gravel is good, the terrain is open. The riding is fun. At mile 29.5, you cross over a cattle grate. There may be a “No Trespassing” sign posted. The road is public access. The property to both sides of the road is private. We have verified this with the Crook County roads division and the Ochoco National forest office. At mile 31.5, you leave this private property section at a second cattle grate and re-enter the national forest. The road becomes a bit more primitive.
At mile 32, you come across the old Rager ranger station. There are some standing buildings, but no kiosks. We kept moving. The road changes back to pavement. There is one last small kicker of a hill, but then it is gradually downhill back to the start/finish.
After more than a 100-year run, the most remote year-round ranger station in the Pacific Northwest will close today (November 30, 2012). [The Bulletin]
If you’re looking for some after ride eats and drinks, Paulina has a general store. Stop in, say hi, let them know that you did one of the Dirty Freehub gravel rides.
Adventure / Gravel Route
Moderate. Due to (a) some rocky, gnarly terrain (b) a descent of 1400 feet with gradients of 6 to 10%, and (c) the remote location of the ride and lack of cell phone service.
When we like to ride this …
Mid spring through mid summer when the creeks are flowing and the flowers are in bloom.
Sugar Creek Day Use area. Pit toilets.
Lat / Long: 44.234962, -119.806120
Food / Water
Red = paved road
Brown = gravel / dirt road
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.