Beginning at the newly opened Tilikum Crossing in Portland, Oregon the Steens Mazama 1000 will take riders to the highest points one can reasonably navigate a bicycle in the state of Oregon. Doing this will mean crossing the Cascades to charge into high desert country via the cities of Sisters, Bend, and out the modestly desolate Highway 20 to finally reach the mythical town of Burns. At that point riders drop south towards Frenchglen to one of the most remote places in the continental US, Steens Mountain a 50 mile long fault block that sits with a prominence of nearly a mile over the Alvord Desert. The panoramic summit sits at 9,733 feet, accessible by the highest rideable path in all of the state. Riders will climb the 6,000 foot gravel ascent for view that can only be experienced first hand.
From there riders will drop back down to Frenchglen for a water supply or food before heading to the gravel badlands that are Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge. While perhaps great for antelope, it’s less than hospitable towards humans and poses the driest roughest stretch of the ride. It’s 50 miles to the nearest water stop and 70 to the nearest food and that’s provided that they are open. From there it’s and it’s another 40 miles to the town of Lakeview where there are bars and a Safeway. At that point you are still out in arid mountain country and it’s another 120 miles before things start to “turn green again”. As Mazama looms in the distance, riders will have spent about 500 miles riding through desert country.
The climb to Mount Mazama, more commonly referred to as Crater Lake, will provide a completely contrasting feel to the remote, dry, lonely Steens. Water is abundant and riders will find themselves in good country to stay hydrated once you pass the summit. There’s a good deal of traffic around Crater Lake NP and the slopes can look fairly treacherous. However, with a good deal of caution it’s just another road to ride on like any other. Finally summiting at Cloud Cap Overlook, riders will top out at 7,870 feet and be treated to views that send chills down the spine, yes it’s really that blue.
With the rolling peaks of Crater Lake in the rear view, riders will begin a gentle 55 mile 7000 foot descent along the Umpqua River. This will lead them to the base of the last pass of significance, the 4,000 foot Calapooya Divide. This stretch of the route puts you riding along water for about 70 miles and there are hundreds of amazing spots for a quick dip along the Umpqua River as well as Sharp and Canton Creeks.
With the end in sight, a relaxed ride along the car free Row River Trail will lead to the town of Cottage Grove and from there it’s a pastoral jaunt through the lush hill country of the Willamette Valley to get back to Portland.