If you’re from Portland, the gravel paradise of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is practically in your backyard. For the rest of us, a little planning is required. That’s where Comova comes in. We’ve developed a trip that allows anyone from outside the Columbia River Gorge to experience the gravel glory of the Gifford Pinchot.
What makes it a gala? Well, it can feel like luxurious to roll out your door each morning to virtually limitless gravel options. And even though you’re only a couple hours from Portland, you might as well be in another world. You’ll seldom find a cell signal and none of the routes passes through a single town. Some days you might not see a car, or even another person! Vastness. Remoteness. Wilderness. These are what define gravel riding in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
Return to base each day
We’ll utilize two properties to accommodate our group. They sit either in or on the edge of the National Forest and offer comfortable accommodations and, as important, convenient access to the Gifford Pinchot’s extensive system of forest roads. We’ll use the larger house for meals and as a starting and ending point for all our rides.
Private Chef Teigha Mondragon will prepare all of our dinners as well as scrumptious savories packaged for a jersey pocket or handlebar to take on our rides. All feature seasonal ingredients from the Pacific Northwest. Breakfast will include options ranging from oatmeal, eggs and pancakes to fruit, cereal and yogurt. Additional ride nutrition includes Skratch Labs products.
No road bikes allowed! Seriously, these routes are nearly 100% gravel and the wider the tires you run the more comfort and confidence you’ll have. 40mm tires are about as narrow as you’d want to go. Our VAAST A/1 gravel bikes are available for rent with 42mm WTB Resolute tubeless tires.
Aim to arrive in Carson by 3pm if you’d like to join the arrival day casual ride. Dinner will be served at 7pm followed by a meeting to discuss logistics for the trip. The meeting will conclude with a pre-ride briefing for the next day’s ride. Get some rest…the adventure starts tomorrow!
We’ll begin with the Trout Creek Watershed route mapped below. In a relatively short ride you’ll get a sense of much of what gravel riding in the Gifford Pinchot has to offer–well maintained smooth gravel road, overgrown and washed out old forest roads, and paved forest roads. Oh, and you’ll also get a sense of the climbing involved on these routes and a taste of the views as we pass by Cougar Rock at mile 15.
Today’s route takes us up a different way to Cougar Rock then down into the Canyon Creek watershed. At the route’s westernmost point we’ll turn around to return on the opposite side of Canyon Creek. The return begins with a 10-mile climb averaging 4.5%. If yesterday was about getting a bit of a taste of everything the Gifford Pinchot offers, today is about experiencing its vastness. By the time we return we’ll have covered nearly 70 miles, yet at the same time we’ll have barely scratched the surface.
Crossing over to the other side of the Wind River, today’s route is all about extended ridge line views. Another long climb–this one about 10 miles at 4%–sets us up for a fun traverse on and then just below the ridge with new views around every bend. After descending off the ridge, those looking for more adventure can take NF-6801, another abandoned forest road with two washouts requiring some hike-a-bike, to Carson-Guler Rd. to return to Wind River Rd. and the start. This route will feel longer than its 55 miles. Not so much because of its 6,100′ of climbing as for its ruggedness.
For the mere mortals in the group today’s ride will involve a shuttle to the start. Otherwise you can add an 8-mile climb to the already challenging 45-mile route! From the junction of NF-65 (Panther Creek) and Carson-Guler Rd., we’ll circumnavigate the Indian Heaven Wilderness in a clockwise direction. The top of our circumnavigation will be the farthest north we get in the Gifford Pinchot and the views of the endless forests to the north will remind us of its vastness. We’ll also be crossing the Pacific Crest Trail twice on this loop. Designated wilderness areas are off limits to bicycles, but as we skirt the edge of the Indian Heaven Wilderness it’s easy to appreciate what makes it special. Its rocky ridge lines and countless lakes give it a wilder vibe than the mere forests we’ve been riding through.
There are two options on tap for today. Confident riders looking for singletrack can head out to the Falls Creek Lava Caves and then return on the singletrack of the Falls Creek Trail. The other option is a clockwise circumnavigation of the Trapper Creek Wilderness. Both routes are about 46 miles with between 4,000 and 5,000′ of climbing. At 55-60% gravel these routes include a bit more pavement than our other routes. But your body, which willl be feeling the effects of 5 straight days of gravel, will appreciate a bit more time spent on smooth pavement.
We’ll need to check out by 10am but anyone with any gas left in the tank is welcome to roll out at 7am for a 20-miler up the grueling NF-
43. Turn left at the top to descend via NF-412, or turn right for a descent down NF-42. Done with the climbing? A nice little loop around the Trout Creek meadows is a great way to finish off the week.
*This is a sample itinerary. With multiple route options each day we will make final determinations about each day’s routes the night before based on weather, rider input, road/trail conditions, and other factors
This is a great first ride in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. But don’t let the seemingly low mileage deceive you, this is a challenging route! NF41 is an overgrown decommissioned forest road that feels more like single track. Eventually you break out for the views. And they keep getting better as you veer onto NF4220, pass Cougar Rock, descend briefly on NF42, and then take NF426, NF37 and NF 34 to connect to the paved descent on NF54. Finish up with the NF4303/4306 connector over to NF43 and back to the start.