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Ultimate Guide to Gravel Rides in Southern Oregon

Explore roads less traveled with these gravel-cycling routes and rides.

Southern Oregon cyclists are gravitating to gravel, and no wonder. Gravel riding — which is simply cycling on unpaved roads — offers scenic views, blissful solitude and a sense of adventure as you veer off the well-worn asphalt. Gravel riding doesn’t require the technical prowess of mountain biking, and many cyclists feel safer on less-trafficked roads that often comprise gravel routes in these rural counties. The region’s many group rides tend to be fun and inclusive, too. Read on for rides and races throughout Southern Oregon.

Greensprings Honey Badger

Get Into the Groove With a Group Ride 

If you’re new to gravel riding, consider a group ride. Though it helps to have a bike literally geared for gravel, a mountain bike or “hybrid” mountain/road bike will do in a pinch. 

With a fun community vibe, local cycling enthusiast Thom Kneeland’s Honey Badger Rides are a great way to start. They take place in Jackson and Siskiyou counties and regularly draw 30-plus cyclists. Choose from over a dozen group rides scheduled in 2024. All are free; most take place on Sunday mornings. Be aware that these are unsupported rides with no aid stations.

On May 4, 2024, saddle up in Talent for the Flywheel Honey Badger. Three route options for various appetites and fitness levels start and finish at Flywheel Bicycles, a popular bike-repair shop and brewpub. You’ll climb up logging roads and wind through the hills west of town before returning to Flywheel for a well-earned pint with some new friends.

On July 28, 2024, take respite from the summer heat on the Greensprings Honey Badger. The ride begins near Howard Prairie Resort, about 30 miles east of Ashland, and includes a peaceful 15-mile stretch alongside an irrigation canal with no vehicle traffic. Anticipate impressive basalt formations, forest-lined roads, and views of the Rogue Valley, Mt. McLoughlin and Mt. Shasta. 

On September 8, 2024, head southwest of Ashland to the Mt. Ashland Ski Area for the Mt. Ashland Honey Badger. You’ll wind nearly 50 miles along Forest Service roads, taking in alpine views, trickling creeks and late-summer wildflowers. 

Takelma Gravel Grinder

Test Your Competitive Mettle

Mark your calendars for June 22, 2024, when two big cycling events are scheduled — the Takelma Gravel Grinder and Tour de Outback

The Takelma Gravel Grinder — an Oregon Triple Crown Series event — has quickly grown to become Southern Oregon’s premier gravel race. It starts inside the Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville, believe it or not. If you choose the 57-mile Bold route, be warned: You’re signing up for 6,000 feet of elevation gain. The gentler (but still challenging) 30-mile Decaf route has a mere 1,300. Celebrate your finish back at the casino with food, brews and an award ceremony. 

In Lake County, the Tour de Outback’s two gravel rides both start in tiny Adel, east of Lakeview, and plunge deep into the Oregon Outback. The routes are still being finalized, but expect plenty of climbing, with rewarding views of Drake Peak, Crane Mountain and Mt. Bidwell, plus a glimpse of the tri-state point, where the borders of Oregon, California and Nevada converge. 

OC&E Gravel (Photo by Kamrin Nielsen / Discover Klamath)

Find Your Own Ride 

If you want to find your own gravel groove, there are plenty of resources. Siskiyou Saddle Tramps provides a curated selection of gravel routes. Favorites include the Ashland Watershed Loop, which travels 27 miles through the forested hills above Ashland, and the Siskiyou Crest/Glade Creek Loop, an ambitious 60-mile route that climbs from Ashland to the Mt. Ashland Ski Lodge before dropping down to pretty Glade Creek. (Warning: This route includes an “eyeball-shaking” descent on a rough road.)

Bike shops are stocked with local knowledge. Piccadilly Cycles in Ashland hosts a community corner with maps and a lending library. In Klamath Falls, gear up at Zach’s Bikes before trying one of Zach’s recommended gravel rides. These include the 60-mile Lake of the Woods Gravel Loop, which starts on Clover Road west of Klamath Falls, winding along marshy Aspen Lake to Lake of the Woods Resort, where you can fuel up — or better yet, spend the night — before completing the loop. 

Another option is the OC&E Gravel route, an out-and-back that runs from Olene, just southeast of Klamath Falls, to the town of Bly. This completely car-free route follows an old railway. Except for one major climb in the middle, it is virtually flat, making it a good family or beginner ride.

Mapping apps are excellent tools for planning and selecting rides based on your preferences, fitness level and time constraints. You can find many of the rides described here, including the Honey Badger routes, on Ride with GPS, which tracks elevation, climbs and descents, and also notes landmarks and nearby lodgings and restaurants.

Top photo by Kamrin Nielsen / Discover Klamath