Windy Ridge via FS 26
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  1. #1
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    Windy Ridge via FS 26

    After reading about this road for several years I saw that the washouts were fixed, confirmed by calling the RS, so we headed down to Randle to ride it. Since it takes 2-1/2+ hours depending on traffic to drive down from Seattle we decided to get a room in Randle and drove down Saturday (7/20). Probably not a choice I'd make again, I'd either get a room in Packwood since they have better accommodations or drive down early in the morning.

    A bit of a rough nights sleep due to lack of AC and intermittent truck traffic all night got us going later than we would have preferred. Dropped my partner off at the turnoff for FS 26 at 9ish and drove to the Iron Creek picnic area to park before heading out around 35 minutes behind her. We climb at different speeds so this is our usual tactic. The road climbs immediately from the FS 26 turnoff as you leave FS 25. I got passed by a car that turned around by another parked car half a mile in, I only saw two more cars until the Norway Pass TH parking lot, this is definitely a low traffic road.

    There are quite a few short gravels sections and some rough pavement so beware on the downhill sections. The road climbs steadily and sometimes steeply for close to 16 miles, my altimeter said 3,000' gained by the time we got to FS 99 for the final leg to Windy Ridge. I caught my partner just before Norway pass where there are two steep ramps well into the double digit gradient.

    The Norway Pass TH has water that is both cool and tastes good.

    Once on FS 99 it's up and down with spectacular views of 4 Cascade volcanoes that we could see. Save energy because there are several climbs on the way back to FS 25 to make a loop of it. We last rode FS 25 to 99 as an out and back 6 years ago both roads are in worse condition than then. FS 99 has lots of short gravel sections and FS 25 requires caution on the decent. My partner hit a gravel section at almost full speed and was lucky not to go down.

    It was a hot day, car thermometer said 90F in Randle when we stopped there, so we were cooked and happy to get back to the car.

    All in all it's a pleasant ride but it is remote so I'm not sure I'd recommend it to anyone who might feel vulnerable and carrying a tool of some sort is probably wise. The best part of the ride is the part on FS 99 IMO, its up and down with spectacular views.

    I did see a deer with two young ones and an owl so that was pretty cool.
    Last edited by SBKron; 07-22-2019 at 11:12 AM.

  2. #2
    hfc
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    There is some great riding around there. I rode a 6 day tour over July 4 week this year with some friends. We did Randle to Trout Lake via NF 23 over Babyshoe Pass. I remember seeing Windy Ridge signs. That was about a 70 mile day, probably close to half of it gravel. The paved stretch before the real climbing started was dream like with beautiful trees, nice and cool, smooth pavement. We stayed at the Tall Timber Lodge in Randle and it was nice enough, has a restaurant attached. It was cool and drizzly so didnít check to see if any AC. Iíd love to go back and check out your route.

  3. #3
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    We wanted to stay at the Tall Timber but we only decided to go at the last minute and they only had one smoking room left.
    Gravel bikes would be great in this area, something we've been thinking about but with limited storage space in our small home it'll probably have to wait.
    This area is a haul for us from Seattle and usually if we are going to drive that long we prefer the Methow Valley which also had great backroads and a lot of gravel roads. One ride we have done is the Mt. Adams Country Bike Tour. One of the loops is on paved Forest Service roads and is/was fantastic. There is a large washout that is apparently currently not even passable by walking but is expected to be repaired next year. Once it's repaired we'll likely go do this ride again, really pretty country.
    That sounds like a great ride you did. An acquaintance I talk to at my gym did something similar, they even had a van with them and they would alternate driving sag so they didn't have to carry their gear.

  4. #4
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    That ride is one of my Bikeit list rides. Of course that list is getting ever so much bigger as time goes by. At this time I will have to live to be about 200 years old to make the rides I want.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by 80turbota View Post
    That ride is one of my Bikeit list rides. Of course that list is getting ever so much bigger as time goes by. At this time I will have to live to be about 200 years old to make the rides I want.
    This guy has put together a bucket list for Oregon and California, he doesn't think much of Washington rides. I've ridden 4 off of his "Best of" list and they are all stunners. There are several more that I want to incorporate into vacations in the future but the driving distances make it hard.

    Home Page - Jay's Essential Bike Rides

    I think he is right that Washington doesn't have a lot of rides that cover the things he covets; scenery, low traffic and varied climbing. The Windy Ridge loop might be one that would.

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