County Loop: Benton Oregon

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County Loop

Benton, Oregon

It may be autumn, but I've enjoyed many days of high pressure happiness in November with little rain, thus a ride is in order. If it's sunny and you live in Oregon, or want to take a little trip near Corvallis, come hither and we will reveal a mighty county loop for you to enjoy.

We'd heard the legend of a grand road in the middle of the Coastal Range called Lobster Valley Road (LVR). Eventually we got a chance to check it out.

Oh MY! Too much fun. But it turns out there are several other fantastic roads that flank it.

Just west of Corvallis lies Philomath. Ride south to the sleepy intersection/township of Alpine, then head west on Alpine Road and keep right onto your first slab of pleasure, South Fork Alsea Access Road, more commonly known as BLM 14-6-34.1 among the Bureau of Land Management circles. Here is a work of art in the form of a one-lane magic carpet ride through the trees to Alsea Falls. The beginning of the roller coaster ride is taking shape early on and it's not going to end anytime soon. If you plan to see Alsea Falls while you're here, you'll need to follow North Access Road to the campground and pay a day use fee which will be posted. Then you'll have to walk over to the falls just to the north.

From here, continue west, then north until you're almost at Alsea. The road widens, opening up a bit before you make a left onto the second road, the Alsea-Deadwood Highway.

The Alsea-Deadwood Highway gives you a glimpse of what's ahead, taking you over a ridge and down the other side through a series of twisties needed to make the elevation drop, but even with them, the grade is still a steep six-to-eight degrees. A little extra braking is required, but you can help that by rolling off the throttle in a low gear and creating some high rpm compression with your right hand. When you reach the bottom, follow the road west and keep right at the junction with Hazel Glen Road. Ride past the cemetery, then at the junction with Deadwood Road and Lobster Valley Road, turn right onto LVR.

Here the road follows Lobster Creek. It's likely this road began life as a dirt or gravel thoroughfare and eventually earned its paved coating. It's one of the most fun roads we know of in Oregon, heightening an already 20-plus miles of performance riding. The hits just keep on coming as you meander through the valley in search of the epic giant lobster that must live around here somewhere. Now is not the time to be replaying the John Waters' movie, Multiple Maniacs, in your head. Even the one-lane sections are too much fun. Eventually the road will dump you out onto Five Rivers Road.

to download a free printable map with turn by turn directions.
to download a universal GPX file for your GPS.

Continue north up Five Rivers to the end of the ride where the road junctions with SR 34. If you want to have a bit more fun, you can turn left over the bridge and ride 5.7 miles south on Five Rivers Road to Fisher, where you will find the Fisher School Covered Bridge, a well-maintained covered bridge that is painted a nice barn red rather than the white that is so common elsewhere. And yes, you can ride through this one.

At SR 34, turn right and ride back toward Philomath. The road follows the Alsea River and dishes out some nice corners. Past Alsea, you'll gain elevation. Keep an eye out for the signs that will lead you to Mary's Peak. Turn left and ride 10 miles up to the peak. Be advised, this road is only open if it's snow free.

Mary's Peak is the highest paved road in the Oregon Coastal Range. Up here is a grand view looking east across the Willamette Valley to the Cascades Range, and you'll see all the big volcanic boys like Mt. Hood, Jefferson and Bachelor to name a few.

Ride the 10 miles back down, hang a left on SR 34 and ride back to Philomath. You'll get one more tight set of twisties just to the north before the roads smoothes out and brings you into town.

Tom Mehren/Fall 2011

Tom Mehren is the publisher of Sound RIDER! and author of the numerous books including the upcoming, Motorcycling through Western Oregon.

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