A highly scenic route that circumnavigates the Indian Heaven Wilderness. It is a medium-long gravel route with a few moderate climbs. There are big views of Mt Adams and you pass by several wilderness lakes on the way.
The 20,784 acre Indian Heaven Wilderness is a forested high plateau, dominated by fir (Pacific silver, noble, subalpine), with numerous open meadows and more than 150 lakes. Many of the lakes are stocked with rainbow and brook trout.
Lava once flowed from the numerous volcanic cones that rise above the plateau which reach their highest point on Lemei Rock (5,927′), where a broad crater now contains Lake Wapiki. Originally known as “Sahalee Tyee,” the area is culturally important to Native Americans. Periodically over the past 9,000 years the Yakima, Klickitat, Cascades, Wasco, Wishram, and Umatilla tribes gathered here for berry picking, fishing, and hunting. [US Forest Service]
The Dirty Freehub Team has not ridden this route, thus the Development Route designation. If you do the route, please give back to the gravel community by (a) leaving us a comment below or, (b) better yet, by completing the Share Your Route form. By contributing back, we can continue to grow the library of highly curated, 5 Star Route guides. Ride dirty and smile!
Adventure / Gravel Route
Terrain & Technical Riding Difficulty[what this means]
The route is remote and has some technical challenges.
When we like to ride this …
Late spring to early fall. Snow at elevation needs to be melted off to manage loop. (Elevation tops out at 4095 feet.)
“Indian Heaven is known for wildflower color and swarms of biting insects in the summer. The snow melts away in the area around mid-July. Fall is a good time to visit due to the brilliant fall colors and the winding down of mosquito season.”[US Forest Service]
Intersection of NF-65 and NF-60 (Carson Guler Rd.)
Lat / Long: 45.901541, -121.838026
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Out of the many gravel rides I did the summer of 2020, this is in the top 5 of favorites. The entire course is rolling and undulating. The longest sustained climb is 1000 feet at just less than a 5% average gradient.
Start at the intersection of NF-60 and NF-65 outside of Stabler, WA (8 miles up the paved road from Panther Creek campground.
The ride starts with a moderate climb on Carson Guler Rd. (NF-60) before dropping down to the Goose Lake Campground, but affords fantastic views of Mt. Adams. Continue east for another 4 miles and turn left onto NF-66. Continue straight onto FS-6020. No turns for the next 5.7 miles. Continue straight onto NF-8831 at the intersection of NF-24 (Twin Buttes Rd.).
Turn left at NF-88 (T intersection) for the first sector of paved road. Continue north for 2.7 miles on the pavement. Stay left at Tire Junction (NF-8851). After another 2.7 miles of asphalt, turn left onto NF-4696. This is the most difficult turn on the entire route. It’s after the PCT crossing. This 1 mile road section is privative and not maintained, but has a pristine view of Little Mosquito Lake. There will be standing water and trees across the middle section. The last part before joining the paved road is narrow with growth, but shows hints of the old road bed. This sector can be bypassed by staying on NF-8851 as it loops around Big Mosquito Lake to the west.
After rejoining the paved NF-8851 the route heads south and merges with NF-24. At mile 28.7 turn right onto paved NF-30. After 2.6 miles the asphalt changes back to gravel. Be sure to check over your shoulder at mile 34 (Lone Butte Wildlife Area) for the last views of Mt. Adams.
At mile 36.6 stay straight onto paved Meadow Creek Rd. At this junction are the first of two official pit toilets at the Lone Butte Sno-park. After only 1.3 miles, turn left onto NF-6507 and start the longest gravel climb up to the junction with NF-65. Turn right at NF-65 and continue south.
At mile 45 (Falls Creek campground) are the second set of pit toilets on the route. After a ripping long gravel descent (mile 48.2) NF-65 transitions back to asphalt for an enjoyable flast cruise back to the car/start.
Food & Water
Tire choice: 35mm minimum, 40mm is good, >40mm is better (last descent has some babyheads), tubeless recommended.
Approximate time: 4 1/2 – 5 hours.
The primitive section, miles 25.3 to 26.3, can be avoided by looping to the north of Big Mosquito Lake by taking NF 8851.
Ridden and Reviewed by …
DavidS / Guest Contributor
Long time cyclist, racer and event promoter. Get out and explore all the roads!
If you know of a conservation organization in the area that works to preserve recreational lands please let us know. We would be interested in speaking with them further. Thanks!
- April 2021 / Original Post as a Development Route.