Northeast Washington, with Colville at its epicenter, is being discovered as a world-class road-biking destination. Spectacular mountain panoramas, bucolic valley landscapes, and miles of stunning lakeside vistas provide the backdrop for an endless variety of road cycling loops and challenging mountain climbs. Within 40 miles of Colville is a web of more than 650 miles of paved, lightly traveled rural roads. More than 150 miles of unparalleled cycling extends along the shoreline of the Columbia River and the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area. The region’s natural confluence of rivers, valleys, and mountain ranges made the Colville-Kettle Falls area a rendezvous point for Indian tribes, mountain men, fur traders, military forts, and settlers for generations. Today, cyclists find this scenic region particularly amenable to road cycling. You can get a glimpse of what the area has to offer at the Blazing Saddles Bike Ride sponsored by the Colville Rotary Club on September 17, 2016. While there are numerous loops and routes to explore, here are five rides to get you pedaling in the region.
Colville Loop: Introduce yourself to the area on the Colville Loop, a 35-mile loop around the city of Colville. Think “beltway” without any traffic. The quickest way to the loop is to take Oakshott 1 mile west out of Colville; however, you can access the loop on any road leaving town. The full loop is easily navigated by the following roads: Valley Westside, Spanish Prairie, Williams Lake, Douglas Falls, Knapp, Highway 20, Artman-Gibson, Arden Hill, and Skidmore. The roads are valley grade with rollers and some climbs. Pastoral views of ranches, meadows, and mountains dominate the entire loop. At no point on the loop are you more than 6 miles from downtown Colville, but from the scenery you would never know it. If the weather turns bad, cut your ride short and take a road back into town for a comfortable shorter loop. If you want more, extend the ride by taking Kitt-Narcisse east, or challenge yourself on “the burn,” the Gold Creek Loop just west of town. Explore the roads in “the basin” on the east flank of the Huckleberry Range southwest of town. Ride 15 miles or 50 miles; the ride possibilities are endless.
Gifford-Inchelium Ferry Loop: Start this 60-mile loop from Kettle Falls by heading south on Highway 25 overlooking the Columbia River on your right. Take the free ferry across Lake Roosevelt that leaves every half hour. Head north along the lake to the Kettle Falls bridge, soaking up the beauty along the way. Take advantage of National Park Service facilities along the entire loop. Increase the challenge and extend the loop to 75 miles by starting this ride in Colville and climbing over the Orin-Rice summit and then dropping down to the river.
Flat Creek Loop: Adventure cycling companies bring “guests” in from all over the world to ride this route. From Kettle Falls, head west on Highway 395 across the bridge and then north along the river. Take the first right turn onto sparsely traveled Northport-Flat Creek Road and solitarily ride through world-class scenery. When you hit Highway 25, head to Northport and then back to Kettle Falls along the east side of the river to complete the 68-mile river loop. This loop is incorporated into the Blazing Saddles 100-mile ride starting in Colville.
Onion Creek Loop: Starting from Colville, the metric century of the Blazing Saddles Bike ride heads around Colville Mountain, past Douglas Falls, and climbs up “six pack hill” to Onion Creek before heading down to the Columbia River and then back to Kettle Falls and Colville.
Huckleberry Climb Challenges: The Huckleberry Mountains lie between the Columbia River and the Colville River Valley. They offer four challenging “over the top” summit climbs: Orin-Rice, Addy-Gifford, Addy-Cedonia, and Hunters-Springdale. Want an epic challenge? Try all four climbs on the same day. Ride from Springdale to Hunters for the first climb, then Cedonia-Addy for the second. Head back over on Addy-Gifford for the third. Finally, head north to Rice and back east over Orin-Rice for the fourth climb. Coast down and get picked up in Colville (88 miles) or limp back to Springdale, having ridden 116 miles and climbed 7,700 feet. For those less motivated, any of these challenging climbs can be woven into multiple loop rides.
For more northeast Washington road biking route ideas and info, visit Colvelo.org. // (Dave McGrane)