Gifford Gravel 50

A rider heads into the fog during the Gifford Gravel 50 in 2018.

Seasoned mountain bikers will be taking to the trails June 2 for The Gifford Gravel 50, a route that starts in downtown Yacolt. The roughly 55-mile journey is mainly through Gifford Pinchot National Forest and includes 8,000 feet of climbing. The free ride takes about six to ten hours.

Todd Shank, the founder of Gifford Gravel, said one of the route’s primary appeals is the views riders see along the way. 

“On a clear day, typically when the route starts off you’ll see Mount St. Helens,” he said. “After you’ve climbed 20 miles out of Yacolt you will continue to see the volcanoes start to appear. As this route traverses across parts of Gifford Pinchot National Forest you would see Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, Mount Hood, and Mount Jefferson.” 

While this is a ride full of beautiful sights, Shank is quick to remind riders that it’s not an easy one.

“On this route, the gravel roads are not necessarily maintained by anybody but Mother Nature. These roads will sometimes puncture tires, they will bend rims, things have happened in the past,” he said, adding that one year a single rider had seven flats. 

Preparing for the grind 

Being in the middle of nowhere goes hand in hand with losing cell phone reception so Shank wants to make sure all his riders are prepared.

“Always have a plan B and have paper maps, that’s the biggest thing I can say,” said. “There is no cell phone service, none, for most of the ride. Paper maps are perfect because all the roads are listed.”

Due to the roads not being maintained, riders must be sure their bike can handle extreme conditions. Shank said it’s important that riders know how to fix flat tires on their bike or a broken chain. People do occasionally fall off their bikes and get scrapes, but there haven’t been any major injuries since Gifford Gravel 50 started in 2015. 

“This is self-supported and you are responsible for yourself,”  he said. “This is why we do group rides and this is why no one is left behind on these rides. The biggest factor is making sure everyone has a friend to ride with, it’s not fun without someone there beside you.”

Although the group encourages new riders to join, Shank warns that this route, which consists of climbing for the first 17 miles, is not for the faint of heart and will not make a great family outing with the kids. Riders should have a few years under their belt before they decide to undertake it. 

“This is certainly not a ride for anyone that spends most of their time riding bike trails that have no elevation gain,” Shank said.

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(5) comments


The start of the ride has been moved to Sunset Falls CG. Please refer to Facebook for updates. Thanks!


Saturday June 1, 2019 @ 8:00am
The date in the print edition and online are wrong.

The Reflector News Department

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. The story has been updated.


Thanks again! Just so folks know who are reading this story and the person who wanted to write a novel about mountain biking, no soft surface trails are used for this ride. The ride is on roads(albeit unmaintained) that are also open to motor vehicle traffic. If you don't know what you are talking about, I'd suggest keeping your comments to yourself. If you want to come out and ride with us, just show up on 6/1/19 @ 0800 to start. Thanks.


Bicycles should not be allowed in any natural area. They are inanimate objects and have no rights. There is also no right to mountain bike. That was settled in federal court in 1996: . It's dishonest of mountain bikers to say that they don't have access to trails closed to bikes. They have EXACTLY the same access as everyone else -- ON FOOT! Why isn't that good enough for mountain bikers? They are all capable of walking....

A favorite myth of mountain bikers is that mountain biking is no more harmful to wildlife, people, and the environment than hiking, and that science supports that view. Of course, it's not true. To settle the matter once and for all, I read all of the research they cited, and wrote a review of the research on mountain biking impacts (see ). I found that of the seven studies they cited, (1) all were written by mountain bikers, and (2) in every case, the authors misinterpreted their own data, in order to come to the conclusion that they favored. They also studiously avoided mentioning another scientific study (Wisdom et al) which did not favor mountain biking, and came to the opposite conclusions.

Mountain bikers also love to build new trails - legally or illegally. Of course, trail-building destroys wildlife habitat - not just in the trail bed, but in a wide swath to both sides of the trail! E.g. grizzlies can hear a human from one mile away, and smell us from 5 miles away. Thus, a 10-mile trail represents 100 square miles of destroyed or degraded habitat, that animals are inhibited from using. Mountain biking, trail building, and trail maintenance all increase the number of people in the park, thereby preventing the animals' full use of their habitat. See for details.

Mountain biking accelerates erosion, creates V-shaped ruts, kills small animals and plants on and next to the trail, drives wildlife and other trail users out of the area, and, worst of all, teaches kids that the rough treatment of nature is okay (it's NOT!). What's good about THAT?

To see exactly what harm mountain biking does to the land, watch this 5-minute video:

In addition to all of this, it is extremely dangerous: .

For more information: .

The common thread among those who want more recreation in our parks is total ignorance about and disinterest in the wildlife whose homes these parks are. Yes, if humans are the only beings that matter, it is simply a conflict among humans (but even then, allowing bikes on trails harms the MAJORITY of park users -- hikers and equestrians -- who can no longer safely and peacefully enjoy their parks).

The parks aren't gymnasiums or racetracks or even human playgrounds. They are WILDLIFE HABITAT, which is precisely why they are attractive to humans. Activities such as mountain biking, that destroy habitat, violate the charter of the parks.

Even kayaking and rafting, which give humans access to the entirety of a water body, prevent the wildlife that live there from making full use of their habitat, and should not be allowed. Of course those who think that only humans matter won't understand what I am talking about -- an indication of the sad state of our culture and educational system.

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