Ride McKenzie Pass carfree while you can

Ride McKenzie Pass carfree while you can

Bike on the McKenzie Pass

McKenzie Pass is now open to bikes only; but you’ve only got about 6-8 weeks
to get up there before the cars and RVs return.
(Photo OregonDOT/Flickr)

The Oregon Depart of Transportation announced this morning that the McKenzie Pass Highway (OR 242) is now open to biking and walking traffic only. This is an annual event that occurs just after ODOT snow plow crews clear one lane of the highway; but there’s still too much snow for safe motor vehicle traffic.

Here’s my favorite line from the official ODOT press release:

“ODOT urges those who access the highway to seize the opportunity to ride or walk the scenic route for the next few weeks. It’s important that all cyclists obey the normal rules of the road when they travel the highway.”

ODOT says they expect McKenzie Pass to remain carfree until at least early June. Last year it opened to motor vehicle traffic on June 19th.

The pass itself is 36 miles of some of the best riding in the entire Pacific Northwest. It’s so great that it’s officially designated as an Oregon State Scenic Bikeway. Here’s an excerpt from the ride description via RideOregonRide.com:

The official route starts in Sisters and heads west past hay meadows, ascending 2,000 feet through ponderosa pine forests. The road follows an 1860s wagon route, emerging from the forest at Windy Point and revealing a view of Mt. Washington and a 2,000-year-old lava flow. The 25-mile, 4,000 ft descent to Highway 126 snakes down exhilarating switchbacks to the dense, verdant Cascadian forests and rushes out over the McKenzie River. It’s these dramatic transitions through such diverse natural environments that define the uniqueness of this bikeway.

… I’ve been on this road in the spring when it was plowed just one lane wide, and I rode between 6-foot walls of snow, on bare pavement, like a bike-luge run.

I rode McKenzie Pass during Cycle Oregon 2007, but I’ve never done it “luge” style during this special closure period. I think it’s safe to say it’s worth getting up there if you can.

For more information, see the cue sheets and maps at RideOregonRide.com and the Scenic Bikeway website. There are also videos and more info via this Seattle PI blog post.

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