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Quartzville Road a gem of a bicycle ride.

Byline: Bicycling by John Aeby For The Register-Guard

ONLY THE SOUND of a cool, light breeze accompanied the magnificent view of Mount Jefferson glistening in the morning sun just a few miles to the east as cyclists on last year's Oregon Bicycle Ride paused to soak in the grand views from the Quartzville Back Country Byway.

The wonderfully scenic Quartzville Road - also known as FS (for Forest Service) 11 - winds its way west through 50 miles of remote territory between Marion Forks and Sweet Home.

Starting at Oregon Highway 22 south of Marion Forks, the Quartzville Road angles steeply upward in the first mile. The road continues to ascend, but has some refreshing descents as you work your way toward a summit 10 miles west of Highway 22.

For part of this climb I rode alongside Bill Martin, one the Oregon Bicycle Ride organizers, who said that the Quartzville Road is one of his favorite bicycling roads in Oregon. It's easy to see why.

The Quartzville Road is one of the most scenic stretches of lightly traveled road in Oregon. Because this road is basically a point-to-point route, riding it usually requires the help of someone who can drop you off at one end and pick you up at the other. Or you could incorporate the route in a longer tour.

After providing a good workout - climbing several ascents from 2,680 feet at Highway 22 to reach a maximum elevation of 4,200 feet - the road mostly descends over the next 40 miles to Foster Lake (elevation 550 feet).

The road winds alongside the jade green pools and sparkling cascades of Quartzville Creek on its way toward Green Peter Reservoir and Foster Lake.

The natural beauty of this remote part of Oregon nearly has eradicated signs of its colorful mining history. Second growth forest on private land is all that remains of the gold mining town of Quartzville, which used to occupy space alongside the road a few miles east of the Yellowbottom Camp Site.

In the latter half of the 1800s, as many as 1,000 people lived in this town named after the rock formations found in the gold mines. Within four years after the discovery of gold here, more than 500 mining claims had been established in the area.

What remained of the town was cleared away for logging during World War II.

The Quartzville Road is open usually from late May or early June, and it remains open until the snows of November. Sweet Home Ranger District staffers say this road is especially spectacular in late June when the rhododendrons bloom and in the fall when the leaves have turned into reds and yellows.

Don't expect to set any speed records on the long descent toward Sweet Home on Highway 20. The road is mostly narrow and sometimes rough.

With many blind corners, you have to approach turns as if a truck or an RV could be coming around just as you get there. Also watch out for fallen rocks that often litter the road.

Afternoon headwinds blowing east up the canyon can be formidable during the summer months. Though the road is mostly downhill, there are also several climbs, especially where the road curves around the various arms of Green Peter Reservoir.

Be well prepared as you take this ride, or have someone driving a support vehicle accompany you. There are no services between Marion Forks and Sweet Home, so you'll need the necessary repair supplies, food and water.

Although you could certainly ride this road starting at either the west end at Sweet Home or the east end at Marion Forks, it's certainly easier to take advantage of the long descent by traveling the westerly route.

Also, riding west ends the ride at Sweet Home where you'll find plenty of restaurants and services.

To get to the Quartzville Back Country Byway, go 3 miles south of Marion Forks on Highway 22 or 12.7 miles north of the Santiam Junction - the intersection of State Highway 22 and U.S. Highway 20. Quartzville Road FS 11 begins a little north of milepost 70.

Although this road appears on most Oregon road maps, few label it. The Willamette National Forest Map available at most outdoor stores has a more detailed view.

One option is to have your support vehicle drop you off at Marion Forks where there is a restaurant known for its homemade soups and prime rib. It's open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.

From Highway 22 you basically stay on the Quartzville Road all the way to Highway 20 just east of Sweet Home.

At Foster Lake just west of the entrance to Sunnyside Park, continue on Quartzville Road, taking the left road at the Y junction with North River Drive. This leads to Highway 20. Turning right will take you into Sweet Home, just a few miles down the road.

John Aeby, a Eugene-area freelance writer, can be reached at

John Aeby
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Title Annotation:Recreation
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 20, 2002
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