If you’re a cyclist, wide-open spaces, quiet back roads and green wheat fields might sound appealing. Or maybe you’d prefer speeding up and down backcountry bumps on a towering mountain. Fortunately, in Eastern Oregon you can do both.
A farmer named named Phil Carlson is providing a unique cycling adventure on his family’s 300-acre property. His venture, TREO Bike Tours, offers roadies the chance to experience the low-traffic byways of Eastern Oregon while taking in the sunshine and beauty of the arid side of the state. Carlson had been running hunting trips out of the location for 25 years and realized that the hunting off-season is perfect weather for cycling. Thus, TREO Bike Tours was formed.
TREO offers three- and four-day trips (with a minimum of four people) out of the Carlson family ranch house with road or gravel itineraries. TREO hand-selects rides for each group based on ability and also provides maps, shuttle service, snacks and a sag wagon. Bicycle guides are also available for hire. Some typical road rides offered by TREO are the Condon-Olex-Heppner-Hardman route (78 miles), and the Hardman-Spray-Fossil-Condon trip (87 miles). Popular gravel rides include Toll Rock Road to Dead Man Hill (47 miles) and Wheatfields to Homesteads to Hail Ridge Road (57 miles).
Picture quiet roads rolling past wheat fields, marshlands, family farms, small towns and sage-covered cliffs. Automobile drivers are few, courteous and nearly always friendly. Wind mills rise out of the horizon into the bright blue sky and the John Day River winds its way lazily north toward the Columbia River. Then, back at the large ranch house (it sleeps 12), guests gather around the table for family-style meals. After dinner, people can relax in the hot tub, with a game of pool or on the porch with a cold beer.
For backcountry bikers, there’s Range Tour and Shuttle Co., Eastern Oregon’s first and only mountain bike tour company. Founded by Pat and Elishah Thomas, Range Tour guides bikers around the rugged landscape of Baker City and the surrounding Elkhorn and Wallowa Mountains (thanks to a special permit granted by the USFS and BLM). Be sure to catch your breath off the rocky singletrack trails and take in the amazing high desert views of Eastern Oregon’s deep valleys, sharp peaks and sparkling lakes — and keep your eyes out for the occasional mountain goat. But there’s one thing you won’t see on these trails: crowds.
Range Tour offers half and full day tours with transportation to and from trailheads. Skill level can range from beginner to advanced with rides like Anthony Lakes (5-15 miles), Phillips Reservoir (5-25 miles), Elkhorn Crest Trail (15-30 miles) and the Big Loop Tour (50 miles) and average elevations of up to 8,000 feet.
Sure, these bike trips are a bit non-traditional. But isn’t that half the fun? If you still haven’t gotten your fill, remember, Eastern Oregon is home to four Scenic Bikeways — the Blue Mountain Century, the Grande Tour, the Painted Hills and the Old West — that show the region’s unique terrain and long history.