Closest Towns: Sweet Home(20 min), Albany(1hr min ), Bend (1.5 HR)
Ride Format: Lollipop or out and back.
Trail Style: Rugged trail riding.
Giggle Rating: ***
Ideal Bike: Trail Bike; something nimble that climbs and descends well.
Overview: Here is a ride with a wilderness feel at a bargain price…just remember that certain trails, like poptarts, are not universally agreed to be delicious. This particular breed of pastry connects Gordon Meadows to Gordon Lakes via a low pass. Along the way one will encounter all manner of old growth trees, moss, cliff bands, boulders, and (you guessed it) meadows and lakes. Running into other people, however, is unlikely. It’s a beautiful place with a ton of character, but it also has a little more bite than most Oregon trails. This was a trail meant more for horses than wheels, and as a result there is a tendency to lurch up steep hillsides, only to drop abruptly off on the other side a short distance later. To add to the fun, the trail is badly (or awesomely…your call) eroded in some sections, making it a bit tricky technically, and much more tiring than the data would suggest. Luckily, said lakes provide a grand opportunity for a dip at the half way mark, and all of this adversity sweetens the deal for folks like TDM who adore a more weathered feel to their cross country experiences. TDM also favors a strong ending, and a riotous little rocky section, followed by some pretty cool rhododendrons in the last couple of miles is just the ticket. To summarize this summary, a steady diet of this sort of trail may not appeal, but the rough, wilderness feel, the swim in the lakes, and the occasionally awesome riding make this little beast a kind of rare treasure for Oregon, and TDM is surprised that it does not see more wheeled action.
Pros: A wee adventure close to the mid-valley, but with a wilderness feel. It’s a pretty place, and it’ll build a little character without killing an entire day. TDM feels there is a charming, quirky nature to this trail,
Cons: It eschews rhythm just when the music seems ready to rock. TDM dislikes out and backs…at least this is more of a lollipop. If you are afraid of newts, the lakes will be very intimidating.
Need to Know: There are a lot of Elk in the area, so hunting season can be a little bit more intense…bring bright colors and a bell? There is some good bouldering in the area…contact TDM for more details.
Recommended Route Options
- Lollipop 19 miles, 3100 feet gained (2-5 hours).TDM acknowledges that a person could do this in either direction, and frankly, since the ending would be a descent in either case, both ways would probably work just fine. With that said, TDM prefers to start at the western end of this trail at the Rd. 2032 trailhead. From here proceed via bike further up road 2032 about 3 miles to the second possible left spur (Rd345). Take this spur and ride about a mile to a split, and stay right, then climb steeply up this road a further 1 mile to the TH at the end of the road. Drop this trail for a wonderful mile or so, cross the creek, then pick up the main trail. Continue east (right) on the main trail through some awesome meadows, then over some rugged sections, finally descending among big trees to the lakes…don’t worry about the trail splitting here…you end up in the same spot either way. Take a dip, then reverse the rugged section, staying right this time upon returning to your first merge with the main trail. Drop a super fun section through unusual meadows and boulders, cross a road, then gently climb a nice rhododendron forest to a second road crossing and some good views (head left on the road 100 yards to a second swimming hole, and 200 yards to more views). Drop the last section through switchbacks, and you… are…spent.
- Big Loop: About 25 miles and 5400 ft of climbing (3-6 hours). TDM has not sampled this version, but he will. This route has a lot of roads in it …and a lot of climbing, but there is always intrigue in a big loop. Grab a map and follow these basic plans: Park at the intersection of Gordon ridge Road (Rd2032)(and HWY 34, then ride Gordon R Rd/ Santiam wagon Rd to a bridge at Fernview campground. Get back on HWY 34 for a short distance to the next TH near Soda Cr. Climb this trail to the Rd 2044 road crossing (near House Rock CG), then climb that road to Gordon Lake TH (use a map). Now ride the trail from East to west, then descend Gordon Ridge Rd to the vehicle. You should find swimming holes when you need them most!
- Abandoned trails: There are a couple of old trails in this area which pass through some amazing country. TDM has not gotten to fully explore these routes, but plans to in the future. There is a chance this might be an area worth pursuing with resource managers in the future…the topography is really well suited, there is a lot of rock, and the scenery is pretty rad. Anyone else interested?
Links, Maps & Media
The Pacific Northwest Recreation Series Map entitled Willamette Cascades has a good overview of the area, though detail is lacking. This map is cooperative between the BLM and the USFS, and is available at the Mckenzie, Detroit, and Sweet Home Ranger District Offices.