Riding the Metolius Preserve with Brad Chalfant

Nov 05, 2013
Explore the trails from Camp Sherman to Suttle Lake via the Land Trust's Metolius Preserve with executive director, Brad Chalfant.

With the weather starting to cool, now is the time to get out for that last mountain bike ride. A great destination for late fall colors is a hike or ride to Suttle Lake through the Land Trust's Metolius Preserve. Recently, I made a weekend trip and headed to the trailhead on Forest Road 14 near Camp Sherman. With five cars in the parking lot, it seemed that many have discovered the Camp Sherman to Suttle Lake Trail. In reality, I came across only a handful of other hikers and bikers.  

The ride isn't long and is suitable for any intermediate rider, with the sections from Camp Sherman to Forest Road 12 suitable for young or beginner riders.  However, an encounter with a couple of lost hikers did underscore the fact that better signage could make the trails more user-friendly. With days growing short, it's best to ride/hike early in the day. To improve access, the Land Trust intends to build a new bridge over the Middle Fork of Lake Creek this fall and develop a more formal trail system in the coming year.

As I begin my ride west, the trail follows an old, double-track road though mature ponderosa pine and crosses onto the Land Trust's Metolius Preserve. Once on the Preserve, a trail marker directs cyclists to the left track and horses to the right. The trail runs for roughly a half mile to the North Fork Kiosk and then continues through a young pine forest before crossing back onto National Forest and merging with an old dirt road that parallels the North Fork of Lake Creek. After about 3/4 of a mile, the dirt road turns and I continue westward on a trail until it joins with paved Forest Road 12.

A short distance to the right, the trail picks up again and the grade steepens as it climbs for a mile before dropping down to Lake Creek where it crosses under the Highway 20 bridge. Most riders won't want to try riding under the bridge—the approach is rocky and the bridge clearance is limited. Under the bridge, you'll find a short climb and then the trail follows Lake Creek to the lodge at Suttle Lake, where you can pickup the trail around Suttle Lake. 

On my ride the lake trail was nearly empty, with only a couple of folks out for a casual walk and a few boats on the water. The ride around the lake is about 3 miles, after which I returned down the trail towards the Metolius Preserve. For a shorter ride, one could simply stop at the lodge and enjoy the view from there before reversing directions and heading downhill.  

Once back on the Preserve, I decide to take a short detour across a footbridge over the North Fork of Lake Creek.  Across the creek, the trail enters a meadow with larch trees, glowing golden in the late fall sun. The trail then intersects an old, double-track logging road. With shadows starting to lengthen, I turn left and ride for half a mile back onto National Forest, where I wind through dense, old-growth forest.  Aside from one large log across the old road, the trail is clear and, in a short distance, crosses back over the North Fork of Lake Creek on a wooden footbridge before rejoining the Camp Sherman to Suttle Lake Trail. Turning right a quick mile brought me back to my car and a now empty parking area.

The trail from Forest Road 14 to Suttle Lake is on of my go-to favorites for fall. And, with continued support from the community, the Metolius Preserve has the potential to become an ideal destination for families in the Camp Sherman/Black Butte Ranch area looking for a safe, enjoyable place to ride and experience the beauty of the Metolius Basin.

Check out a map of our Metolius Preserve and Lake Creek Trail here.