Ride Report: Yreka Callahan Loop
One of the great things about being a cyclist in southern Oregon is California. No, seriously. Far northern California offers us a variety of interesting cycling routes with somewhat different challenges and scenery, including views of Mt. Shasta or the snow-capped Trinity Alps from just about everywhere. One of the club members’ favorite rides is the challenging loop our of Yreka, south over the Gazelle Summit, down into Callahan, then back up through Fort Jones, over the Green Mountain Summit, and back into Yreka. It’s 82 miles and nearly 5000 feet of climbing. On a beautiful spring day in May seven intrepid club members (average age older than dirt) set out from Yreka. The first 17 miles of the ride is a quiet and relatively flat ride paralleling I-5 on Old 99 and Old Westside Road into the tiny town of Gazelle. Then begins the long ascent of the Gazelle Summit. It’s a mild climb at first but turns into true Alpine-style switchbacks for the last 4-5 miles.
Topping out, we got a great view of snow-capped mountains before beginning a long, gentle descent into the little town of Callahan. At mile 40-something, we parked our bikes outside the one business in Callahan, a convenience mart and bar, whose proprietor always greets us Lycra-clads with a smile. After a short break, we turn right over the Scott River and follow Eastside Road – a virtually car-free alternative to Highway 3 for 20 miles to Fort Jones. Mostly flat with a few rollers, the road offers super view of the surrounding mountains as it works its way through green fields of alfalfa and pastures with large herds of cattle. A quick stop in Fort Jones to fuel up for the climb ahead and we head into the final 15 miles back to Yreka. The first 4-5 miles are a gentle climb on a good shoulder along busy Highway 3, then the final serious climb begins. After putting more than 70 miles in our legs, this is a fair challenge – not steep but relentless until we top out on Green Mountain Summit. Then it is literally all downhill back to Yreka and a well-earned breath of relief.
For anyone looking for a challenging mountain ride but with long stretches of easy flats and unmatched views, the Yreka-Callahan loop (clockwise) just might be the ride for you. I’m sure we’ll do it again this summer.