The fragrance of flowering pear blossoms coupled with the lush, green foothills are one of the best treasures in the state of Jefferson, and a bike ride through the orchards in early April with thousands of pear trees in bloom is a visual symphony.
Every year my wife, Barb, and I look forward to cycling through the pear orchards when they are transformed into a white, fairy-tale landscape. It is our annual rite of spring. We have different cycling routes along the east and west sides of the valley. Each ride offers magnificent views and breathtaking scenery.
Along the east side, our favorite loop is the Bear Creek Greenway to Lynn Newbry Park, then we take Valley View Road across I-5 to Suncrest Road where the orchards begin their march east to the foothills. Traffic is very light on this road, which winds through the orchards, so it is a quiet, soothing ride. You cycle through a pastoral wonderland where white blossoms sparkle in the sunlight and the Payne Cliffs provide a dramatic backdrop. Yellow dandelions sprouting between the tree rows provide a splash of vibrant color.
On Suncrest, we turn right on Royal Crest Road and ride up a slight grade that has spectacular views of orchards and the Talent foothills to the west. To the east are more orchards and white-fenced horse ranches. Then we go left on Hughes Road, which intersects with Payne Road.
There is a short, but very steep climb from Hughes Road up Payne Road. Stop at the crest and admire the view, as it is one of the best in the Rogue Valley. You can see thousands of acres of white-flowering pear orchards stretching to the horizon, with Wagner Butte and Mount Ashland in the background. It is a staggering vista. Then you are treated to a screaming downhill ride on Payne Road, followed by a short climb to another magnificent view from a spot with a 270-degree panorama. Linger here and look north, east and south across a flowing ocean of blossoms, backdropped by emerald foothills. Then it’s a nice downhill ride to Suncrest Road.
Here you have a choice. You can turn right and complete the loop back to the Greenway or turn left and stop at Paschal Winery on Suncrest Road. At the winery you can enjoy a glass of wine from the deck, with a sweeping view of the orchards carpeting the east and south ends of the valley. Barb and I usually bring some fruit, bread and cheese, then have a leisurely picnic lunch at Paschal.
Along the west side, our favorite loop is longer and more hilly, but equally gorgeous. We take Colver Road off Highway 99. The orchards are along the right, and we get outstanding views of the east side of the valley. We follow Colver to Houston Road, then turn left on Houston and follow it to Coleman Creek. There are acres of vineyards along the way with budding, greens leaves on their vines.
We stay on Coleman Creek to Carpenter Hill Road. Orchards are on both sides of the road here and there is generally little traffic. Carpenter Hill is aptly named, as it is a good climb. At the top there are incredible views of orchards and vineyards in all directions with beautiful homes and wineries dotting the ridgeline. Then a delightful surprise awaits, as Carpenter Hill descends into a magical little hidden valley with orchards as far as the eye can see. This is a micro-valley jewel.
Carpenter Hill Road intersects with Pioneer, where we turn left and ride back to Colver Road. Pioneer features some sustained, steep climbs, but the views are well worth the effort.
Once you see the pear orchards begin to bloom, plan your trip, because the blossoms are short-lived. There is a 10- to 14-day window when this sublime wonder unfolds, and then it is gone until next year. Of course, you can also drive these routes. But if you have the legs for it, riding a bike allows you to go at a slower, more relaxed pace and savor this marvelous, annual rite of spring in the Rogue Valley.
Carlyle Stout lives in Ashland.