02 Sep Madras Mountain Views
A Day on an Oregon Scenic Bikeway
I tapped my brakes lightly as I watched the older woman walk from her barn towards the mailbox at the end of her driveway. With her head down, she didn’t seem to see me approaching on my road bike and I hoped I wouldn’t startle her as I whizzed by. As I got closer, she quickly looked up and with a big smile, loudly said, “Thanks for riding your bike today!” I smiled and yelled back, “Thanks, have a good day!” and made my way into the farming community of Culver.
I was road biking the Madras Mountain Views Scenic Bikeway on a sunny 75-degree day, the kind of day that calls for wide open views, which is exactly what you get on this bike ride. The 29-mile ride offers peaceful pedaling through alfalfa and mint farms and juniper and sage country, with incredible views of Cascade volcanoes including the Three Sisters, Broken Top, Three Fingered Jack, Mount Jefferson and Mount Hood. Several times during the ride you can see all seven peaks in one view.
The Madras Mountain Views Scenic Bikeway is one of fifteen designated Oregon Scenic Bikeways in the state. The Oregon Scenic Bikeways is a unique program because the routes are proposed by local cyclists and are then selected by the state based on a number of factors including scenery, road conditions and traffic volume. Once a Scenic Bikeway is chosen, the route is then signed and added to the Ride Oregon Ride website, where riders can learn about the routes.
The Madras Mountain Views route starts at Sahalee Park in Madras, where there is ample parking. From there it’s easy to follow the “Scenic Bikeway” signs out of town towards quieter roads within a matter of minutes. The route heads south of town through farmland toward Metolius and Culver, where it then turns and heads northwest towards Lake Billy Chinook. For about two miles, the route winds along a very quiet road above the lake, with several gravel pullout viewpoints along the way. The first viewpoint I stopped at took my breath away as I peered down at the Cove Palisades Marina 500 feet below me, dotted with boats that, from this vantage point, looked like little bathtub toys. Basalt cliffs rose from the green water below and, straight-ahead, Mt. Jefferson looked close enough to touch. It was a great spot to stop and stretch my legs and have a snack.
The second half of the ride continues north, then turns due east again as you travel through more farmland back towards Madras. One thing to keep in mind is that, while the entire route has just over 1,100 feet of climbing, much of it happens in the second half of the journey. Be prepared to ride a little harder later in the trip.
The Oregon Scenic Bikeway routes vary in length and scenery, from the mild, 23-mile Metolius River Loops route to the epic, 173-mile Old West Scenic Bikeway near John Day. In Central Oregon alone there are many cycling choices. In addition to the Madras and Metolius routes, try the Sisters to Smith Rock, McKenzie Pass or Twin Bridges routes. Many of them are between 30 and 70 miles long, good distances for a day of cycling, and often go through rural towns or have historic points of interest along the way.
As I rolled back into Madras after the day’s ride, I thought about the friendly woman who had welcomed me to this journey from her driveway. I was thankful to experience the lovely Madras Mountain Views Scenic Bikeway. It is the perfect introduction to a summer of road biking, and it’s right in our Central Oregon backyard.
Visit rideoregonride.com for directions, maps, photos and elevation profiles for all of the Oregon Scenic Bikeway routes. Be sure to bring water, a snack and the right clothing for the weather, and head out for a scenic pedal that is off the beaten path.
Published: August 28, 2016