The Mt Hood Express bus costs $2 and taking your bike along is free. There is a bike rack in the front that holds 2 bikes, and during the summer months there is a trailer on the back that holds a dozen bikes. Nevertheless, I folded my bike up and put it in the seat next to me because I can. On the one hour ride up the mountain, we stopped in Rhododendron, where we picked up about 6 mt bikers and their bikes. The idea is that you get the bus ride to Timberline and then ride down various trails all the way to Rhododendron, where you can stop at the Dairy Queen, and then do it all again.
The lake itself is in an unspoiled area of the forest that has never been logged or developed, where towering stands of fir, cedar, and hemlock dominate the area. But it is not (yet) designated as wilderness. That means that you can ride your bike to the lake! I suggest you do so before it gets the wilderness designation it deserves.
Following my planned loop route, I got a slab of pizza and a caffeinated drink from the general store at Government Camp, and headed east on 26. The Old Barlow route at mile 3 is paved, and a nice 3 mile alternative to the busy highway. Arriving at Bennet Pass turnoff, I rode to the far end of the lot to start my ride up the dirt Bennet pass road.
|The Bennett Pass snopark. With pit toilet. The dirt road is just beyond.|
|Narrow gravel road works it's way along a ridgeline with expansive views of Mt Hood|
|This narrow cliffhanger of a road sees little use. |
You need to be rather brave to drive your 4WD on it
The road becomes quite narrow and off camber at spots, with yawning chasm off the side here and there. It is used as a ski route in the winter, and has earned the moniker of the Terrible Traverse.
|Bonny Meadows campground. Trees, creek, tables. Nobody was there on this perfect late June weekday.|
|The start of the 2 1/2 mile trail from Bonny Meadows to the lake. |
Yes, bikes are allowed, just not the ones with motors.
|Windfall trees were very frequent.|
I spent a lot of time lugging my bike over obstacles, or doing hike-a-bike over jumbles of rocks. I was able to ride perhaps half of the distance, which was all downhill. This trail is best with a bikepacking setup. Panniers would make it harder to heave the bike over the frequent windfall tree trunks.
I was alone at the lake on this perfect weekday. It has about 8 primitive camp spots. I suppose it gets more use on the weekend. There is a dirt road leading to it, which ends at a trail on its east side. But the 1 mile of trail hiking reduces the numbers of those who would otherwise visit it.
Leaving the lake the next morning along the trail on the east side, I reached gravel road 4880. Turning right on 4881 (signed: To Hwy 35) pavement resumed for the rest of the route.
|Mt Hood forest has lots of narrow paved roads like this one.|