The Dalles Mountain 60 route is a staple in cyclists any book. Amazing views and a mixture of road and gravel make for a killer ride. This year (2017) we decided to ride it the day after the March 11th organised / unorganised ride due to conflicts and the chance of a lot better weather the next day. It was still an overcast day till about halfway through. <shrug> Oregon <shrug>
Mileage: 58 Miles
Elevation Gain 4,000ft
Elevation profile – A loop with a first long continued climb, flat mid section and second climb, the rest is rollers and flats.
Terrain: 20miles of gravel, 40miles of normal road
Ride Route: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/19514082
Bicycle: Summer this is doable on a road bike with 28c tyres. Winter / rainy season it’s best on a fatter tyre bike like a cyclocross bike 35c+ or hardtail mtb
Gear: Gravel bike or Road Bike with 28c
2023 Update: Old Moody Rd (pictured below) got fresher gravel added. Not the smoother mud gravel shown in pictures.
I’m unsure of the pure origin of this route, other than I do know Donnie from Velodirt made it popular in years 2015 – 2018 and may have been responsible for properly dialling the route, so hats off to Donnie.
Meeting at Holsteins coffee in The Dalles (yeah this place is the only city where “The” is a formality in its name) After crossing the bridge to the Washington side (2023 Bridge is under construction down to alternating one lane during week days) , the route kicks in with a brisk (by that a mean big bugger) climb up Dalles Mountain Road. This road is actually the entrance to a state park – Dalles Mountain Ranch is part of Columbia Hills State Park, there are quite a few hikes in there but that’s for someone else to blog about. The climb is all gravel and rocky in points, goes on for about 9 miles and up 2000ft. At points the grade is steep, but the outlook across the water to the Oregon side is beautiful with some wicked views of Mt.Hood on a clear day. (this day was dishwater clear)
After taking in the scenery, the wiry Washington pastures, killer views of mt hood and resting, of course. You are treated to a rapid and flowing descent down the back of Dalles Mountain sort of toward Goldendale. This is all gravel also so watch your corners!. At about mile 18 your vision is filled with towering electricity windmills, these wind farms are common place in The Dalles. It gets bloody windy out here so it makes sense.
When we rode this there was a little snow left at the sides, but otherwise clear.
The route takes you on highway 97 for less than 1/2 mile then drops into what is known as the Maryhill Loops, this is a strip of road (closed to cars) that back in 1911 was built under Sam Hill to test the turn and grade capabilities of road making equipment. It makes for a really fun twisty descent of about a mile long. (Interesting fact: this design enabled the twisty descent down from Crowne Point on the Oregon side) Word of warning here, to access the top of the Loops you actually have to trespass an abandoned driveway for about 100ft, if you are not into this there is a simple route around down the nearby highway but you will miss the Loops. (2023 – the top of the road has a low chain across it, presume to keep cars out)
Shortly after the Test track of Maryhill Loops you are headed toward Maryhill proper. With the unmistakable sight of Washington’s own Stonehenge (The Maryhill Stonehenge is a replica of England’s Stonehenge. It was commissioned in the early twentieth century by businessman Samuel Hill and dedicated on July 4, 1918, as a memorial to those who had died in World War I. – yeah Sam Hill was pretty goofy.
Fruit and vineyards are the call of the day via. Maryhill is a small fruit farming community just before the Dalles bridge that crosses back to the Oregon side at the bottom of 97.
Back on the Oregon side now after crossing the Sam Hill Memorial Bridge (careful not much shoulder, the dude believed in roads not cyclists!).
Biggs is the first town, its not a visually exciting place but this is a good point to stop and with a few petrol stations to get water and food if needed. From here there is a short (4.5miles) yet often windy stretch of road to the next gravel section – Old Moody. yeah its a climb.
On the left is the Deschutes State Park, if you have time, this is a good place to have a pee break, ride in to get some water and have a look at the river from the banks of the day use area. Continuing on the route, crossing the Deschutes river just past the Deschutes State Park entrance you make a sharp left hand 270degree turn onto Moody Road, the terrain quickly becomes steep and gravelly, don’t let the first section dishearten you, the first bit is the steepest, and it’s bloody steep but rideable. The benefit is some amazing views from the top of the climb. the next few miles traverse the Oregon ridge weaving in and out of beautiful hills, rugged windswept landscape with stout grasses and eroded rock forms on firm pack, light gravel road.
Yesterday was a downpour, normally the surface is a little more rock scattered but the surface was tacky.
Moody Rd ends with a spritely descent to 15mile road, from here it’s all smooth top back to The Dalles. You have about 11miles to go that weaves in and out of farming land and rural houses, throw in a couple of mellow rollers and soon you are popping out onto the side road, State St that heads into the centre of The Dalles where you started.
Above: You know you are a mile or two from the end when you see the grain stacks of Sunshine Mill.
Summer & Winter ride Tip
If you are going to ride this in the summer, check the wind speed before planning your ride. Winds in The Dalles come from the NW and can be really brutal along some of the Oregon side roads. Winds of 20mph are not unusual.
In winter, it gets really cold in The Dalles and check the snow levels at the top of Dalles Mountain road (mile point 13) it can be impassable, its only about 2000- 2400 ft, but the backside of the mountain gets wind and snow.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad day of riding in the Dalles. Thanks James for the great writeup. One of many many more I hope to be part of!