THE METOLIUS REGION IS COWBOY COUNTRY, WHERE THE WINTERS ARE HARSH, THE RIVERS ARE CLEAN AND THE RIDING IS BREATHTAKING. THE EAST SIDE OF THE CASCADES Transitions FROM LUSH RAINFOREST TO ARID HIGH DESERT; THE HORIZON DOMINATED BY JAGGED PEAKS, RED CINDER AND WINDBLOWN DUST.
Boasting views of Mt. Washington and a corral of horses, this Metolius route begins at the Black Butte Resort just outside of Sisters. The Black Butte General Store serves as a solid staging area, with an opportunity to pick up ride snacks and top off your 2+ bidons with water. Follow Highway 20 until the NF11 turnoff in 2 miles. NF11 will start climbing right out of the gate. We promised a gravel ride so pavement time is limited here, with a right turn onto NF100. Breathe in that high desert vibe while getting acquainted with the loose cinder road surface because from what I hear, #gravelroadsareroadstoo. The climb is short, but NF100's steady rise sets a nice tone for things to come.
At 6,436 ft., Black Butte is a stunning stratovolcano located just west of the central Oregon town of Sisters.
After another short hop on NF11, take a left onto the crimson cinder of NF1130. This National Forest road is a subtle bruiser that rises steadily for eight miles from NF11 to the turnoff to the Green Ridge over a variable surface of bare dirt and dry cinder, offering a curious amount of resistance in the deep spots, transforming into the consistency of peanut butter when wet. There are a few rough patches of exposed, embedded rock but it's generally a smooth roll.
Climbing the Eastern Face of Green Ridge, NF1130 turns to NF1140 around Bear Springs. You'll take this road for just under 5 miles before reaching an un-marked V in the road. NF1140 continues to the right, but the left-hand corner leads the Green Ridge Lookout Tower. Go there. Trust us, you'll be glad you did.
With white-capped view of Three Fingered Jack to the south and Mt. Jefferson to the north, the Green Ridge Lookout Tower is a great place to soak it all in, Cascadian style. The Lookout Tower has an onsite fire pit, camp table, and pit-outhouse - making it an opportune spot to break out a glistening IPA if that's your style.
Taking NF 1140 north, the payoff for all these miles of climbing comes when you take a left on 1490.
Surfaced in red cinder, NF1490 heads down the west face of Green Ridge through hairpin switchbacks and the ghost forests of recent burns. This descent is as fast as you make it. Resist the urge to bomb this section as some of the switchback views are highlights of the route. Also - be aware that while this descent is smooth and fast for the most part, there are some rough patches with quite a bit of exposed rock, so a bit of caution is advised.
After miles of trekking up gravel roads and tacking down steep ridgelines, your legs finally get a rest when NF1490 turns left onto the paved NF14/Metolius River Road to Camp Sherman. NF14 is the smoothest bit of road you'll have ridden all day and maybe even one of the most beautiful. Here you get your first encounter with the pristine Metolius River as well as a chance to see some fish and grab some water.
Just shy of three miles into Metolius River Road, you have the opportunity to fill bidons and feed the fish at Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery. Even if you're not thirsty and have an empty bladder, the hatchery is worth a stop. Bring a quarter or two on this ride, as each coin will give you enough fish food to get those 14 inch trout leaping!
Starting from two clusters of springs near Black Butte, the crystal clear blue water of the Metolius River flow 28.6 miles from the springs to its eventual release into Lake Billy Chinook. With its healthy population of rainbow trout and the territorial bull trout, this area is a much-loved fly fishing destination for anglers across the country.
Returning from the hatchery, take a right on the Metolius River Road until you reach the Southwest Metolius River Road. This bit of paved bliss follows the river until it reaches Camp Sherman.
Camp Sherman is just about as quaint as a goddamn apple pie cooling on a windowsill while cartoon birds flitter about. A popular fly fishing and cabin rental destination, Camp Sherman store is a good opportunity to top off water, grab an espresso, pastry, banana or if you're so inclined, a dry-hopped single fermentation dank brew or Willamette Valley pinot.
From the Camp Sherman Store, cross the bridge and take the Southwest Camp Sherman Road until you reach NF1419. Take a left here and stay on NF1419 for only a brief moment, until you reach the Lake Creek Trail. This trail will take you from Camp Sherman to the wide and wonderful Suttle Lake via a newly built multi-purpose dirt path. Upon arrival at Suttle Lake, take the rim trail in either direction for a bit of scenic circumnavigation. The difficulty is low here, but the relatively flat gradient and unique vantage points of the lake make this a worthy addition.
Although Native Americans lived at and used the lake for thousands of years, Suttle Lake was named after the Oregon Pioneer, John Settle. When the lake was officially recorded as a geological feature, the officials misspelled Settle's last name, and it's remained "Suttle" ever since.
From here, you're in the homestretch with two options to complete the loop from Suttle Lake to Black Butte. Singletrack or Highway 20. Please note that this is an extremely busy road with a very limited shoulder. If you do choose to go this route, be cautious of heavy traffic and stay to the right as much as possible.
If you'd like to return via singletrack, there is a newly built trail that parallels the highway. Find the start off the Suttle Lake Road near the highway. Miles of fresh loose singletrack await as you close out the loop.
ROUTE FORMAT: LOOP
SURFACE: 60% GRAVEL/DIRT ~ 30% Road ~ 10% Singletrack
TIRES: 33C-40C FILETREAD or cx tires