The Lakes Loop
The Lakes Loop is a great training ride in the weeks before the Mountain Lakes Challenge (MLC). It incorporates all of the really hard parts of the MLC and still gets in roughly 50 miles and 5000 feet of cumulative climbing. It is also great in the weeks before the MLC becase the seasonal temperatures are usually pretty comfortable at that point. In summer this loop should be started early as both Dead Indian Memorial and Green Springs are long exposed climbs. Both are quite uncomfortable in the sun when it's 90 degrees. Both climbs are long and challenging. Dead Indian is nearly 13 miles with some steep sections especially in the second half. Green Springs is really a very steady climb, rarely steeper than its 7% average grade. Stop for lunch at the Green Springs Inn if you'd like, this is an optional turnaround point at most club rides. If you choose to continue, then food, water and restrooms are available at the Hyatt Lake Resort. Water is also available at Lily Glen Horse Camp 1/2 mile to the east of the junction of Dead Indian Memorial Road and Hyatt Prairie Road. Because half of the ride is above 4000 feet in elevation, this ride is not always an option in late fall & winter.
The Loop can easilly begin at just about anywhere in Ashland. Club rides usually start at the Roasting company. Continue from there to HWY 66. You can ride the loop either way. The traditional route climbing Green Springs is probably a little easier; it spreads the elevation gain into a long hard grunt up Green Springs, a section of steep undulations on Hyatt Prarie Rd and another 500 feet on the east side of Dead Indian. Climbing Dead Indian first climbs most everything in one very long hard climb with some grades at 10-11%. Follow the Howard Prarie/Hyatt Lake Road between the highways and enjoy the exciting descent back into Ashland.
The lane widths on the Greensprings and Dead Indian Memorial Highways are 11 feet wide (with less than 12 inch shoulders). That is too narrow to be safely shared by two vehicles (i.e. two vehicles in a single lane), even when one of them is a bicycle. That roadway cross section, the fact that most motorists ignore or are ignorant of the Oregon (ORS) code 811.065 (unsafe passing of person operating bicycle), and limited site distances (due to terrain and blind corners) make these highways inappropriate for all but the most skilled cyclist. Confidence, knowledge and expertise applying the “rules of the road,” defensive driving skills, heightened awareness of vehicles approaching and overtaking (using a rear view mirror), advanced bike handling skills, and good to excellent fitness, are all essential for a safe and enjoyable ride in this setting. Don’t forget to take along plenty of water, a little food, extra tubes, patch kit, tools, and the knowledge of how to use them. (For most, climbing from Buckhorn Road to the Greensprings Summit will take more than an hour).
Traditionally the ride starts at the Roasting Company, but Lithia Park, Garfield Park, or the Ashland Police Dept. among others would make excellent starting points. If you want to add a little dirt riding instead of all pavement, there are several options available. There is a 4.5 mile road, Old Hyatt Prairie Road, that comes off of the Greensprings Hwy just at the summit of the climb near mile marker 16 and just across from the Soda Mountain Road. This will run back into Hyatt Prairie Road just south of Hyatt Lake. Another one to consider is Buck Prairie/Buck Divide Road. This leave the pavement at the north end of Hyatt Lake just before the turn for East Hyatt Lake Road. This is a 6 mile stretch of dirt that come out at the summit on Dead Indian Memorial Road. Both of these roads are normally able to be ridden on a road bike with 25 cm tires from mid to late spring until mid-fall.
Neither Dead Indian Memorial Hwy or the Green Springs Hwy get a huge volume of traffic but the traffic is consistent. Green Springs has a shoulder for some of the ride but generally the loop has no substantial shoulder. The Hyatt Lake/Howard Prarie stretch is never that busy but there is regular tourist/fishing traffic. Pavement is universally good on this loop. Dead Indian can is heavily gravelled during wet and winter months.