The Elliott's Scenic Ridgetop Drive

OR: South Coast Region, Douglas County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, The Ridgetop Drive, Cougar Pass Area, Wide views over clear cuts from FS 7000 (the northern mainline) at Cougar Pass [Ask for #274.518.]
Elliott State Forest's Ridgetop Drive in the Cougar Pass Area. Wide views from FS 7000 (the northern mainline) at Cougar Pass [Ask for #274.518.]

The Ridgetop Scenic Drive follows the mountains that surround the West Fork Millacoma River, circling through the heart of the Elliott State Forest. All together the complete circuit is 49 miles long, bracketing the rural community of Allegany. The loop is gravel throughout, and you should leave yourself plenty of time to complete it — at least three hours, plus another hour to get there and back from Coos Bay. I'll be describing it counter-clockwise, but the other direction works just as well.

A map is provided at the bottom of this page.

 

To start the Ridgetop Drive turn south of Coos Bay on US 101, then fork left at a traffic light with a signpost to Allegany. Continue to follow signs to Allegany as you cross the Coos River on a handsome old steel truss bridge, then follow it upstream on its right (northern) bank, then finally turning sharply northward to follow the Millacoma River — a very scenic drive in itself. When you pass a small country church at an intersection on your left you've reached Allegany Community. Your turn onto the Ridgetop Drive is just 3/4th of a mile further, on your left (shown opposite).When you are done you'll rejoin this road at the church.

Put your tripmeter on zero. I'll give you mileages for all all the turns, starting from here.

OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coast Range, Coos River Mountains, Allegany Community, Start of Elliott State Forest Road 1000 at Allegany community, here also known as Marlow Creek Rd [Ask for #274.A19.]


The start of the Ridgetop Drive just past Allegany Community. This section is marked as both SFR 1000 (by the state) and Marlow Creek Road (by the county). [Ask for #274.A19.]
OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, The Ridgetop Drive, FR 1000, View of the road near its start in Allegany, as it follows Marlow Creek [Ask for #274.A23.]
The Ridgetop Drive (SFR 1000) as it follows Marlow Creek, not far from its start in Allegany Community. [Ask for #274.A23.]

The Ridgetop Drive ascends the ridge by following Marlowe Creek. It spends its first five miles alongside the creek in an increasingly narrow ravine. At 5.0 miles it reaches the head of the valley and goes steeply uphill. Here it crosses into land owned by Weyerhaeuser as part of its mammoth Millacoma Tree Farm. At 170,000 acres the Millacoma is nearly double the size of the Elliott, and except for this section of road is closed to the public. Not surprisingly these privately owned lands are heavily logged. The road tops out at 6.6 miles at an elevation of 1,400 feet, onto an unnamed ridge.

OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, The Ridgetop Drive, FR 1000, The gravel forest road starts to climb out of the stream ravine its been following to reach the ridgetop [Ask for #274.A32.]


The road starts to climb out of Marlow Creek's ravine. [Ask for #274.A32.]
OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, The Ridgetop Drive, FR 1000, The road reaches a clearcut as it briefly enters Weyerhauser's Millacoma Tree Farm and climbs towards the ridgetop; large outcrops line the road [Ask for #274.A39.]


Large outcrops line the road as it reaches a clearcut in Weyerhauser's Millacoma Tree Farm and climbs towards the ridgetop. This marks the start of the Weyerhaeser property. [Ask for #274.A39.]
OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, Southeastern Quadrant, FR 1000, Vertical sandstone sheets form outcrops in a clearcut; view from the road's right-of-way. [Ask for #274.594.]


Vertical sandstone sheets form outcrops in a clearcut on Weyerhaeuser's Millacoma Tree Farm. The Ridgtop Drive (SFR 1000) is inside the Weyerhaeuser property at this point. [Ask for #274.594.]
OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, The Ridgetop Drive, FR 1000, The forest road passes briefly through Weyerhauser's Millacoma Tree Farm, with views from a newly replanted clearcut [Ask for #274.A44.]


The road runs along top of a clearcut as it passes through Weyerhaeuser's Millacoma Tree Farm. [Ask for #274.A44.]

The drive re-enters the state forest at 7.1 miles, and from here on forests predominate. The Elliott is a patchwork of single-age forests mixed with scattered recent clearcuts, with the oldest patches dating to an 1868 fire that burned out almost all of the area.

After going through a patch of 150 year old forest you'll briefly touch Weyerhaeuser land again at 9.0 miles. At 9.8 miles the important cross-connector SFR 2300 leads right to reach the West Fork Millacoma in 2.0 miles and rejoin the Ridgetop Drive in 5.2 miles, meeting it at its milepost 36.7. The intersection is signposted; the Ridgetop Drive go straight.

OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, The Ridgetop Drive, FR 1000, This mainline forest road passes through a young fir forest [Ask for #274.A48.]


As the road emerges from Weyerhaeuser lands into the Elliott State Forest once again it passes through this handsome young fir forest [Ask for #274.A48.]
OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, The Ridgetop Drive, FR 1000, Intersection with SFR 2300, an important cross-connector; sign indicates that CB Channel 23 is monitored. [Ask for #274.A51.]


Intersection with SFR 2300, an important cross-connector; sign indicates that CB Channel 23 is monitored. [Ask for #274.A51.]

At 10.2 miles the road passes through Weyerhaeuser lands one final time, regaining the state forest at 11.1 miles. Here the road follows the top of a large clearcut with wide views over the heavily cut Millacoma Tree Farm.

At 16.4 miles the drive's other cross-connector, FSR 8000, heads off to the left. While the intersection is sign-posted it is easy to blunder down this side road by accident; be sure to turn right instead of heading straight. This side road is poorly maintained and is slated for abandonment. I cannot recommend it for passenger vehicles, although it is very scenic. If you do take it you'll reach the West Fork Millacoma River in 2.5 miles, follow it for five miles, and rejoin the Ridgetop Loop in 10.2 miles at its milepost 33.6.

OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, Southeastern Quadrant, FR 1000, Clearcuts on the adjacent Millicoma Tree Farm, owned by Weyerhauser, viewed from this ridgetop mainline road in the state forest. [Ask for #274.494.]


A roadside view from the state forest over the adjacent 170,000 acre Millicoma Tree Farm. [Ask for #274.494.]
OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, The Ridgetop Drive, FR 1000, This eastern mainline road gives wide views from clear cuts as it follows a ridgeline. [Ask for #274.490.]


Another roadside view from a clearcut. [Ask for #274.490.]
OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, The Ridgetop Drive, FR 1000, A sign marks its intersection with FR 8000 in a Douglas Fir forest [Ask for #274.597.]


This is what a state forest road sign looks like, in this case where SFR 1000 (Ridgetop Drive) intersects with FSR 8000, a cross-connector. Not all intersections are this well marked, or marked at all. [Ask for #274.597.]
OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, The Ridgetop Drive, FR 1000, This mainline logging road uses rock cuts to run just under a ridgeline [Ask for #274.A52.]


Here the Ridgetop Drive (SFR 1000) uses rock cuts to run just underneath the ridge crest. [Ask for #274.A52.]

As the route approaches its eighteen mile mark it makes two confusing turns and changes its number. At 17.8 miles. at an unmarked intersection in a clearcut, the Ridgetop Drive turns abruptly left onto a side road while the main road heads right downhill to exit the forest. The Ridgetop Drive is still numbered FSR 1000 although you can't prove it by any signage, while the road out of the forest is FSR 1850.

If you are thinking about bailing be advised that you've already driven on the Ridgetop Drive's best quality roads, so now's your chance. If you go right you'll descend on an excellent gravel road to reach paved Loon Lake Road in 4.2 miles. From here it's 13.5 miles on a good (and scenic) county road to State Route 38, a major highway.

Back to the main route, at 18.2 miles (in another clearcut) the Ridgetop Drive forks left steeply uphill on another apparant side road, while what appears to be the main road goes left, leaving the forest on an excellent gravel road to emerge on Loon Lake Road. The Ridgetop Drive is now following SFR 7000.

OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, The Ridgetop Drive, FR 1000, SFR 1000 intersects with SFR 7000 (bkgd ctr) in a clearcut; the Ridgetop Drive continues on SFR 7000 [Ask for #274.A53.]


Here's where the Ridgetop Drive swerves off left and uphill while changing its route from SFR 1000 to SFR 7000 at an unmarked intersection in a clearcut. [Ask for #274.A53.]
OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, The Ridgetop Drive, FR 7000, A Dodge Grand Caravan follows the Ridgetop Drive [Ask for #274.A54.]


Just about any old car can make it along the Ridgetop Drive (SFR 7000 at this point), including my 2004 Grand Caravan (shown here). [Ask for #274.A54.]

You have now gained the crest of Umpcoos Ridge, separating the watersheds of the Umpqua River (to your right) and the Coos River (to your left — the Millacoma River is a tributary of the Coos). For the next 3.6 miles you'll be traveling due north through alternating forests and cuts. For the first mile you'll be in another stand of 150 year old trees, veterans of the 1868 fire. After that a clearcut on your right gives fine views over Loon Lake, formed around 700 AD when a large sandstone formation collapsed into Mill Creek. It's now home to a private resort and a large BLM recreation site.

OR: South Coast Region, Douglas County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, Northeast Quadrant, FR 7000, This mainline logging road runs through a Douglas Fir forest [Ask for #274.608.]


Here the road runs through a Douglas Fir forest. [Ask for #274.608.]
OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, The Ridgetop Drive, FR 7000, View from the top of a clearcut eastward over the Loon Lake and Camp Creek areas [Ask for #274.A55.]


View from the top of a clearcut eastward over the Loon Lake and Camp Creek areas [Ask for #274.A55.]
OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, The Ridgetop Drive, FR 7000, A clearcut view as this logging road follows the Umpcoos Ridge northward. [Ask for #274.A58.]


A clearcut view as the road follows the top of the Umpcoos Ridge northward. [Ask for #274.A58.]
At 21.8 miles you reach Cougar Pass, one of the few named passes in the forest. Here there's a confusing and unmarked intersection with FSR 7700 (another opportunity to bail) leading steeply downhill to Loon Lake Road. Go left. You'll see a prominant fire tower above you to your right. Unlike similarly closed fire towers in the national forests this one is not available a a vacation rental.

Beneath the tower on the north the uppermost reach of Double Barrel Creek has been completely and recently clear cut and replanted, giving panoramic views over an area rich in naturally exposed cliffs. Tree regrowth will likely block this view by 2020 or so. Here you'll find a second intersection with FSR 7700; go left, staying on SFR 7000. You are now heading westward, still on Umpcoos Ridge, and will continue to do so for the next 8.2 miles.
OR: South Coast Region, Douglas County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, Northeast Quadrant, Cougar Pass Area, Cliffs emerge from fir forests as viewed from Cougar Pass [Ask for #274.505.]


Cliffs emerge from fir forests as viewed from Cougar Pass. Here the Ridgetop Drive (still SFR 7000) turns westward, still following Umpcoos Ridge. [Ask for #274.505.]
OR: South Coast Region, Douglas County, Coastal Range, Elliott State Forest, Northeast Quadrant, Cougar Pass Area, Wide views over clear cuts from FS 7000 (the northern mainline) at Cougar Pass [Ask for #274.513.]
A panoramic shot eastward from the Cougar Pass clearcut. [Ask for #274.513.]
OR: South Coast Region, Douglas County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, Northeast Quadrant, Cougar Pass Area, Wide views over clear cuts from FS 7000 (the northern mainline) at Cougar Pass [Ask for #274.518.]


Panoramic views from the clearcut continue to the north and west, as the Ridgetop Drive passes above it. [Ask for #274.518.]
OR: South Coast Region, Douglas County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, The Ridgetop Drive, FR 7000, This mainline logging road follows the crest of Umpcoos Ridge [Ask for #274.A68.]


The Umpcoos Ridge, separating the West Fork Millacoma River from the Umpqua River, becomes barely wide enough for the Ridgetop Drive to follow it. [Ask for #274.A68.]

This long westward stretch ends at 30.1 miles, at a Y-intersection with SFR 2000. The Ridgetop Drive follows FSR 2000 to the left — its third and last number change. The right fork (also SFR 2000) drops to State road 38 at the Umpqua River, but was not particularly well maintained when inspected and cannot be recommended.

Another mile ahead an unnamed side road leads off to the right. When inspected this turned out to be a good quality road, probably because of active logging sites along it. It takes 7.1 miles to leave the forest and another two miles to reach a good county road (at which point you go left to reach State Road 38).

OR: South Coast Region, Douglas County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, The Ridgetop Drive, FR 7000, Tall young trees on a steep slope [Ask for #274.A69.]


Tall young trees on a steep slope. Just beyond here SFR 7000 ends at an intersection with SFR 2000; the Ridgetop Drive continues straight on SFR 2000. [Ask for #274.A69.]
OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, The Ridgetop Drive, FR 2000, View from a clearcut along the western mainline road, showing FR 2000 slabbing through a clearcut [Ask for #274.480.]


View from a clearcut along the Ridgetop Drive (now SFR 2000) showing it slabbing along a slope on the opposite side of a cutover valley. [Ask for #274.480.]
OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, The Ridgetop Drive, FR 2000, This logging mainline passes a survey tree with a sign indicating a timber sale boundary [Ask for #274.A73.]


The Ridgetop Drive (SFR 2000) passes a survey tree with a sign indicating a timber sale boundary. [Ask for #274.A73.]

For the final ten miles you'll be heading south on SFR 2000 on an unnamed ridge. Scenery continues to alternate between clearcuts and forests, with most of the cuts on the east (left) giving views over the West Fork Millacoma River. There's one notable exception: a small outcrop at the end of this stretch (at Trail Butte) that gives wide views towards the Pacific Ocean.

You'll pass five intersections on this stretch.

  • The first intersection, at 32.6 miles, is SFR 4000, another easy place to blunder down the wrong direction; the Ridgtop Drive, as usual, goes left. SFR 4000 is another connection to the outside world, good in quality although not remarkably scenic, leading 7.8 miles to a good paved road and another 5.3 miles to US 101 and the village of Lakeside, north of Coos Bay.
  • The second intersection is SFR 4900 which simply heads a a mile or so back to SFR 4000. Short roads like this allow long lumber trucks to turn into the intersection no matter what way they are coming from.
  • The third intersection is cross-connector SFR 8000, described above, at 33.6 miles,
  • The fourth is the other cross-connector SFR 2300 at 36.7 miles, also described above.
  • The fifth connector is FSR 3000, described next, at 41.5 miles.
OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, The Ridgetop Drive, FR 2000, Western mainline road runs along ridge tops through rock cuts [Ask for #274.473.]


The Ridgetop Drive (still SFR 2000) makes its way along the ridge crest with rock cuts. This gives a good idea of what the road is like. [Ask for #274.473.]
OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, The Ridgetop Drive, FR 2000, View from this logging mainline over the West Fork Millacoma River Valley [Ask for #274.A80.]


Roadside view over the West Fork Millacoma River Valley [Ask for #274.A80.]

The fifth and final intersection is SFR 3000, an unmarked and confusing fork. To complete the Ridgetop Loop you go left, staying on SFR 1000. You'll reach paved county maintained West Fork Millacoma Road at 44.1 miles, and this takes you back to where you started at 49.3 miles.

The right fork (SFR 3000), however, is an excellent road and very scenic; it leaves the forest after 7.7 miles, reaching US 101 just north of Coos Bay in another 6.1 miles. Mostly it passes through very attractive forests, but there are a couple of good clearcut views south over the farmed valley of the West Fork Millacoma River. Once you reach the end of the forest road, return to US 101 north of Coos Bay by turning left at each of the three paved intersections.

OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coastal Range, Elliot State Forest, Dean Mountain Area, Panoramic view towards Oregon Dunes NRA and the Pacific Ocean, from Dean Mountain Road at Trail Butte. [Ask for #274.158.]
This panoramic view towards Oregon Dunes NRA and the Pacific Ocean is from a small rock outcrop on SFR 3000 (Dean Mountain Road) a hundred feet or so from its intersection with the Ridgetop Drive (SFR 2000), at Trail Butte. [Ask for #274.158.]
OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, The Ridgetop Drive, FR 2000, The end of SFR 2000 at the southern boundary of the state forest, at County Road 47. [Ask for #274.A83.]


The end of the Ridgetop Drive (SFR 2000) at the southern boundary of the state forest. [Ask for #274.A83.]
OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, The Ridgetop Drive, FR 2000, The end of SFR 2000 at the southern boundary of the state forest, at County Road 47; sign post. Rural mail boxes. [Ask for #274.A85.]


Here's what you'll see as you re-enter populated lands; note that the county calls FSR 2000 "Dean Mountain Road". [Ask for #274.A85.]
OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, Elliott State Forest's Ridgetop Drive, in the Coast Range between Coos Bay and Reedsport. [Ask for #990.130.]


OR: South Coast Region, Coos County, Coast Range, Elliott State Forest, Elliott State Forest's Ridgetop Drive, in the Coast Range between Coos Bay and Reedsport. [Ask for #990.130.]
For a full-sized map of the entire Elliott State Forest and its surroundings,Click here.
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