Back Country Adventure

Length: 52 miles
Direction: Counter Clockwise
Elevation Gain: 3588 ft
Highest Point: 1634 ft
Recommended Gearing: 39X27 or even lighter if climbing Palmer Mill Rd instead of descending it.

DirectionsSee full ride directions
View map and ride data at GPSies.com
Download print-friendly directions

The best tip for this ride is to be prepared for the breathtaking scenery. I was unaware, when I first created this ride online, that it would lead me to a gravel road. But it was indeed a pleasure to try something new that is so close to other magnificent rides like Multnomah Falls and Larch Madness. This ride heads out much the same as the other two, but detours east on Hurburt Rd to tackle the long and steep climb of Louden Rd. This leads you to Larch Mtn Rd and is a back-way to do the Larch Madness ride if you wish. A quick passage of Larch Mtn Rd and you’ll find Brower Rd after about a mile. I had passed Brower many times on my way to the top of Larch, always pondering if it went anywhere. I was pleasantly surprised to find it completely secluded, twisty and turny, and a true delight.

I often wonder if I’ll become desensitized to the incredible riding offered in the Portland area. I have come across riders who have rarely been out east way. I think I was fortunate when I moved here in 2006, to not only come across the Rubber To The Road books, but also to have moved relatively centrally located to rides in all directions. Having spent the first part of my cycling career riding through farm fields in Alberta, and the second part over the dry barren hills of Southern California, I can easily say that Oregon is by far my favorite. If you seek quiet roads lined with trees, various lakes and mountains that peek out through the pines and a constant grin, riding in Portland is the place for you. And riding east of town, is the best of all (in one humble opinion).

Despite being well into some back country, this ride is not overly difficult in terms of finding your way. Enjoy it while being cautious of the road conditions, especially on the gravel of Palmer Mill Rd. You’ll eventually drop down to the Historic Columbia River Hwy. Turn left to go home or right to Multnomah Falls. Either direction will tantalize the senses.

A Flatter Section of LoudenA long way from anythingA steeper section of LoudenBrower Rd. is warming upNo shortage of treesSleepy Hollow-like adventure



10 Responses to “Back Country Adventure”

  1. Scott Fitzwater Says:

    Rode this route yesterday, May 17, 2009. Whew, it was an adventure. The descent on the gravel sections of NE Brower Rd and Palmer Mill Rd are not for the faint of heart. Loose gravel and slopes of up to 20% can make for dangerous, spooky riding if you are not an experienced cyclist. I really don’t know how someone would ride up this track unless you were on an MTB.

    While I’m glad I did it once, I probably would not do it again. A better ride back would take the route as follows from NE Brower Rd (the paved section):
    – Left on E Haines Rd
    – Right on E Larch Mtn Rd
    – Left on E Historic Columbia River Hwy

    This option probably has less climbing but it is steeper climbing that the climb up to Crown Point.

  2. Scott Fitzwater Says:

    Here is a good add on the this route with a little more mileage, climbing and absolutely spectacular views south to Mt Jefferson. From E Columbia River Hwy in Corbett:
    – Right on NE Corbett Hill Rd.
    – Left on NE Chamberlain Rd.
    – Right on NE Mershon Rd.
    – Right on NE Wand Rd.
    – Left on NE Hurt Rd.
    – Right on NE Ogden Rd.
    – Left on NE Lampert Rd.
    – Left on NE Seidl Rd.
    – Right on E Woodard Rd.
    – Right on E Historic Colubmia River Hwy

  3. Jacob Says:

    Scott, thank for mentioning the add-on. I’ve taken it many times, and it’s a nice detour from the Historic Hwy. Also, the paved option in place of Palmer Mill is appreciated. There’s no doubt about it: Palmer Mill is a gravel descent that needs to be respected. But the peace and tranquility in the trees is amazing!

  4. Jacob Says:

    I took the Haines detour listed above instead of the gravel today, and found it to be an exceptional variation. If you don’t want to do the gravel bit, definitely try this route!

  5. Monica Says:

    I descended Palmer Mill Rd 05/01/11 and the road was barricaded due to slides. We cruised down it anyways and encountered some easily maneuverable downed logs and a few areas where the road edge was eroded and might be dangerous for larger vehicles to navigate. But for bikes the rideability was fine if you have solid breaks, hearty road tires, and can control your bike confidently on steep loose gravel and dirt. Maybe just stay safely clear from the edge, the drop looked pretty far down 🙂

  6. Henry Says:

    Great ride and great directions. Completely accurate. Did have 1 small issue with a Pit Bull at the house where Palmer Mill has a dip. Gate at far end of yard was open and dog came out onto the road… chased but luckily not caught. Might opt for the alternate add on next time I try this one.

  7. Jeff Says:

    I did the ride as listed and agree that the gravel section is kinda hairy. Long with some steep/loose sections and some big dirt potholes when it does level out/speed up. The big positive about this route is the very scenic section of the Historic Columbia River Highway between Palmer Mill Rd and Larch Mountain, including a couple of waterfalls and the gorgeous views at Vista House – all of which you’ll miss if you miss the gravel via the Haines shortcut…

  8. Richard Says:

    I just rode the Haines alternate. Great ride. There is new asphalt on SE Louden and on a short stretch of E Larch Mtn.

  9. Zach Says:

    I thought of myself as quite good at descending until about halfway down Palmer Mill Rd. It had rained the day before and the road itself was one of the worst conditioned roads I’ve ever been on. Massive potholes, massive debris fields, crazy steep sections, it’s all there. That aside it is not impassible and I felt quite accomplished at the bottom.

  10. Ryan Says:

    I’ve been riding up Palmer Mill to Larch summit recently and Palmer is no joke. I’ve done it with 23c tires twice now and coming down is a challenge but if your brakes are good, just take it slow.

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