Home, home on the range, where the mustangs and the antelope play. That’s the tune you will be singing on this classic wild west gravel ride. The route circumnavigates the Big Summit Prairie, a beautiful prairie deep within the Ochoco National Forest. This ride is best in late spring / early summer when the flowers are in full bloom, the grasses are green, the creeks are running full, and the antelope are perky. We’ve also had reports of sandhill cranes and badgers along the river so keep your eyes open. Also look out for the Peck’s mariposa lily, a tulip-like plant with lavender petals, a plant only found in the Ochoco Mountains.
The ride is “not too easy, not too difficult”. In looking at the elevation profile you will see 3 distinct climbs, the first and third on pavement. The first climb is the longest at 1500 feet over 8 miles. The gravel sector has 1 climb and 2 moderate descents.
From the start location, the old Ochoco Ranger station parking lot, head east on Ochoco Creek road. At one time this was the main road to the town of Mitchell. The paved road gradually climbs and passes by the old Mayflower and Ochoco gold and silver mine sites from the late 1800’s.
Once you hit gravel you will be riding through Ponderosa forests and mountain meadows and a stand or two of aspens. Every now and then you will get a sneak peak of Big Summit Prairie to your right.
You will cruise through prime wildflower viewing areas before hitting the last climb where you will pass by the old Four Horsemen hotel (on the right). Just behind the hotel are artifacts from the Blue Ridge mine and a bit further up the road on the left hand side there is a standing building left from the Amity mine.
From the saddle at mile 41.5 it is all downhill. Not too steep. Take your hands off the brakes and “fly back” to the start / finish.
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