Prepare for challenging riding and mind-blowing mountain scenery as we go up, over, down, and around the heart of Oregon’s Cascade Range. Pack light — we’ll stay indoors at a slate of hotels and mountain lodges, where we’ll take advantage of civilized dining and great swimming in several high-mountain lakes.
Starting from Eugene, we’ll ride Adventure Cycling’s TransAmerica Bicycle Trail along McKenzie River on our way to Belknap Hot Springs at the gateway to the Cascades, perfectly poised to ride McKenzie Pass. We’ll soon connect with Adventure Cycling’s Sierra Cascades Bicycle Route, taking us to trendy, recreation-based towns such as Sisters and Bend. Then it’s back up to the high Cascades where our adventure culminates in the climb to Crater Lake followed by an unforgettable downhill to the shores of Crescent Lake. From there it’s a short shuttle back to Eugene.
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Day 1. Eugene, Oregon, 0 miles
We’ll meet up with our tour leaders and fellow bike travelers mid-afternoon at a hotel located right on a bike path on the outskirts of this bike-friendly university town. After poring over the maps and cue sheets for our upcoming adventure, we’ll follow the path a short distance to dine at a popular restaurant situated along the Willamette River. Hunger sated, we’ll head back to our comfy hotel rooms and tuck in for the night.
Day 2. Eugene to Belknap Hot Springs, 60 miles
As will be the case on every morning of this trip, we’ll wake to deliciously prepared breakfast. Then we’ll head out on the first day of our adventure, riding through Eugene and onto the TransAm route. We’ll be climbing gently most of the day as we follow the McKenzie River to our gateway to the Cascades, the intimate lodge at Belknap Hot Springs. We should arrive there with plenty of time to enjoy the waters of the hot pools and to meander around the beautiful gardens. Dinner, followed by a good night’s rest, will get us ready for the next day’s challenge.
Day 3. Belknap Hot Springs to Sisters, 38 miles
Today is structured so we get our climbing in during the cool morning hours. Upon gaining 5,325-foot McKenzie Pass, we’ll take a break to savor the views of the surrounding mountain peaks and youthful lava beds (youthful in a geologic sense; they cooled and hardened some 1,500 years ago). A glorious downhill follows, taking us into the town of Sisters, named after the Three Sisters visible to our west, a trio of volcanic peaks each cresting 10,000 feet. Sisters is a great place to grab a well-earned afternoon snack, espresso, or smoothie as we savor the accomplishment of the day. We might amble along the sidewalks of Sisters’ popular shopping district before a nice dinner and rest in our hotel for the evening.
Day 4. Sisters to Bend, 29 miles
Today we get a bit of a break and have a chance to sleep in, as there’s only 29 miles of riding and a modest climb on tap. We should have most of the afternoon to explore the bustling small city of Bend. Here we’ll stay in a lovely downtown hotel with plenty of character and plenty of suds in the onsite brewery. With other nearby attractions, such as an old-fashioned ice cream and candy shop just a couple of blocks away … well, could it get any better? It could — there’s options for rafting or tubing along the Deschutes River, which passes right through town.
Day 5. Bend to Elk Lake, 32 miles
We’ll depart Bend via a popular bike path alongside the Deschutes River, an amenity that helps enhance the healthy lifestyles of the residents of this fast growing, outdoors-oriented city. The bike path takes us directly to the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, on which we’ll spend most of the day’s remainder on a steady climb up to and around Mount Bachelor. This landscape of high mountain lakes and meadows was again formed largely by volcanic action. More stunning views will be ours to relish from our comfy cabin accommodations near the shores of Elk Lake, the first of several high mountain lakes where we can enjoy swimming and splashing around.
Day 6. Elk Lake to Chemult, 63 miles
A series of gently rolling hills greet us today, with the noticeable absence of any major climbs, as we continue through the aromatic pine forests of the Deschutes National Forest. Considered by many to be the high heart of the Cascades, this area is a real pleasure to ride with its sparsely populated countryside and invigorating mountain air. Fortunately, signs of civilization will reappear toward the end of the day as we approach the tiny community of Chemult,, where we’ll enjoy dinner not far from our motel.
Day 7. Chemult to Crater Lake, 40 miles
Today’s lovely ride is going to challenge us, as it passes through a drier and less forested landscape than we’ve experienced up to this point. The afternoon features a long, gradual climb with a number of false summits before we turn left and head to Crater Lake. That final climb will take us across the Pumice Desert and deliver us to the rim of incomparable Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the U.S. at 1,943 feet. After reaching the rim and admiring the shockingly deep-blue water from above, your eyes will surely pop with the first view of the lake at Merriam Point. Continuing around the west side of the lake, we’ll follow the rim road to the lodge, taking advantage of some of the numerous turnouts to snap photos of the ever-changing lake views. Tonight we’ll stay at the historic Crater Lake Lodge, and we should have some time to clean up and relax in our rooms or in the rocking chairs that overlook the lake before gathering for dinner in the main dining room.
Day 8. Layover day in Crater Lake National Park, 0 miles
Spend the day hiking, taking the two-hour boat ride, exploring the visitor center, and/or cycling 33 miles around the lake on the magnificent rim road. Or, simply relax on the veranda of the Crater Lake Lodge overlooking the lake. On this, our second night at the lodge, we’ll have a celebratory dinner in the dining room: Everyone is to be toasted for cycling over 270 miles and climbing more than 17,000 feet to get to this spectacular location!
Day 9. Crater Lake to Diamond Lake and shuttle to Eugene, 22 miles
Making the most of every minute of our last day on tour, we’ll begin with another great breakfast in the lodge dining room and enjoy our final glimpses of Crater Lake. Our reward for a week of challenging riding? One last ride around this pristine lake before enjoying a magnificent downhill! The 2,700-foot descent takes us from Crater Lake to the shores of Diamond Lake. We’ll meet our shuttle at the pizza and ice cream shop at the southern end of the lake and be back in Eugene by early evening. And what an action-packed trip it’s been, this week of inn-to-inn touring through the lofty heart of the Oregon Cascades.