The Best Laid Plans…
I’ll concede that sometimes I overplan when it comes to bikepacking routes. Hours spent looking over google map images for water sources, possible campsites, etc., doesn’t always equal out to a more successful trip. In fact, sometimes the confidence gained in overpreparing only makes things worse when the plan doesn’t work out. However, in the case of the Oregon Outback and its overwhelming success as a trip, I’m coming around to the idea that underpreparing might actually be a more effective formula for trip success. For my riding partner – Jules – and me, this was definitely the case for our 365 mile gravel traverse across the state of Oregon, widely known as the Oregon Outback.
Want more detail, or the GPX version of this map? Click here.
Trip Success Caveat
Okay, the trip actually wouldn’t have worked out at all if it weren’t for the incredible work of a few of the all stars in the Oregon Bikepacking scene. Gabriel Amadeus and Donnie Kolb put this entire route together years ago and posted the details on their site: Oregon Bikepacking. For more details of the route itself, look no further than their site’s wealth of information for the trip.
The only details outside of Oregon Bikepacking’s work that I’ll provide for future riders are the places we camped each day, because they did a GREAT job marking important information on their Ride with GPS Route Guide:
- Day 1: Mile 66 has a nice little pull-off campsite along the OC&E Trail with a creek for filling up water right next to it.
- Day 2: Mile 137, The Waterin’ Hole Tavern has a little campground/RV Park in the back, and they charge $16 per tent.
- Day 3: Mile 225, right on the outskirts of Prineville before you ride into town, you can stay at Crook County RV Park, where they charge $15 per tent. Also, be sure to check out Ochoco Brewing Company while in Prineville. Great beer. Great food.
- Day 4: Mile 301 we camped next to the picnic tables in downtown Shaniko.
- Day 5: Finished the ride (Mile 365) and camped at Deschutes River State Recreation Area.
There also is a bit more water than one might be led to believe based on the Ride with GPS Route Guide provided by Oregonbikepacking.com, but those water sources can be easily viewed and marked if you zoom into the map and look at the criss-crossing river sections throughout the route.
Of course, in addition to the video, I took some photos along the way. Although they are not nearly as linear as the video, they do provide a slightly different snapshot of the Oregon Outback.
Having done a number of organized and personally-created singletrack and gravel routes throughout Oregon, I believe that the Oregon Outback is the best route I have ridden in the state to date. If riding it from South to North as intended, it has very thoughtfully constructed climbs and descents (many of the major climbs are paved, and many of the major descents are gravel), and as far as highway connectors go, this route does a great job of keeping busy highways to a BARE minimum. In fact, I believe there were only two sections of riding that included busier highways, and both had big shoulders and friendly drivers.
Alongside the thoughtfully designed route, the small towns this route intersects with provide a glimpse into the life of rural Oregonians, a highlight of the trip for me, and I think Jules would agree. We met numerous people who left lasting impressions, from the surly General Store owner in Shaniko, to the gregarious owner of Ochoco Brewery in Prineville. And because it is one of the more iconic gravel routes in Oregon, it’s likely you’ll meet a couple other riders on the trail, as Jules and I did. If given the opportunity and the right group of people, I’d definitely do this route again.