Cycling to Alsea Falls

By Dan Shryock

With so many quiet back roads and scenic vistas throughout Benton County, it’s easy to create a memorable cycling route of your own in any direction. As you consider which way to go, give serious thought to visiting Alsea Falls, one of our seven cycling wonders.

Alsea Falls Recreation Area is approximately 30 miles south-then-west of Corvallis following Highway 99W and Alpine Road. This area is managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management and is a popular day use and camping destination. Alsea Falls easily makes our Seven Wonders list because of its popularity with both road cyclists and mountain bikers. Once you arrive, you’ll understand why.

The namesake destination, of course, is the Alsea Falls along the South Fork Alsea River. For you, however, the main attraction likely will be the heart-pounding up-and-down thrill ride along Alpine, and South Fork/Glenbrook roads. Make no mistake; this is not a leisurely family ride. Be prepared for a 1,000-foot climb over nearly 6 miles leading into the recreation area. Then enjoy a speedy roller coaster into the heart of the park.

Getting There

This ride can be as long as you choose. Select your start-finish location to match your distance, skill level, and schedule. The primary route south from the Corvallis-Philomath area is Bellfountain Road (map) just east of Philomath Middle School (map), avoiding high-traffic Highway 99W.

Using the middle school as a starting point, this route is approximately 53 miles. Along the way, you will face four categorized climbs, as determined by MapMyRide.com. Categorized climbs are rated by the degree of difficulty on a 1-5 scale, 5 being the least difficult.

There are two “Cat” 4s, one early in the ride and the other in the recreation area on the way back. There’s a Cat 5 on Bellfountain Road during your return as well. That 1,000-foot effort mentioned earlier is listed as a Category 3 climb. In all, there are 3,780 feet in elevation gain on this route.

If 50-plus miles and 3,780 feet are too much for your time or taste, consider parking in the midway towns of Bellfountain (map) or Alpine (map). That will shorten your distance and eliminate some of the climbing.

Once in Alpine, the scenic ride begins in earnest. Check your odometer; it’s 9 miles from here to the Alsea Falls Campground (map). You’ll follow Alpine Road west along farmland, meadows, and through wooded areas over gently rolling terrain. While there’s not much road shoulder along the way, low traffic and safe riding practices make this an enjoyable stretch.

Guided by a map or GPS, follow Alpine Road, bearing right on BLM South Fork Road / Glenbrook Road deep in the Alsea Falls Recreation Area. Once you’ve completed the big climb and savored the downhill, the road will run relatively flat and very straight. Ride for as long as you wish before deciding to stop, hydrate, eat and reverse course.

That wonderful downhill glide you enjoyed through the recreation area now becomes a slow-motion sightseeing trip through the forest on your way back. It’s in slow motion because there’s another 400+ feet to climb on this Category 4 hill. Once at the top, manage your speed as you descend down the big 1,000-foot drop.

Once out of the recreation area, enjoy the ride back to your vehicle.

Looking for mountain biking information? Try this web page detailing the non-motorized trail system along the South Fork Alsea Back Country Byway.

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