Route Talk With Ken Chichester
DAY 5 Madras – Smith Rocks Loop
After an 83-mile day and before a 90-mile day, many will want to take advantage of the layover day and the opportunity to stay off the bike, eat in an establishment that provides metal utensils, and enjoy a malt or grape-based beverage. But those who just have to ride every single mile will also be in for a treat – everyone wins.
Oregon’s Parks and Recreation Department (State Parks), with partners Cycle Oregon, ODOT and Travel Oregon, manages a Scenic Bikeways program. This program, initially created with impetus from Cycle Oregon, currently has 11 Scenic Bikeways throughout the state. The newest, Madras Mountain Views Scenic Bikeway, just happens to be a 30-mile loop from Madras. When designing a route from Madras, you just have to include the local Scenic Bikeway, especially one that has almost no vehicle traffic.
The layover route follows the Scenic Bikeway for 12 miles, with the first stop at the Round Butte overlook park. This PGE park is above Lake Billy Chinook, formed by the third dam (Round Butte) in the Pelton Round Butte hydroelectric project on the Deschutes River. Other viewpoints along the route also offer views of the lake, and a possibility of seeing eagles and other raptors.
Our route leaves the Scenic Bikeway at Culver and then travels south on U.S. Highway 97 for seven miles. This highway has a high traffic volume but has very good shoulders that everyone will surely use. It leads to two spectacular spots that make enduring the traffic worthwhile. The first is the P.S. Ogden Wayside at the Crooked River Gorge. The highway bridge spanning the gorge is nearly 300 feet above the river, but our route avoids all the traffic on the highway and instead takes a short paved bike path to cross the gorge on the old bridge, no longer used by vehicles.
After a stop at the state park wayside, riders must cross a very short gravel area to arrive at the northern end of a county road. This allows the route to avoid Highway 97 as we travel through Terrebonne to Smith Rock State Park for lunch. This park is world-renowned for sport climbing, traditional climbing, multi-pitch climbing and bouldering, and is generally considered the birthplace of modern American sport climbing. There are several thousand climbs in the park, with more than a thousand bolted routes. The park also offers hiking and mountain-biking trails, and possible sightings of golden eagles, prairie falcons, mule deer, river otter and beaver.
When able to tear yourself away from the views at Smith Rock, the route travels back to Highway 97 for a short distance. Everyone then gets to dismount and walk through a highway right-of-way fence (at least no one has to climb over it) to access a lightly traveled road to return to Culver for the last rest stop. The route then joins the Scenic Bikeway to travel through the community of Metolius before returning to Madras.