10% Paved

32% Dirt road

58% Singletrack

Percent rideable: Unknown

Longest stretch between resupply: 95 miles, 3-4 days

Longest stretch between water sources: 45 miles, 2 days

Physical difficulty: 9/10

Technical difficulty: 7/10

Bikepacking challenge: Advanced


The Oregon Timber Trail aptly starts in the middle of nowhere on the California border. You’ll leave Oregon’s highest town and traverse the 150 mile Fremont National Recreation Trail. You’ll be rewarded with the stunning views from Winter Rim, a feast at the legendary Cowboy Dinner Tree, and have the opportunity to stay at a number of primitive fire lookouts. 

The Fremont Tier is one of the most challenging Tiers but also one of the most rewarding. Services are few and far between but the landscapes you’ll pass through are unparalleled in the state. 15,000 years ago, much of the low basin range country and alkali lakes were part of a giant inland sea teeming with wildlife. North America’s first settlers lived on the shores of this vast body of water, living off the cornucopia of aquatic life. 

Today the sea has dried up and its floor dried out. The mountains are buried in snow each winter, feeding the gurgling small rivers and streams that meander out into what is now ranchland. 

You’ll crest the highest point of the whole route at 8,200 feet shortly after starting and continue along ridgelines of ponderosas, rock and dry grassland. Nearby peaks offer rentable fire lookouts like Drake Peak, Currier Guard Station, Bald Butte, Fremont Point and Hager Mountain. The valleys are punctuated by trout streams, bird life, and even some relaxing hot springs. 

Highlights

Lily and Cave Lake - The southern tip of the route begins at these two idyllic alpine lakes

Crane Mountain - The highest elevation on the OTT at 8,200 feet

Fremont National Recreation Trail - a lightly-used and stunningly scenic trail spanning south-central Oregon

Round Mountain - Open ridgeline riding with views of prehistoric lake beds and Gearhart Mountain

Chewaucan Valley - A small vivacious trout stream draining from the forests of the Fremont National Forest

Winter Rim - A 3,000 foot east-facing escarpment with a stunning rim trail

Summer Lake Hot Springs - Relax in the warm mineral waters and historic ranch buildings

Cowboy Dinner Tree - Legendary backwoods diner

Silver Lake resupply - Quiet plains town of Silver Lake for supplies

Rentable forest service lookouts - Reserve a night or two at one of six Forest Service cabins and lookouts near the route.  

Moss Pass © Leslie Kehmeier

Moss Pass © Leslie Kehmeier

Logistics

Getting to the southern terminus can be somewhat of a hurdle (see the “Getting There” section in the Route Guide PDF). 

The Fremont Tier is certainly the most remote of the whole Timber Trail. Trails may difficult to navigate and daily mileage may be slower than anticipated. This, combined with the minimal resupply points, means riders should be extra judicious when meal and water planning. The first 90 miles are remote and without services. There will be only two obvious bail points. 

There are several long (~50 mile) sections without water, and the existing water sources are small intermittent springs. The quality and reliability of these are unknown. Check OregonTimberTrail.org for more current updates throughout the season. 

The only supply points are in Lakeview, Paisley (7 miles off route at mile 89), Silver Lake (Mile 150), and Chemult (Mile 200). 

Due to beetle kill and fires, many trees have fallen, blocking several segments of the the Fremont Tier. Be ready to re-route and create your own detours near Indian Ridge

Trail & Forest info

Fremont–Winema National Forest - (541) 947-2151

Recommended maps

USGS Topographical Quadrants available at USGS.gov

Fremont-Winema/Upper Klamath Basin - 1/2”, 2006

Bike shops

Zach’s Bikes, Klamath Falls, OR - (541) 851-9200

Nearest medical facilities

Lake Health District
700 S. J St. | Lakeview, OR 97630 | (541) 947-2114

Sky Lakes Medical Center
2865 Daggett Ave. | Klamath Falls, OR 97601 | (541) 882-6311

St. Charles Medical Center
2500 NE Neff Road | Bend, OR 97701 | (541) 382-4321 

Fremont National Forest © Leslie Kehmeier

Fremont National Forest © Leslie Kehmeier


BASIN AND RANGE

Segment 1 of 10 - Lily Lake to the Chewaucan Valley

Goose Lake from Crane Mountain © Leslie Kehmeier

Goose Lake from Crane Mountain © Leslie Kehmeier

Segment length: 88 miles

Total climbing: +11,679 feet

Number of days: 3-4

9% Paved

15% Dirt road

76% Singletrack

Percent Rideable: Unknown

Physical difficulty: 9/10

Technical difficulty: 6/10

Bikepacking challenge: Advanced

Longest stretch between resupply: 95 miles , 3-4 days

Longest stretch between water sources: 45 miles , 2 days

 

Resupplies

Mile 0: Lakeview (before starting) - Full services, Safeway

Mile 90: Paisley (7 miles off route) - Limited services, Paisley Mercantile, Pioneer Saloon, Homestead Cafe

Commercial Lodging

Mile 0 - Honker Inn Lodge

Mile 26 - Squirelville lodge

Mile 63 - Willow Springs Guest Ranch

Mile 90 - Paisley Sage Rooms

 

The Oregon Timber Trail and the Fremont Tier begin high up in the Warner Mountains quite near the tri-state corner of California, Nevada and Oregon. You’ll crest 8,300 feet in the first 15 miles—the highest point on the whole route as you work your way north along exposed, rocky ridgelines. Mount Shasta will be viewable in the distance across vast plains and valleys to the south, and the snowy tips of the Three Sisters to the north will start poking from the horizon. The Basin and Range segment deals a healthy dose of ups and downs giving riders an appreciation for the geologic forces that shaped this landscape. It also lends a glimpse into Oregon’s rich ranching history and how settlers and modern farmers manifest their livelihood. 

The forest here is dry, high elevation and sparse. Be on the lookout for migrating birds, deer and pronghorn antelope. Groves of quaking aspen line seasonal streams and ring freshwater springs. Ponderosa stands grace the flanks of ridgelines and deposit thick needle beds on the forest floor. 

Leaving the southern tip at Lily Lake the route climbs for about three miles on forest roads before turning into faint trail rolling up and down over Crane Mountain. The first semi-reliable water source, Camas Creek, lies at mile 27 but if you detour to the east off of Crane Mountain at mile 12 on NF4011, Willow Creek Campground is a nice primitive campground with vault toilets and a mountain stream. Rejoin the route by following NF3915 to Rogger Meadows. At mile 26, just before crossing the Warner Highway there’s the rustic Squirrelville Lodge, available to rent. 

After crossing Warner Highway and a short climb you can choose to stay on the ridge route or detour towards Bull Prairie and Drake Peak. A few miles off the route on NF3615 you’ll find Mud Spring Campground with potable water and toilets. Nearby is the rentable Aspen Cabin; or the really adventurous can climb to Drake Peak Lookout (rent in advance). From here, follow Crooked Creek for a 7 mile descent back to relative civilization on Highway 395. Don’t forget to fill up on water before you leave Crooked Creek, the next reliable water is a long 45-miles at the Chewaucan River. 

Ride south for about 3 miles on Highway 395, and then turn north once again and climb to reach Cox Pass Trailhead, Moss Pass, Round Mountain and the spectacular ridgeline to Morgan Butte. At mile 63 there’s an optional detour to Willow Springs Guest Ranch and a potential spring at the abandoned Counts Ranch. A final 10 mile scenic descent off Morgan Butte drops you at the Chewaucan River and the end of the Basin and Range segment. A short, flat 7-miles away lies the first resupply on the route: Paisley. A lively tavern, diner, coffee stand and small grocery store offer up good conversation and warm meals. The city hosts a Mosquito Festival on the last weekend of July, so plan your trip accordingly!

 


WINTER RIM

Segment 2 of 10 - Chewaucan Valley to Silver Lake

Winter Rim at Currier Springs © Gabriel Amadeus

Winter Rim at Currier Springs © Gabriel Amadeus

Segment length: 62 miles

Total climbing: +5,258 feet

Number of days: 2-4

14% Paved 

6% Dirt road 

80% Singletrack

Percent rideable: Unknown

Physical difficulty: 9/10

Technical difficulty: 8/10

Bikepacking challenge: Advanced

Longest stretch between resupply: 69 miles , 2-4 days

Longest stretch between water sources: 45 miles , 2-3 days

 

Resupplies

Mile 90: Paisley (7 miles off route) - Limited services: Paisley Mercantile, Pioneer Saloon, Homestead Cafe

Mile 145: Cowboy Dinner Tree (reservations required) 

Mile 150: Silver Lake - Limited services: Silver Lake Mercantile & Motel, Silver Lake Café and Bar

Commercial Lodging

Mile 90 - Paisley Sage Rooms

Mile 145 - Cowboy Dinner Tree Cabins

Mile 150 - Silver Lake Motel

Winter Rim is the gem of the Fremont Tier. The Fremont National Recreation Trail follows the edge of the dramatic rim as it drops 3,000 feet to the Summer Lake Valley below. General John C. Fremont wrote of the landmark in his journal, and subsequently named it on his expedition through the state over 150 years ago: 

“At our feet–more than a thousand feet[sic] below–we looked into a green prairie country, in which a beautiful lake, some twenty miles in length, was spread along the foot of the mountains, its shores bordered with green grass. Just then the sun broke out among the clouds, and illuminated the country below; while around us the storm raged fiercely.”  

- Captain John C. Fremont’s expedition on Winter Rim. December 16th, 1844

But Fremont’s discovery of the area is quite tardy when put in context—the oldest DNA evidence of human habitation in North America was found in that same Summer Lake Basin where early generations of the first Americans camped in caves on the shores of a giant inland sea some 14,300 years ago.  

© Gabriel Amadeus

© Gabriel Amadeus

Distinct north-south topographic features such as Winter Rim serve as important routes for migrating birds. And indeed, with the Klamath basin, Sycan Marsh, and Malheur Marshes to the west and east Winter Rim lies smack dab in the midst of a migrant bird mecca. Keep your eyes on the sky looking for waterfowl, golden eagles, hawks and even owls and accipiters in the open pine forests. 

The Fremont National Recreation Trail follows a scenic path along the rim and through the forest. It’s only 62 miles, but it’s a rugged segment, expect to detour and/or wayfind frequently along Winter Rim. As you leave the Chewaucan River and begin the Winter Rim segment water sources will become quite scarce and no food resupply will be available until Silver Lake. 

DETOUR(S) NOTE: Consider detouring through Paisley, north along Highway 31 to Summer Lake Hot Springs, and then up the face of Winter Rim on NF29 to Government Harvey Pass where you can rejoin the Oregon Timber Trail route. At the north end of Winter Rim, Indian Rim is a section currently quite impassable, consider detouring off the Fremont National Recreation Trail onto NF2914 towards Hager Mountain and Farm Well Trailhead. 

Summer Lake Hot Springs © Gabriel Amadeus

Summer Lake Hot Springs © Gabriel Amadeus

If you choose to adhere to the official Oregon Timber Trail route you’ll leave the Chewaucan Valley steeply at first, then gradually gain 2,500 feet over 10 miles as you climb to Government Harvey Pass and Winter Rim along the Bear Creek drainage. A very important water resupply is at Currier Spring (Mile 104) with a slight detour to the west. Currier Spring is the only reliable water source on the Winter Rim segment, a distance of 62 miles between the Chewaucan River and Silver Lake.

The next twelve miles may be some of the most scenic—and frustratingly slow—on the whole route. The Fremont National Recreation Trail follows the rim to Fremont Point and beyond, but is difficult and ponderous to follow. Most of the downed trees have been cut out by Oregon Timber Trail Alliance stewardship crews, but the trail is overgrown and wayfinding done by following large cairns. The trail consists of large chunky babyheads, making forward progress slower than expected. This entire area is in a period of rejuvenation, tread lightly and be aware of the new sensitive growth reestablishing itself after the fire. 

Fremont Point hosts a reservable cabin, toilet, and small picnic area. And, of course, views of a huge swath of southeastern Oregon. After another eight miles of meandering along the rim, the Fremont National Recreation Trail veers westward away from Summer Lake and gradually descends to Farm Wells Campground, eleven miles away. Before segment two is finished, you climb again, up the flank of Hager Mountain and down to NF28. 

You can detour up to the peak of Hager Mountain (7,200 feet) at mile 138.5 for some spectacular 360º views and a reservable fire lookout. Once you hit NF 28 Silver Lake’s small store is a fast nine (paved) miles away, but don’t forget to make reservations at Cowboy Dinner Tree outside of town—their 30oz steak dinners are legendary. 

Cowboy Dinner Tree © Gabriel Amadeus

Cowboy Dinner Tree © Gabriel Amadeus


MAZAMA BLOWOUT

Segment 3 of 10 - Silver Lake to Chemult

Night sky © Leslie Kehmeier

Night sky © Leslie Kehmeier

Segment length: 51 miles

Total climbing: +2,100 feet

Number of days: 1-2

6% Paved

94% Dirt road

0% Singletrack

100% Rideable

Physical difficulty: 3/10

Technical difficulty: 3/10

Bikepacking challenge: Intermediate 

Longest stretch between resupply: 51 miles, 1-2 days

Longest stretch between water sources: 40 miles, 1-2 days

 

Resupplies

Mile 150: Silver Lake - Limited services: Silver Lake Mercantile & Motel, Silver Lake Café and Bar

Mile 201: Chemult - Full services: several large gas stations and markets

Commercial Lodging

Mile 150 - Silver Lake Motel

Mile 201: Chemult - Several motels and lodges

This Mazama Blowout segment is a welcome relief after the steep, rugged terrain of the Fremont National Recreation Trail. It leaves a resupply in Silver Lake and follows flat, dusty pumice roads through the sparse Winema Forest to the Fremont Tier’s terminus in Chemult. 

The most distinct change in landscape you’ll notice here is the prevalent red rock lining the roads and forest floor. These millions of acres of pumice scattered through the forest used to lay deep under the earth where Crater Lake now sits. About 7,700 years ago Mount Mazama blew up and the resulting debris field covered a huge swath of central Oregon. Today it’s covered in giant ponderosas and a network of quiet red roads.

This segment is probably the easiest riding on the entire Oregon Timber Trail. It doesn’t feature any singletrack or epic vistas, but serves as an important connector between the Fremont Tier and the Willamette Tier. It leaves the Silver Lake basin and climbs gradually on mellow sand and gravel roads. The forest is open and sparse, providing many good dispersed camping options. Surveyor Spring (Mile 186) is a decent campsite and may have some water, but for the most part, water is scarce after a few creek crossings just outside of Silver Lake. 

The ambitious rider may want to get breakfast at the store in Silver Lake and knock out the full segment to Chemult in one day where you can rent a hotel room, or grab some cold beverages and relax at Walt Haring Campground less than a mile out of town. 

Continue on your journey to the Willamette Tier...