Look! Proof that we occasionally hit the trail early.
I was overly excited and awoke at an uncivilized hour. It’s not every day you have a new peak to climb, accessible by bike/foot right from ‘home.’ Alpine(ish) starts are a good idea when heading above treeline in Colorado, too.
did you know that Revelate Pockets are an easy and perfect way to carry running shoes?
An hour and a half of fun singletrack was the warm up. Up and down 500 foot climbs, through the lodgepoles and beetle-cleared openings. This is a good way to start the day.
The goal ahead: Byer’s Peak.
1.8 miles to the bike rack, steeply uphill and closed to cars.
The best kind of ‘ride to the hike’ is when you get to ride a little further than you can drive. It feels like you ‘get something’ for the effort of pedaling there.
Not that there aren’t plenty of other rewards for the effort, in general. Bikes ditched, shoes changed into, it’s time to climb above treeline and walk ridgelines.
Err, climb, a little bit, too.
Hello there, rock ptarmigan!
Such a beautiful and aesthetic line for a trail, as ridgelines tend to be.
Hopping back on the bikes, it was nearly all downhill, with some singletrack into the town of Fraser. First stop was pizza, naturally. Then we pedaled the bike path and ‘hill of doom’ back home.
Looking back at Byers, covered in dark storm clouds, we were happy with our ‘early’ start. We caught the only sunny window of the day up there.
A few days later we again strapped running shoes under our handlebars (they are bulky to carry in a pack) and rolled out the door to pedal up Vasquez Creek.
Once again, we ‘got’ something for our pedaling effort: we had 3.5 miles of closed-to-cars climbing before the Wilderness boundary.
Ditch bikes, throw on the shoes and hat, and get to walking.
At treeline, we improvise a steep shortcut. The extra 3.5 miles of hiking required to get up here means it’s rarely traveled, so there was rarely a trail anyway.
our goal, Vasquez Peak, is the one on the right
No trail needed up here. No justification for the time spent needed, either. These are some of the best moments of life, spent wandering above treeline, especially with the best kind of company.
Cool white cairn at the final saddle before the peak. Quartzite, or marble, or?
From the top we could see Jones Pass and the CDT. There’s almost always snow on the pass. We sure encountered some last summer.
It was perhaps one of my favorite sections of the whole CDT.
Do places like this really exist? Simply magic.
Love the psychedelic colors up high, especially as autumn settles in.
I guess we keep going down from here! We walked the ridgeline back, instead of our ‘shortcut’, not wanting to leave any sooner than we had to, especially given the non-threatening clouds.
We hiked/jogged back through the trees to the bikes. I love hopping back on the bike after adventuritas like this — you’re warmed up, you’re tired of being on your feet, and used to slower travel. To coast is absolute bliss. To pop off rocks and erosion channels is even better — to float through the air. Your feet and hands aren’t tired of sitting on a bike. You appreciate the virtues of traveling both by foot and by bike.
We initiated emergency pizza procedures at Hernando’s as soon as we returned home. A good day in the mountains. We love it here in Winter Park, and are looking forward to more Colorado bike/foot adventures this September. So thankful for the energy, opportunity and circumstances at large we are currently lucky to enjoy.
Let’s continue on with the second half of the photo reel. Part one left us at Oakridge, roughly halfway through the loop.
big tree went boom
The route hits some deep wooded singletrack, a very pleasant 98 degree ‘warm’ spring, and some roads, leaving town.
Paved roads aren’t the first choice of bikepackers, but the “Aufderheide” at times feels like a 60 foot wide bike path. As long as a road is devoid of traffic, pavement is good with me. Even better if it’s in beautiful shady woods!
There’s an option for a Wilderness hike to Olallie Lookout, followed by extremely contoured singletrack on the Olallie Trail.
One of the best descents of the trip was on the Olallie trail, conveniently dropping us down to the McKenzie River Trail.
Wild camping along the McKenzie.
Ribbit! Camp visitor.
A hidden hot spring between the trail and the river. Quite a spot.
Ah the buffed out and uber-smooth McKenzie River Trail! A true gem, and to some mountain bikers, the #1 trail of all time.
The trail gets chunky around the ‘blue pool.’ Cliff dive in for a quick cool down.
Unreal colors. One of the best parts is the waterfalls you get to explore as you climb up.
The trail lets you explore the bottom, middle and very top of some of the falls, getting close enough to reach out and touch the water.
A tad bit of chunk on route to Clear Lake.
Pie! Clear Lake has good food, but minuscule resupply.
We knew it would eventually come. Extended hike-a-bike on the Santiam Wagon “Trail”.
The deepness of the sand is astounding for still being in a forest environment. It doesn’t matter how fat your tires are, you will walk. You may even walk flat sections of road.
There is a paved alternate for those wishing to skip a couple hours of hike-a-bike-y terrain, the only significant hiking on the route.
The side trip to Sand Mtn Lookout (combo ride and short hike up) is highly recommended for a commanding view.
Jump in Big Lake to cool down and wash the dust off!
Eventually the road surfaces do improve, near Cache Mountain.
And the route improves further to downhill singletrack passing Dark, Scout and Suttle Lakes. Wooohoo!
The source of the Metolious River is just off route. Have you ever seen an entire river spring from the ground?
After Black Butte the route rolls into Mountain Bike ‘controlled’ territory with super mellow trails, well signed and maintained by the local trail organizations.
Superb conversion of 2-track to mountain bike trail, presumably by Sisters Trails. Weeeeeee!
Climbing on the Metolious Windigo Trail.
The burn has opened up some big views, but also means soft soil and some hiking. A parallel dirt road is there for those wishing to stay clipped to the pedals.
Getting up close and personal with the Three Sisters.
The burn area is hot, but the water is freezing cold. Try keeping your hands under water in this glacially fed and wholly glorious creek.
combo full moon rising and red sunset falling…. magic
Free camping for hikers/bikers at the base of South Sister.
A spur off the main loop allows for the ‘grand finale’ of the Hot Sisters Loop — climbing a volcano!
Not a long hike, but steep!
And finally, the bike finale to the loop: endless buffed out descending on Mrazek Trail, rolling back into Bend in style.
The Hot Sisters Route came together we’re putting the route on the fast track to being published. There will much more info to come, but for now we have a page coming together over at bikepacking.net:
Hot Sisters Hot Spring Route
The route is ready to go — email me if you’d like GPX to go see it all for yourself.
Here are some highlights from the route, as yet unpublished since I couldn’t get photos off my camera during the trip.
Rolling out of Bend to climb the Newberry Crater on the Swamp Wells trail.
No swamps were found, but there was plenty of volcanic soil and singletrack (or open track!).
The crater has two lakes in it, both of which have hot springs along the shore and in the lakes.
Climbing Paulina Peak for a big view of the caldera.
One of many waterfalls to be found along the route.
One of the innumerable forest service campgrounds on the route. We rarely used them, but occasionally a picnic table is nice.
Into the deep dark and mossy woods! Metolius Windigo Trail.
One of innumerable and beautiful lakes the route passes by. Charnelton Lake.
Excellent trail around Waldo Lake, burned to a crisp.
Rocks! Waldo Lake. Supposedly the 2nd or 3rd most pure lake in the US.
One big challenge on this route: fallen trees. They were much less an issue than I anticipated. Oregonites are really on top of trail work!
Bunchgrass Trail. You could not actually see the trail tread on which you were riding.
This is on the McCredie/Bunchgrass alternate. Core Hot Sisters loop will skip this challenging section.
Thar be pirates in the woods!
Thanks for the trail work guys. And for letting us know that no more had been done. Time to bail!
Bail to an idyllic soaking spot! Hardships and trail dust quickly erased.
A sign told of a big fire here in the 60’s. It was amazing that a few gigantic skeletons of burned trees still remained. Old growth forest takes a while to grow back, it turns out!
Fetching water. There’s lots in the Cascades.
Lookout towers, often a short hike away, are a theme of the route.
The big view from Moon Point.
The killer ride down from Moon Point. Self-shuttle!
Some challenging terrain on the Middle Fork trail.
It doesn’t get much more green.
Forest roads to Lemolo Lake. Almost all the gravel grinding is devoid of traffic, most happily.
Sunset on Diamond Lake, part of a spur off the core route.
That spur takes you here.
To Crater Lake.
And maybe a lookout hike. Cool old airforce binoculars in the active lookout.
Best campsite of the trip, hiker-biker for free on Diamond Lake.
Camp is walking distance to the pizza place, and the lake.
A bike/hike summit of Mt. Bailey is also available on the spur.
On with the core loop, with the famous North Umpqua Trail.
It’s the land of waterfalls, creeks and emerald green rivers.
Giant leafy plants.
Just magic, a magic place.
Just off the trail is a beautiful hot spring, too. Just embrace your inner hippy and say hello to the folks living in school buses and tents nearby.
Toketee falls, a short hike off trail.
North Umpqua mostly follows the river under thick cover and deep woods, but not here!
Crazy geology throughout the route.
Creative trail work, love it.
Flowing along with the emerald green North Umpqua River.
Swan dive (slash bellyflop) into the river! Lots of opportunities to jump and cool off.
Running the Larison Rock trail during our downtime in Oakridge. The flowy descent is available on route, as the styling way to arrive in town…. if you’re willing to climb the 2500 feet to get to it.
Part 2, Oakridge to Bend, to come. Thanks for looking!
Eszter and I spent a few days scouting an alternate route for an exciting new bikepacking route that just came to life this month. It’s a five or six hundred mile backcountry loop highlighting singletrack, hot springs and mountain climbs (on foot) all through the central Cascades in Oregon.
Despite the fact that bikepacking and backpacking have nearly the same goals and impact, we had to avoid one well known trail that traverses the area: the Pacific Crest Trail. We also had to avoid Wilderness areas, but even when the PCT is outside Wilderness it is summarily closed to bikes, and I really don’t know why.
As we scouted our alternate for the Hot Sisters route, trying to piece together backcountry trails with as remote and primitive an experience as we could, we found ourselves including 13 or 14 miles of Pacific Crest Trail, unknowingly.
Come again? Ok, it wasn’t PCT proper — every bikepack we put together goes to painstaking lengths to be 100% legal. It was on ‘de facto’ PCT, in that 99% of thru-hikers are going this way.
It struck us as interesting that all of the hikers would willingly abandon the PCT, where they can be assured they will not run into anyone on a bicycle, to take an alternate route where they can, and did run into mountain bikers.
Of course, it was no surprise to us that all of our interactions with the thru-hikers were overwhelming positive. We spent four months journeying alongside thru-hikers on the CDT last summer. We were instantly welcomed into the trail’s community and made many good friends. Not a single negative reaction from any trail user.
For the days we spent scouting and camping along the “PCT”, we met three or four dozen hikers (the trail is crowded this year, and we are right in the middle of the main pack). Without even trying, we found ourselves in the middle of the trail community. We met one guy sitting on the deck of a lodge, smiling in the sun. Later we welcomed his good friend and hiking partner into our camp and gave him soda and brownies. The next day we met a trail angel at Windigo Pass who was good friends with both of them. We shared stories of the trail, who we had met and adventures past. It made me miss the CDT thru-hiker community, for sure.
We got some funny comments from hikers that we only talked briefly to, like “Oh, bikes! How exotic!” and “Oh, right I’m not on the PCT now so there can be bikes. Cool!” Or, “I wish I had a bike right now!”
Others were curious about bikepacking and how we had managed to traverse the CDT with them last summer.
All of this just makes me continue to scratch my head about the bike ban. The people actually using long distance trails don’t mind mountain bikers, so who is it exactly that is so against them? Is it the bureaucrats sitting in offices, disconnected from the reality on the trail? Perhaps so.
I think it’s well past time, as bikepacking gains in popularity and acceptance, for the bike ban on the PCT to be re-evaluated.
Do I think the whole PCT should be open to bikes? No. There are places they don’t make sense — like Wilderness areas and (maybe) super high use areas. But it seems that many, many sections could, and should be opened.
Besides the fun of meeting hikers and giving them directions for the water, trail and the free campground they were all looking for (that doesn’t exist), our scouting was highly successful for the route. Going by Odell and Crescent Lake adds a bunch of good trail and a much more direct line than the Fuji/Bunchgrass/McCredie/Moon Point route we rode. The upside is that it saves many thousand feet of climbing while opening up the loop some, and only missing one hot spring. It also adds 3 or 4 options to resupply and get burgers, to what was otherwise a very long stretch with no resupply. I think it’ll be the main recommended loop, while the Bunchgrass/McCredie is an alternate for the more adventurous.
Up next we’re going to ride some version of the route that inspired this route — the Idaho Hot Springs Route by mastermind Casey Greene. We owe a great debt of gratitude to him for creating that loop and planting the idea of such a thing in our heads. He also inspired the many hikes to forest lookouts that we incorporated into the route.
Done. A little more than three weeks, which is pretty much what we guesstimated. It all came together supremely well.
We got up lazily from camp at Devil’s Lake. I love camping in the same spot for multiple nights. A few miles climbing on the pavement back to the Metolius Windigo trail took us through the middle of the Cascades Relay Run. We got to cheer on some fast and some struggling runners, and also got some cheers ourselves. Good energy for human powered movement today.
Our human powered effort continued on road 370. Neither of us were in the mood to climb what we’d descended two days ago — a somewhat tough and horsey section of the MW trail.
The road actually had better views of South Sister and such. “We went up there!” At the Broken Top trailhead, we dropped down to the trail, knowing we were back in MTB controlled territory. We knew the trail was good.
Our bikes were lighter than they’d been the entire trip. Minimal food, minimal water. I dropped the saddle and got into a good shred mode. Fun, fun trail. Catching air, leaning hard into turns. Yes! Mountain biking. I was super excited about the MTB finale to the loop — the Mrazek Trail.
I didn’t really know much about it, other than that we’d lose nearly 4000 feet on trail today, mostly on Mrazek. I figured it would be swoopy, fun, and fast. But I have also ridden enough ‘signature’ shuttle rides to know not to underestimate them. I figured there’d be some punishment, some steep climbing and some occasional chunk.
But none of that ever really came. I am not sure I could reasonably imagine a more effortless way to travel 14 miles on singletrack, while losing such elevation.
Two words sum it up:
Coasting, and smiling.
There was lots of coasting and smiling. The latter came from the satisfaction of a wonderful trip, shared with such a perfect adventuring partner. Smiling about the good luck. About the fortunate weather and grand circumstances at large. Happy about the thought of others getting to experience the beauty and fun riding this route and area has to offer.
We made it to the post office with a little bit of time to pick up our bounce box with laptops in them. Then we met with Gary Meyer and Bindy for lunch and to rehash the route. With bounce box and a gallon of anti-freeze on board, we were now more heavily loaded than ever before, but we made the 100 degree pedal over to Steve Westberg’s house to fetch the van. Luckily his wife was home to kindly offer us some air conditioning and a much-needed shower.
We had to keep giving the van a few drinks of coolant as we drove it around in the hot weather. For a bit we were regretting leaving travel by bike for travel by van. But it eventually started cooling itself acceptably, and we drove out to the woods for a quick car camp.
Photos and a sum up post, to come, followed later by much more route beta, GPX, etc, with the aim of enabling others to get out there!
Thanks to Steve for the parking spot, Gary and Jolene for the route beta during the ride, GOATS/Sisters Trails/Bend Trails groups for all the trail work and clearing. And most of all, thanks to Ez for being the best riding (and hiking, soaking) partner ever.
It wasn’t an alpine start, but I did wake up earlier than normal, excited about the day ahead. We were camped at the trailhead for the South Sisters Climbing Trail. 6 miles and 5000′ up was the top of the volcano, one we have been looking at, and riding around, for the last 3 weeks. …. [Continue reading]
A few hours ago we pretty much completed the loop, reaching the top of the Mrazek trail, which is a heavily ridden and mostly downhill ride into Bend. We could have been done in a few short and easy hours.
But, we are not done! We have our biggest climb yet, and the centerpiece (literally) …. [Continue reading]
Coming into Sisters today, we both independently realized that the route had somehow ended up almost entirely singletrack for the last day or so. We hadn’t really planned on any from the end of McKenzie all the way to Sisters. Yet, that’s the way it played out, as we coasted at 10mph on smooth trail …. [Continue reading]
Today was almost entirely either sand, or singletrack. That wasn’t the way we thought it was going to go, but it was an interesting day. Making it up as you go has a way of keeping things interesting.
We started out on smooth singletrack along Clear Creek, heading to breakfast. Then more good trail to …. [Continue reading]
Today was another fantastic day on the bike. We got to ride the McKenzie River Trail. It’s a real gem, and in many people’s opinion, *the* gem in Oregon or maybe, anywhere.
I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it sure works itself well into a bikepacking loop. The lower half is lovely green circle …. [Continue reading]
Are you a camper, or are you a glamper? Bare bones, or do you carry the luxuries? There are many styles of camping, and bikepacking almost always falls far from the glamping side.
You have to keep things light or you can’t ride trail, and it’s just not fun. Services are often few and far …. [Continue reading]
What a nice night. We woke refreshed and ready to climb the rest of our bonus climb. The road down to the Aufderhide (FR19) was kind of interesting, with some views of sharp rock fins and a 2-track type of feel. I’d say it was a win, though someone wanting to save some leg strength …. [Continue reading]
Alrighty, we finally left the town vortex of Oakridge. The more time we spent there, the more it grew on us. It was a nice couple of days, for sure.
But we were anxious to get back on the hot sisters loop, too. The main thing keeping us around was the fact that trackleaders has …. [Continue reading]
Last night’s camping was warm — silly warm. I fell asleep on top of my sleeping bag, with shorts and no socks on, and didn’t wake up slightly chilled until there were millions of stars in the sky and it was the middle of the night.
Still, we slept well. It’s been nice to have …. [Continue reading]
So close, yet so far. “Come on trail, take us down there!” “No, not hike-a-bike up!”
All we wanted was access to the emerald green river we have been following for 50-some-odd miles. We were roasting, having just ridden through a burn area and with temperatures in the mid 90’s. But…. the trail …. [Continue reading]
Mmmm… today we started the North Umpqua Trail, which is really one of the best in Oregon.
But first, we left campo deluxeo and rolled the dirt(ish) route back to Lemolo Lake. The timing was perfect — we had 1.5 hours to stuff ourselves at the all-you-can-eat breakfast! It was glorious. And cheap. And the …. [Continue reading]
Today was one of those days that combining hiking and riding works out beautifully. We are so comfortable here at campo deluxe-o that we really didn’t want to leave. So we didn’t.
We spied a big mountain with a trail up to it: Mt. Bailey. So after a 3 mile spin to breakfast at …. [Continue reading]
Well, this wasn’t planned, but it’s been on our list since buying a Parks pass and since our PNW road trip back in May/June.
Crater Lake National Park.
We spent the better part of a day up on the rim, and peering over at the deep blue lake never got old, it never …. [Continue reading]
Lemolo Lake, thank you for the hospitality and the recharge.
We spent much of the day on the ‘computer’ working off the decent 4G coverage at the lake. It’s a beautiful setting and very peaceful there. It’s a small lodge, family-run, with the basics a bikepacker needs. Food, namely.
We spoke at length with …. [Continue reading]
Hot springs – 3 Mountains – 3 Lookouts – 1
We made it to Lemolo Lake and the wonderful lodge that is here. That lodge serves up big burgers with the best bacon on the planet (they tried a half dozen different suppliers).
“This burger finally ends what was 3 days and 3 nights …. [Continue reading]