Hell on Wheels – Day 4 – Highway to Hell
This is the day everyone has been waiting for, the reason for all those training miles. One of the best, and most challenging, one-day rides in Oregon. The warm-up portion is a great way to start the day – ten miles of mostly downhill road until turning onto Forest Service Road 39, the Wallowa Mountain Loop Road. Then it’s a gentle ride along North Pine Creek for a few miles before the first of three big (and one little) climbs. The first climb is only about sixteen miles of generally 6% grade, but what a view on the way up! After reaching the summit of the first climb, and a well-deserved rest stop, a short but steep downhill leads to the junction of the road to the Hells Canyon Overlook.
This Option Route is a 5.7-mile out and back road that travels to a viewpoint above the Hells Canyon Gorge, with the Seven Devils Mountains in Idaho on the other side of the canyon. The road up to the overlook is relatively steep in places, but – it’s all downhill coming back to the main route!
At the overlook road junction, the downhill continues for a few miles before flattening out at the Imnaha River, and the lunch site in a Forest Service campground. After lunch a short respite of level road leads to the second climb of the day. This one is slightly less steep than the first climb, and shorter – at only about ten miles. A water stop is located at the top of this climb where everyone can take a breather in preparation of the third climb, after a short downhill, again less steep than the last one, and much shorter at only about four miles. After reaching the summit of the last big climb at just over 6,000’, fuel up at the Salt Creek Sno Park in preparation for an easy, but relatively fast, ten miles of downhill. Our sign team will mark them, but typically there are some potholes on this downhill grade to watch for.
After taking it easy for ten miles with no pedaling unless you want to, another uphill must be expected. After the last three, this hill should be pretty easy at just less than two miles of moderate grade, before riding on a gentle decline or flat highway through agricultural fields with the Wallowa Mountains getting closer by the mile, and the artsy/bronze foundry town of Joseph. A left turn in Joseph and a short hill leads to a stunning view of Wallowa Lake with the Wallowa Mountains as a backdrop, and a six-mile ride along the lake to the state park.
Just think, you don’t have to ride a bike tomorrow, unless you want to.