Home on the Range
Big Summit Prairie - Cascades Gravel Scenic Bikeway
‘Home, home on the range, where the deer and the antelope play.’ That’s the tune you’ll 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 includes a bit of gravel, quite a bit of pavement, and a whole lotta scenery from giant ponderosa trees, to intimate creeks and even a few Aspen groves. The ride starts about an hour and twenty minutes East of Bend at the “old” Ochoco Ranger Station, and there are three unmistakable climbs on this route, with the longest at 1500 feet and over eight miles on pavement.
Riding Big Summit Prairie is best in late spring / early summer when the wildflowers 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 soft lavender petals, a plant only found in the Ochoco Mountains.
For a multi-day adventure, why not camp? Set up a home base at one of the campgrounds in the Ochoco National Forest, so after an epic ride, you have a cozy tent or RV to come back to. Not to mention a hot meal and a cold brew.
Distance: 48 miles
Difficulty Rating: Moderate with an abundance of scenery
Elevation Gain: 3800 vertical feet
E-bike Friendly: Yes
Start Location: The “old” Ochoco Ranger Station, about 1 hour, 20 minutes east of Bend
Surface: ~ 45% gravel, 55% paved
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.