Columbia Ridge Loop

There’s no such thing as Columbia Ridge, but if you look at a topographic map there is a (backwards) C-shaped ridge wrapping around the east side of Columbia. Big Hill Road zig-zags up the middle of the C. This bike ride is notable for the perspective it gives of the area. The views gradually evolve from the southwest to the east to the north and then back to the west as you work around the loop, and on a clear day the views are great. This is a combination of the first halves of the Covington/Big Hill and Yankee Hill/Five Mile Creek rides–see those posts for additional details and caveats about steep climbs.

This ride anticipates riding on gravel, so I’ve changed the route to Covington Road to use a more interesting gravel connection from Parrotts Ferry Road to Columbia College.

Howser Lane at Parrotts Ferry Road

Starting in Columbia, head south on Parrotts Ferry Road for about 0.5 miles and turn left at Howser Lane where the “Howser Lane” street sign used to be. Street signs come and go, but so far the Leti’s Fruit Stand sign lives on. Turn left at the narrow road adjacent to Leti’s former fruit stand and climb on alternating pavement and gravel to the Columbia College emergency egress gate.

Columbia College emergency exit gate

Go around the gate to ride the paved road, and go around the next gate to the Columbia College Oak Pavillion (domed building). The electronic gate will open as you ride up (slowly). Turn left and then a quick right to follow the main College access road out of the campus to Sawmill Flat Road. Turn left onto Sawmill Flat and then a quick right onto Covington Road.

Ride up Covington as per the previous post. The loop on the map uses the dirt option around the west side of Telegraph Peak. At Big Hill Road turn right and ride east to the end of the Hatler Mill, the expansive former lumber mill on the north side at the top of Big Hill Road. Turn left at the wide gravel road opening with many mailboxes and watch for signs for Five Mile Creek Road.

This area is visually challenging with dirt/gravel roads and driveways branching off in all directions. Two important facts will get you through: all the other roads are private roads or driveways, and Five Mile Creek Road is always the downhill option. After a short stretch you’ll be on a steep gravel descent on Five Mile Creek Road–watch out for moderate washboarding especially in the late summer. After a level stretch and another steep descent, watch for Yankee Hill Road doubling back on the left (no sign).

Yankee Hill bear prints

The rest of the ride continues as the Yankee Hill/Five Mile Creek loop, backwards. The only real chance of going off the loop is missing Cattle Drive Trail when descending on the paved section of Yankee Hill Road. If that happens, just continue down the hill to return via Yankee Hill. Yankee Hill Road is very narrow, so watch for cars coming up.

I’ve been running into bears lately: one last month on Cattle Drive Trail on a night ride and a mother with two cubs up by Beardsley Lake a couple of weeks ago. All were good bears that ran away, but I didn’t wait up to chat with the mama bear. These prints are from Yankee Hill Road out over the river canyon.

Download file to view the ride on the Google Earth bike map
Download or update Google Earth for free:
Get help with using Google Earth to view the map file
Download the .gpx file for the loop if you want to upload it to a GPS

  • Downside—Steep to extremely steep climbing along exposed ridge, rough pavement, gravel and dirt, navigating on  lightly traveled and seemingly remote roads, may not work out in winter weather.
  • Upside—Short loop and an intense workout, never gets terribly far from civilization, great views.
  • 14.6 miles, approximately 2,800 feet total climb, 7 miles dirt/gravel.
  • roads: paved, gravel, dirt.
  • terrain: moderate to extremely steep.
  • tires: road to cross to mountain.
  • seasons: All but winter.
  • current weather
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