This high alpine loop traverses a spectacular ridge on the pacific crest that divides three of Oregon's major watersheds: the Willamette, the Deschutes, and the Umpqua. There are views of Diamond Peak, Mount Thielsen, Sawtooth Mountain, Cowhorn Mountain, and The Three Sisters, although they are always glimpsed briefly through trees. A better view is undoubtedly available to those who are willing to leave the trail and scramble to the top of the ridge at various points.
The ride starts at the trailhead parking at Little Timpanogas Lake. There is a nice campground a quarter-mile away at Timpanogas Lake, and the area offers some easier trails as well. After a few miles of climbing on gravel roads, the remainder of the route is on singletrack through open pine forest. Once the trail gains the ridge, there are some rocky sections and steep switchbacks.
Eventually, Windy Pass Trail connects to Sawtooth Mountain Trail and the bottom drops out. The first mile of the descent is extremely steep, rocky and technical. Once you cross over the knife-edge ridge on the western flank of Sawtooth Mountain, the trail becomes smoother and slightly less steep, providing a high speed thrill ride the last few miles down to the parking lot.
This is a wilderness ride, with no easy egress should anything go wrong. Take a map, tools, and plenty of food and water as you enjoy the magnificent solitude and rugged beauty of Windy Pass.