More highlights of the route include the views from Postage Stamp Butte, exploring several historic cemeteries including the Pioneer Woman’s grave, drinking hard earned beers in Zig Zag, unparallelled views of all four sides of Mt. Hood, and enjoying more beers at Solera Brewing in Parkdale before killing the last long gravel descent back towards Dufur.
While the overall mileage makes this look like a long weekend trip, do not underestimate just how much climbing it involves. You will basically be climbing or descending the entire time and it can feel pretty brutal after a couple days. Welcome to riding around Mount Hood! That’s why we recommend doing the route over 4 days instead of 3.
The season for this route does not begin until late-spring or early-summer when the snow clears off the higher elevations. Except for the intro section out of Dufur through Tygh Valley to the first White River crossing, this route makes a great hot weather option as you are sheltered in the forest most of the time. There are also repeated opportunities to cool off in the rivers and streams along the way. The best time to ride this route is generally July, August and into September. However, the season can extend from May into October.
The only real bummer about this route, and Mount Hood routes in general, is the lack of good gravel options on the north side of the mountain. Once you hit Lolo Pass Road (mile 81.5) it’s almost all pavement until you start descending back down into Dufur. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful and completely worth it, but for a bikepacking route there is considerably more tarmac than we prefer. But we know folks love riding around the mountain, so this is the best we can do. At least there’s a great brewpub in Parkdale to break up the monotony.
We generally ditch a car on the street near the Historic Balch Hotel when doing routes out of Dufur.
You will likely want to carry enough real food to get you from Dufur to Zig Zag, which has a real grocery store. Until then it’s all convenience store food. There is another grocery store in Parkdale. This simplifies planning and packing considerably.
You can expect the following services along the route, though we suggest double checking your options before you leave for your trip:
There are creeks, springs and rivers all along the route, so we won’t bother to point out specific water access points. However, be warned that in summer the White River becomes undrinkable without a true pump-style filter. The river gets its name from the glacial silt coming off the White Glacier high on the mountain, turning the river into the equivalent of skim milk. There are other water sources in this area, so just keep that in mind when deciding to fill up.
Cell service is available on-and-off along the route, depending on your carrier. Typically you can expect good cell service in the towns with spotty service in between.
Whether you’re into bush camping or not, we recommend consulting the Mt. Hood National Forest Map and the Benchmark Oregon Road & Recreation Atlas. There are numerous campgrounds along the route for whatever pace you end up riding.
The only campground on the whole mountain we specifically suggest avoiding is the McNeil Campground off Lolo Pass Road. There is no water, it’s far off the Sandy River and it’s generally a piece of shit. I can’t believe people pay to camp there. If you find yourself in this area looking to camp, there are good bush camping options along the Sandy River about a half mile before this campground just before crossing the bridge over the Sandy River. Note: these spots are slightly off route and marked on the GPS tracks.
While you could theoretically ride this route without a GPS, the Barlow Road section is extremely difficult to follow (miles 42-63). It took us several trips before we were able to piece it all together, so we expect most folks will have a difficult time navigating this section without a GPS.
The best option for changing up this route would be combining parts of it with parts of our other Mt. Hood route, Gunsight Ridge. Both routes share most of the Barlow Road section (miles 42-63), so it would be pretty easy to do. This would increase your dirt, possibly reduce your mileage, and increase your opportunities for single-track options if that floats your boat.
There is another historical wagon trail on the route, the Pioneer Bridle Trail, The trail is now mostly single track and can make for a sweet, long descent down to Zig Zag if you’re into shredding historical wagon trails. Riding single track on a loaded bikepacking rig may be beyond some folks’ technical abilities, so take heed. This replaces the Still Creek descent. The full route can be found here.
The last alternative we suggest is riding a different route through the White River Wildlife Area down to Tygh Valley. If you’ve ridden the Oregon Stampede route, you’ll be familiar with it. There are several creeks and camping options, but you’ll miss the amazing views from Postage Stamp Butte.
As a minor warning, the descent down from Postage Stamp Butte is long, steep and ends at an 8’ fence with an unlocked gate. Once you exit this gate you are on private property. Per the sign, you can legally pass through this area as long as you stay on the road that twists down to the main highway. You may have to hop the cattle fence once you get to the pavement.