The loop around Applegate Lake is a great intermediate ride with excellent lake views, smooth singletrack, and a fascinating profusion of different forest types. There is poison oak alongside much of the trail, so be careful when stopping and stay on the trail. The entire loop is rather long and includes a few miles on paved and gravel roads. A map is helpful for route finding. There are many access points along the loop for those looking for a shorter ride. There are also a number of campgrounds on Applegate Lake for those wishing to stay and sample some of the other great rides in the area, such as the ride around Little Grayback Mountain.
Swayne viewpoint near the dam is a great place to start the loop. Head south on Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trail out of the parking lot. This fun trail follows the contour of the lake to Watkins Campground, where the ride continues around the southern end of the lake on paved and dirt roads. The singletrack picks up again after a short climb to the trailhead at the southern end of Payette Trail. The ride along the eastern end of the lake is nearly twice as long, and it offers opportunities for some optional routes on a small system of connecting trails on the northeastern end of the lake. Payette Trail passes through a wide variety of forest habitat. Oaks, pine, madrone, maple, fir, and manzanita are all present, each in their own discrete areas. There is also great color here in the fall. Payette trail ends at French Gulch Trailhead, and a short ride on paved road across the dam brings you back to Swayne viewpoint.
The Applegate Lake loop can make for a long day, but the smooth twisty singletrack, lake views, and diverse local flora and fauna make it an excellent choice for moderately fit riders looking for a relaxed introduction to southern Oregon mountain biking.