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Old West Scenic Bikeway

Scenic Bikeway

  • Length:
    173.8 miles
  • Difficulty:
    Challenging
  • Origin:
    John Day
  • Attributes:
    2 Day Rides, 3 Day Rides, Extended Climbs, Wilderness, Wildlife Views

Elevation Chart

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For more information and to obtain an export of this ride, visit RideWithGPS.com.

Stay Safe

In Oregon, a bicycle is legally considered a vehicle, and the same Oregon road laws apply. Please “be seen” and practice safe riding. Vehicle traffic, farm equipment and narrow shoulders exist on many Oregon roads, and you may find that construction projects, traffic or other events may cause road conditions or signage to differ from the map results, ride descriptions and directions. For travel options plus weather and road conditions, visit tripcheck.com, call 511 (in Oregon only), 800.977.6368 or 503.588.2941. Routes listed on this website are for informational purposes and intended as a reference guide only.

Download map and cue sheet

GPS

Old West Scenic Bikeway GPS

Route Description

Here’s a rugged piece of the Old West that you can check out by bike – a route spectacular enough to be designated an Oregon Scenic Bikeway. This two- to three-day route offers a cornucopia of terrain and scenery, from rushing rivers to hot springs to fossil beds – and some attention-getting climbs.

The Old West Scenic Bikeway offers a rich combination of ponderosa-pine forests, scenic rivers, abundant wildlife, fossil geology and sunny climate. A vast majority of the route is in Grant County on minimally used roads. Ten additional rides branch off of the Old West and provide an additional 800 miles of “ultimate road ride” experience.

Examples of some of the must-see stops on this route include:

1. The Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site, which preserves the legacy of Chinese who lived here

2. The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, one of the top three paleontology sites in the world

3. The salmon fish run on the North Fork of the John Day River

4. The wild horses on Murders Creek

5. The bald eagle trees outside Prairie City (up to 11 bald eagles have been viewed at one time)

6. The views of the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness from the covered wagon wayside (you’ll know it when you see it)

Much of the Old West Scenic Bikeway follows two branches of the John Day River. Support for cyclists on the bikeway is provided by 10 rustic communities, three state parks, five additional campgrounds and two bike hostels. The Grant County Chamber (541-575-0547) has a volunteer who will assist cyclists wanting to plan a day, weekend or longer vacation ride in Grant County.

Start in John Day – the biggest town around these parts – heading east on Highway 26 through picturesque Prairie City, after which you’ll ascend to the turnoff at Austin Junction. Here you’re on truly rural backroads, passing through the tiny but friendly Long Creek, Monument and Kimberly before heading south to the John Day Fossil Beds, where you reconnect with Highway 26 back to John Day, through Dayville and Mt. Vernon.

This works well as a two-day or a three-day trip; there are three state parks, five other campgrounds and two bike hostels along the route.

Motorized Vehicle Traffic: Light on the backroads; moderate on the main highways

Seasons: Spring to fall

More Resources

The Grant County Chamber of Commerce is happy to help you find services and attractions along this route. Visit their website or call them at 541-575-0547. Or, check out Visit Eastern Oregon for more to see and do in this area.

Find camping and restroom facilities at Bates State Park and Clyde Holliday State Recreation Site.

Order a free copy of the Oregon Scenic Bikeways guide and start exploring the best routes that Oregon has to offer — all from the seat of a bike.

Important Traffic Information: Scenic Bikeway routes often include roads with car and truck traffic. Although the Bikeways are routed on low-traffic and low-speed roads whenever possible, most are designated for cyclists that are comfortable riding in some amount of traffic. For traffic-free riding, please check out the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway section north of Banks and the first half of the Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway.

Please keep in mind this advice from a local and plan accordingly: Many small-town businesses along the route, including restaurants and grocery stores, only stay open until 5 or 6 p.m. and may not be open on weekends. Bicyclists should bring plenty of water and snacks with them. Be prepared to camp out in the event that you come across a small rural town that has nothing open. This ride can be tough — it’s best to be over-prepared!

Photos of this Ride

Comments

  1. This route takes you through gorgeous country, with climbing enough to be challenging. We have a guest ranch on the Middle Fork that is a good base camp for this ride. Check out bouldercreekranch.net and then let us help you get on the road. Heck, I might even ride with you for a time.

  2. I’d consider doing that ride if not for hwy 26. Even on a Sunday, the traffic is thick, and they roll down windows to shout obscenities. Bummer, dude.

  3. Just completed this ride. Great trip. Everyone was so helpful and friendly along the way. Kudos to Christie at the Austin House Cafe who opened up for us on their day off to provide hot coffee and blackberry cobbler to warm us up as there had been a little snow over Dixie Mtn. Thanks Again!

  4. Completed this ride July 4. Started at Bates S.P. and rode to Big Bend BLM Camp Ground on Day one. Everyone we met was friendly, traffic was light and drivers waved at us as they passed. Day two we rode to Prairie City and met friendly people, courteous drivers (even on HWY 26). The shoulder is a bit narrow at times, but be aware of your surroundings and all is great. Stopped at Kimberly Orchards for some fresh fruit for breakfast – amazing apricots and locally made cheese and beef stick! Finished the ride with the big hill climb up Dixie and a cruise into Bates. Great Trip.

  5. The BIKE INN just off hwy 26 in Mt Vernon (0.4 miles north of the Hwy 26/Hwy 395 junction) is a great place to start and end from. The BIKE INN is available by donation as a hostel for cyclists. There is a shower, towels, full kitchen, breakfast items, beds, pillows, bedding. Contact crheu@ortelco.net.

  6. Just completed the ride June 19th. Hwy 26 was not bad, decent shoulder and no one yelled. Loved the scenery changes; almost at every turn.
    Started at the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center on 19 just north of 26, just check in with Park Staff to leave car. Did it leisurely in 4 days; John Day, Bates, Long Creek then start. Met Mike who put together the route and Cristie from Bike Inn all great people – very supportive. Loved the small towns and people. We camped at Bates, nice due to proximity of Austin Junction Restaurant/General Store. However, there was serene BLM campground along middle fork about 6 miles down the road (almost a coast to it). Might have been worth a night there.

  7. We just finished this ride. It was great! No problems on hwy 26. Just stay single file. The section between the fossil beds and Austin restaurant had very quiet roads. If you are riding without a sag, make sure you bring plenty of water!

  8. Just did this ride first week of July. Fabulous low traffic roads; hwy 26 has a nice shoulder and no problem for experienced cyclist. Plan carefully for water in the hot weather (90-100 degree afternoons). No water or services except the river from Long Creek to bates. Also, no services in Kimberly as the store closed 2 yrs ago. We got water at the tiny post office, and Kimberly Fruit Co a few miles east may have water. Boulder Creek Ranch along county road 20 has a lovely meadow for camping, cabins and a sheep herders wagon to rent! Need to bring your own food. For a one of a kind experience, climb the 5 mile dirt road to Lands Inn north of Dayville and camp in a huge meadow near an airplane hangar. Hats off to anyone who can make this vicious climb with a loaded bike!

  9. Just got some IMPORTANT updates: Water is scarce on the Old West. No water is available in Kimberly, contrary to what the map shows. Map will be changed soon. There is no water between the long hot miles of Bates to Long Creek. Those with a water filter can pump water from the river.

  10. I completed this ride in 5 days during the week of 9/9/13 starting and ending in John Day. It was awesome. Stayed at Bates, Long Creek, Lone Pine and Dayville. Everyone was very friendly. Someone had put a water hose in Kimberly across from the store that is closed so that was great. There is also water at the hose bib out front at the Cant Ranch. Also the Fish Hook Inn had a great place for tents. This is a great ride and I highly recommend it. Oregon does it right!

  11. An incredible 3 or 4 day high desert trek! Great views, food, beer and friendly folks along the way! One of my favorites!

  12. Looking to do this ride solo next week. Is it a fairly populated route? Should I have any safety concerns about not having a riding buddy. I’m assuming there will always be cyclists nearby, but I know it’s late in the season and that this is a fairly new route. Thoughts?

  13. I rode this bikeway in early September 2013. Left my car at the paleo center after checking in. The ride is fantastic and the folks along the way are friendly and wonderfully helpful. Please note that the canyon just beyond the paleo center has a very minimal shoulder, heavy traffic, and high winds. But it is just two miles long. One of most enjoyable sections is the Middle Fork Road from Bates campground to John Day hwy. 30 somethin miles of flat or down hill through forest along a river, as well as experiencing only 5 vehicles in a few hours. The difficult parts being the two climbs on the route. One is 10 miles long and the next is 6 miles. Each has varying grades that will be quite challenging. When I was there the temps on the blacktop was averaging 104 deg. But every afternoon thunderstorms would role through and it was a race to the next campground to beat the lighting and rain. It should be noted that the campground in John Day is a somewhat challenging place to camp for cyclists. The designated area for tents is just dirt next to a local foot path, the main area is for rv’s only. It is okay to camp on the big field but then the bright lights are a bit much. There are showers here. Then the two campgrounds out on Long Creek Hwy before you reach Kimberly are very barren and hot. Luckily the river is right there to wade in to. I found that even on the hottest afternoons I could wrap several cold beers in t-shirts and stuff em into my paniers for the final miles to a campground. teehee!

  14. Just completed this in late March. We started in Monument and did the whole thing in 46 hours, going CCW and staying in John Day and then Long Creek. The man who owns the general store in Monument lives near the park and told us it was fine to leave the car there. The ride is beautiful with lots of scenery changes. The hwy 26 portion was fine and there was not much traffic on the narrow portion. One thing that’s not on this page is that county road 20 has significant bumps in the pavement every 80 ft for the first 6 or 7 miles after Bates park. If you’re doing big days like we did, be aware that the restaurant in Long Creek closes at 6:00; it was a bummer to have barely missed a hot meal after the climbs to get there. Would love to do this ride again when it’s a little warmer!

  15. Great ride and great site. A few map notes to be aware of: The elevation profile on this web page is pretty far off. Among other quirks, the summit of the first climb comes at mile 22 (starting from John Day), not mile 40. The elevation profile on the “Old West Route Map” is better. But some revisions to the “Old West Route Map” are: No cafe in Monument. No water in Kimberly (we did not see the garden hose someone else mentioned). Dayville is 5 miles west of where it is shown. And Blue Basin trailhead is 3 miles south of where it is shown.

  16. Long Creek! The first person we met was Myla (sp?), officer in charge at the post office. She was incredibly friendly and helpful. She connected us with “Silver” Keyes, the founder of a non-profit community house/center project called ALLOVARS (‘all of ours’). Over the last three years, and with Herculean efforts, they have converted a log house in the town into a combination community house/center and overnight hostel. It’s a great project. They allow cyclists to stay in one of several rooms or to camp on the lawn. It has a full kitchen, two bathrooms, a large deck and lovely grounds. And it’s all donation based… as they call it – a “gift economy”. If you stay please support them generously if you can. Silver and Richard are the main forces behind the project and are amazingly dedicated folks. And so nice too! They have now formed 501C3 non-profit organization and assembled a board of community members.

  17. […] into Idaho. The route includes some of the state’s very best roads, including sections of the Old West Scenic Bikeway, the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway and the McKenzie Pass Scenic […]

  18. We just finished this ride in just over 4 days. We started in John day, stayed at Bates, long creek, lone pine c.g. near Kimberly, and Clyde holiday s.p. It was really hot making afternoons unbearable to ride and we wanted free time to explore and enjoy the area. Some comments from our trip- skip Bates and stay 5 miles down the highway at middle fork campground. It’s shaded, on the river, and hardly anyone there. There isn’t water but there is spring water coming out of a pipe on hwy 7 right before you turn onto the middle fork rd. Bring extra bottles and fill up before you hit the campground. The Austin junction cafe is closed Tuesday and Wednesday so don’t count on a cold drink or ice cream like I did after climbing Dixie summit. The Ritter summit and hwy 395 into long creek are HOT and dry. But there is a fabulous place to stay in long creek-Allovars house is a non profit community house that hosts cyclists for a donation. It is beautiful with a deck, two bedrooms, shower, coffee, and WiFi. There is a restaurant and store in long creek but they close at 6. If you stay at one of the blm campgrounds before Kimberly, there is a fruit company that has cold soda, ice cream, and water about 1 mile past lone pine c.g. I would skip camping at the John day fairgrounds-just a grass field without picnic tables. I would recommend camping at clyde holiday s.p. -nice with showers and ice. Very beautiful scenery throughout this ride and nice people!

  19. […] week I took three days and rode the Old West Scenic Bikeway (http://rideoregonride.com/road-routes/old-west-scenic-bikeway/), a state-established 175-mile touring route in Eastern Oregon. It was a great ride through an […]

  20. […] Ride Oregon Biking Bis Bike Portland […]

  21. We are happy to announce that the Kimberly store is open for business, we are now known as the John Day River Trading Post. We have water, food, restroom, wifi, available as of now, hopefully in the next year or so we would like to offer camping sites as well. Please consider us as a stop while making your plans! Hope to see you soon and travel safe!

  22. The Kimberly Store is now open and has water 7 days a week!

  23. Rode the Old West October 10-12. Had nice weather for the most part (only hailed twice). This is an absolutely beautiful ride. Did it in 3 days, staying in Prairie City and Lone Creek. There isn’t much between Middle Fork Campground and Lone Creek, so that section kind of dictates how to break the other sections up.
    I strongly recommend Allovars in Lone Creek. Can accommodate a large or small group.
    The highlight was the descent from Long Creek to Monument. I wasn’t familiar with this section and it was spectacular.
    Overall, the traffic was practically non-existent. Even US 26 was light.
    I can’t wait to do it again next year.

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