Chasing Peaks in the Cascade Range: Part 1
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson
It started last fall when I got my first taste of the Pacific Northwest on a one week road trip, riding in parts of Northern California and up into the Cascade mountains of Central Oregon. Immediately following that trip I started laying the groundwork for another trip that would span the entire range of the Cascades from California’s Lassen National Park to Washington’s Mount Baker, near the US/Canada border. 15+ days of volcanic peaks, lush rain forests, and tired legs.
The first major stop along the route was Lassen Volcanic National Park, which was probably the biggest surprise of last years trip, so I knew it would be a good place to revisit, and explore new areas. The majority of my stop in Lassen was on Highway 89, which squirms through the forest near Lake Manzanita to the Lassen Peak trailhead at 8,511ft (the highest pavement in the Cascades), surrounded by volcanic peaks, alpine meadows, and geothermal activity.
After stopping by Burny Falls, I was off for a spur-of-the-moment spin up some obscure dirt roads and what turned out to be an amazing stretch of pavement at Mt. Shasta. One of those, “Let’s see where this one goes” rides that turns into one of the best of the trip.
The second major stop was Mt. Ashland in the southern end of Oregon. There is a perfectly nice paved road that will take you pretty close to the top, but I opted to plot out a course through some lesser known forest service roads that would lead all the way to the peak. The last 2 miles of this one is particularly memorable as the gravel road suddenly leaves the dense forest, and switches back steeply up the mountain before mercifully ending at 7,532ft.
Day three in Crater Lake National Park was always going to be one of my most anticipated of the trip. Last year I attempted this ride during the “Goverment Shutdown” of all National Parks, but when I rode up to the park entrance I got turned away by three park rangers and two police officers guarding the gate [insert rant here]. This year there was no one there looking to keep me out. The deep blue waters and massive scale truly lived up to all the hype, even if it would have been pretty rad to ride around this thing last year with the park completely empty.