By Dan Shryock
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Here’s your chance to ride along one of the most beautiful routes in America without any cars, trucks or motorcycles on the road.
It may be a challenge. Your ride starts at nearly the 6,500-foot elevation mark and goes up and down from there.
Still interested? Then clear your schedule in September, pack a bag and get ready to head to Crater Lake National Park for vehicle-free days on East Rim Drive. The September rides take place on Saturdays, Sept. 17 and 24, 2016.
Cyclists love the idea of riding around Crater Lake without worrying about motorized vehicles. Park officials tried the idea in 2013 and received a positive response from Oregon’s cycling community. They did it again in 2014 and 2015 and riders came from as far as Seattle and San Diego.
“I was up on the rim (in September 2014) and I counted over 100 cyclists in a 10-minute span,” Superintendent Ackerman recalls, “and that was on one of the two days. We figure we easily had over 1,000 people.
“People came specifically because they heard of the opportunity and wanted to do ride. This is only going to grow.”
“I’m going to predict mid-June at the latest,” he says. “Depending on that construction, the road is likely to be in cycling condition.’
Route decisions won't be made for the June events. "We don't know what sections will be open in June due to (road repair) contractor decisions and, of course, snow," Superintendent Ackerman says. "We will let you know as soon as we can."
September plans are much clearer. Motorized vehicles will be prohibited on Rim Drive from Munson Valley Road on the lake’s south side to Crater Lake Highway on the north end. That’s about 24 miles and 3,300 feet in elevation gain. You can park vehicles at each end and stop after 24 miles. Or, you can turn around and head back.
Superintendent Ackerman points out that the flattest stretch of road extends between Crater Lake Highway and Cleetwood Trail to the east. That’s 9 miles round trip with 1,500 total feet in elevation gain. “That stretch is the most family friendly section we have,” he says.
Roads Open to Vehicles
Rim Drive on the west side of the lake will be open to all vehicles throughout the cycling days. Likewise, Munson Valley Road will be open so anyone can drive to Crater Lake Lodge. These roads will allow cyclists to position their own shuttle vehicles at each end of the route.
Cyclists won’t have exclusive use. Walkers are encouraged to join in. “For many years we’ve wanted a way to allow people to experience the park without the concerns of motor vehicles,” Superintendent Ackerman says. “We had a ton of people last year walking, pushing strollers. What better way to experience the park than to just walk?”
Like the park, the road will be available to riders and walkers from sunrise to sundown on the designated days.
Responding to feedback, park officials are planning to add rest stops along the road with water, first aid, mechanical support and other needs. Rangers and paramedics will be on bikes and rangers will sweep the road at sunset.
And, in keeping with the national park’s mission, rangers will be available throughout the days for interpretive nature talks.
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Dan Shryock is an Oregon-based journalist and travel writer. When he's not visiting Southern Oregon or sampling local wines, he can be found cycling throughout the state.