Route: Mt. Mcloughlin Picnic Triathlon

Submitted by Jason Hardrath… on Fri, 03/11/2022 - 01:29pm
Oregon, US
97 mi
Vertical Gain
9,600 ft

Route name: Mt Mcloughlin Picnic Triathlon

Location: US: OR

Distance: 97 mi (multi-sport)

Vertical gain: 9600 ft


Whether done casually or competitively, Picnic triathlons are meant to be a fun, motivating way to experience the outdoors by blending mixed-sport skills with nature.  I encourage anyone to give this a go as a goal to finish in under 24 hours! If you Southern Oregon/Nor Cal triathletes have been looking for an excuse to get up Mt. McLoughlin...HERE IT IS!!!  (for those based in Ashland/Medford, I think it is fair game to make a variation that starts from Ashland up Dead Indian Memorial or travel over to take me down on this)

A little about the places and "Picnic" triathlons: 

Mount McLoughlin is a steep-sided stratovolcano, or composite volcano, in the Cascade Range of southern Oregon and within the Sky Lakes Wilderness. It is one of the volcanic peaks in the Cascade Volcanic Arc, within the High Cascades sector (wikipedia). Standing at 9,495' above sea level, It is also the tallest peak in Southern Oregon (AllTrails).  As a prominent peak, it does have a history of speed efforts even having both ascent and circumnavigation FKTs.

Lake of the Woods is a beautiful and rare high mountain lake. Lake of the Woods is one of just a few natural lakes in Southern Oregon suitable for multi use recreation. Fortunate not to be on the reservoir system, our water level only fluctuates a 1-2 feet per year.  While it is ultilized for motorized recreation, it is very suitable for recreational swimming.

I had been staring at these two on a map for quite some time, thinking they were perfect for a human-powered "Picnic" style (bike-swim-mountain run-swim-bike) triathlon, like that of the famed Yosemite Picnic and the Grand Teton Picnic. Being back in Klamath Falls for the teaching year, and during the West Coast Fire Apocalypse that was September 2020, with every other option seemingly closed or full of smoke, I decided it was time to bring this fun, human-powered adventure to life.

In short, “picnic triathlon” efforts are usually bike, then swim, then run a mountain and back down, then swim back, then bike back. The efforts usually also start from a town or hub so as to be conducive to completely human-powered, unsupported execution. (though supported and self-supported are acceptable too for the record boards here)

The Stats:

  • 77 miles by bike (4,900' gain)
  • 2.3 miles of swim
  • 17 miles on foot (4,700' gain)

The Route (play-by-play):

  • Start at the "We will never forget"  bronze placard in front of the Veteran's Memorial located at (42.219812, -121.786899) on the edge of downtown in Veteran's Memorial Park, Klamath Falls, Oregon (see photo) this is also the finish
  • Bike (38.5 miles total) out of Klamath Falls on Riverside Dr. until it connects to Hwy 66 take this out to Keno where you take Clover Creek up to Dead Indian Memorial Hwy until you get to Sunset Boat Launch, Transition here, Hide your bike in the trees, use the publically available faucet, Start your swim from the boat launch dock area (42.369481, -122.208424
  • Swim (1.15 miles), with your gear floating in a dry bag behind you (if unsupported), from the Sunset Dock to the Aspen Point Boat Launch Dock at (42.384945, -122.215185), Transition to your run gear, there is a publically available outdoor fountain in the day use area.
  • Run (17 miles total RT) from Aspen Point on the High Lakes Trail for about .6 until a short bushwack across Hwy 140 up onto Fourmile Lake Road then following this up to a 4 way intersection taking a left and a short bit longer down to the Mount Mcloughlin Trailhead, from here follow the standard route for Mt. Mcloughlin to the summit, reverse everything to get back to Aspen Point, put the wet wetsuit back on and pack the dry bag again
  • Swim (1.15 miles) from Aspen Point Dock back to Sunset Dock. 
  • Bike (38.5 miles) back to the Veteran's Memorial in Klamath Falls, Oregon.

Enjoy food at: 

The Night Owl - Best Drinks in Southern Oregon, food options too

Rodeos Pizza - amazing bottled beer selection, some of the best pizza you will ever have (closes at 9 in summer, 8 in winter)

The Pikey - Good Burger selection, and bar fare (usually serving food until 2am) 

My own experience:

I went in complete unsupported fashion in a time of 11hrs, 46min, 59sec
(photos in Strava links below) Here is an IG Stories Highlight Reel of the adventure.

Bike 1 - starting just after 7:34am - 38.75 miles in 2:09:21
Swim 1 - in 57:09
Up & down Mcloughlin - 15.89 miles in 4:08:35
Swim 2 - in 54:46
Bike 2 - finishing at 7:21pm - 38.75 miles in 2:00:59

I think that this effort could easily see times under the 10 hour mark, eventually seeing sub-9s.

By Jason Hardrath (STRAVA, IG or FB)