It’s easy to buzz through Madras in a vehicle. But bear in mind that Madras has some of the best gravel riding around! This route is just one example of what Madras has to offer. Not only is the scenery stunning, but the route is a blast as you buzz along on hard-packed, fast gravel roads. Begin the ride by rolling up and over the Baldwin Hills through some of Oregon’s prime wild country. Pass historic farms, gurgling creeks, and sprawling ranches.
Once you crest the final gravel kicker (grin and bear it!), enjoy a long, gradual descent back into town on what is known as the “Gravel Super Highway.” Prepare to be wowed by BIG views of summits that seem to float in the sky. Seven impressive peaks of the Cascades, including Mt Jefferson and the Three Sisters, are in sight. Can you spot them all? Near the end of the ride, you’ll be welcomed back to town by a big momma bear (she stands 27 feet tall!) and her three big cubs (all taller than you!). Poke the bears, if that’s your style. Or perhaps you might to give the bears a bear hug instead.
Bear up, as you begin your final mile of the ride — you have one more short, pitched climb back to the start.
The best time to ride is in the spring when the creeks flow full and the flowers are in bloom. Or ride on a cool, sunny fall day when the trees are changing colors. Or, on a winter day, when the air is cold, and the ground is frozen. It is best to avoid this route when wet or muddy as the mud can really stick to your bike. Trust us, we have pushed, walked, and carried our bikes through ankle-sucking mud for at least a mile … which felt like an eternity.
Juniper Hills Park. Flush toilets. No parking permit or fees required.
Lat / Long: 44.636905, -121.098330
The route starts on the northeastern edge of Madras at Juniper Hill Park. The route climbs for the first 1.25 miles on pavement, then dips down just as far. Pick up the gravel and roll up and down through the Baldwin Hills for the next 5 miles.
Catch the sweeping left banking descent that leads down to Hay Creek Ranch, passing by the pastures where Great Pyrenees dogs carefully guard herds of sheep.
After the ranch, you will encounter some punchy hills and then begin a long, gradual climb for the next 8.5 miles. You will pass by the Brewer Reservoir on your left. Just after this, the road becomes a bit more primitive. If it is muddy, turn around! It will not get better, only worse. Trust us!
Just past mile 18, make a hard right onto Grizzly Road, where you will pick up the “Gravel Super Highway.” Once you crest the final gravel kicker, you’ll start to buzz your way back to town with big views. Crest the final gravel kicker for the day, then start to buzz your way back to town.
Hay Creek Ranch and its headquarters will be to your right. For over a century, Hay Creek Ranch has been one of the largest ranch holdings in Oregon and has played a prominent role in the history of central Oregon. The ranch was established in 1873 as the Baldwin Sheep and Land Company. The Dalles-Prineville freight and stagecoach lines ran through the ranch headquarters until about 1912. [Oregon Encyclopedia]
The grizzly bear sculptures in this roundabout were created out of hammered rusted steel by Chris Buffalo Folsom. The sculptures consist of four grizzly bears — a mother and three cubs. The mother bear, who stands on her hind legs, is 27-feet tall. The cubs range in height from 8 to 12 feet, depending on their pose. [The Oregonian]
Listen to the podcast in the sidebar to hear the artist talk about his sculpture.
This roundabout sculpture called, “Red Tail,” was created by Eastern Washington resident Miles Pepper, an artist who creates kinetic sculptures for public places. This hawk, which sits above a 25-foot steel sculpture shaped like an arrowhead, has a wingspan of 15 feet. The sculpture is a weather vane, as the hawk’s wings move in the wind. [The Bulletin]
Around Mile 10, where the road becomes more primitive, be on the lookout for mud. If you see mud, immediately turn around, as it will get MUCH worse. We can’t emphasize this enough!
We recommend a red blinky light with rear looking radar detector, such as a Garmin Varia.
Have you ridden this route? Got a question? Join the discussion!