Priest Hole

5 Star Route

Looking for a numinous (adjective: having a strong religious or spiritual quality; indicating or suggesting the presence of a divinity)connection to nature on one of the top gravel rides in Oregon? Then head to the Painted Hills for the Priest Hole ride, which is not about a father getting into trouble, but is a gravel bike loop from the Painted Hills park to the Priest Hole primitive camping area. It includes a divine climb on gravel … a heavenly paved downhill that cuts through a deep canyon … glorious farmland …. two water holes for taking a dip in and an an angelic ridge that takes you above Priest Hole. And a devious ending … with a few popper hills along the river and rolling uphill to finish off the journey.

For the EXTRA CREDIT you can take a tour of the Painted Hills which is always spectacular. (For us that never happens as we are whipped from the ride and end up straight back at the cars without even enough energy to DRIVE the extra distance. But we are sure that YOU will have the extra energy. Good luck with that!)

Now before you go dashing back to the city life, we recommend that you consider staying at the Spoke’n Hostel which is a cyclists favorite just up the road in Mitchell. 

Adventure / Gravel Route

– Loop: 42 miles / 3500 ft gain
– Mixed route: 2 gravel sectors, 19.5 miles total
– Best ridden: Spring and Fall. (May and early June is best for flowers.)
– Course by: Captain “O”
– Location: Mitchell, Oregon
– Date Published: August 2013 (updated August 2018)


Intermediate. Due to length and some short steep pitches (15+ %) coming out of Priest Hole / John Day river.

The Start

Painted Hills picnic area.  Pit toilets, no water. From Highway 20, take Burnt Ranch road north 5.4 miles, turn left onto into Painted Hills area, go 0.2 miles and turn left again into the picnic area.

Food / Water



Cue Sheet / TCX File


Red = paved road
Brown = gravel / dirt road

For help with Ride, GPS files, etc see the “Help with …” page. To learn how to download the routes for free, see “Using Our Routes …” page.

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