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Five2Ride: 5 of the Best Mountain Bike Trails In Oregon

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I moved to Eugene, Oregon, from my home in nearly-Canada, Idaho, when I was nineteen years of age, and pitched camp between there and Portland for the following fifteen years. Living abroad now, there are some beautiful trails inside those state borders that I remember fondly.

With arid, rain-shadow deserts that only receive precipitation a few times a year, and places along the Interstate-5 corridor graced by sunshine only a few time per year, Oregon’s eco-diversity game is strong. You can ride in dry sand and dust in Bend or Ashland, roll through ancient forests on the 44 Trails and Post Canyon trail system around Mt. Hood National Forest, or traverse the state from top to bottom on the Oregon Timber Trail.

Tracks east of the mountains are flatter and dryer than those on the west side, and there is enough singletrack across the state to warrant a full summer of trailside camping. Even after fifteen years, I didn’t manage to ride them all, and more trails have been built since.

The following list is based on Singletracks reader reviews of the top mountain bike trails in Oregon.

Oregon’s state motto is “Alis volat propriis,” which means “She flies with her own wings.”

McKenzie River Trail

Upper lava rock section. Photo Greg Heil

One of several beautiful river-flanking singletracks in Oregon, Mckenzie River Trail can be ridden in either direction with trailheads an hour west of Sisters or an hour east of Eugene.

The track crosses a dozen mountain springs, swaps the banks of its namesake river four times, and passes a magical blue pool along its 30-mile length. Dendrophiles will be stoked to roll through the sky-scraping fir and cedar trees, some of which are as old as the state itself. The forest’s mid story is colored by hemlock and vine maple and carpeted with soft moss and sword ferns.

The McKenzie River Trail has it all when it comes to [a] variety of singletrack and scenery. I love the challenging, rocky, technical and often slippery singletrack at the start of the trail and the flowy, tacky dirt on the second half of the ride. It’s hard to keep your eyes on the trail with all the scenic distractions. Sahalie Falls and Blue Pool are definitely the highlights but there’s beauty around just about every twist and turn along the way.  –Meredith Brandt

The slope of the trail is gentle enough that you will get a workout no matter which direction you ride. The upper eastern portion has a technical section of tire eating lava rock, and is far more root strewn than the west end. As you descend westward the trail becomes faster and gains a uniquely natural flow, characteristic of river trails in the Pacific Northwest.

You can ride the trail as an out-and-back, typically tackled from the lower, western parking spot. There is fresh water near the turnaround at Clear Lake, but you will want to pack food for the whole day as there is nowhere to buy lunch.

If you have time, check out the Olallie Ridge Loop while you’re in the area. It is steeper and more technical than the McKenzie River Trail, with its own set of beautiful views to enjoy. Additionally, If you are a true river trail connoisseur, the 80 miles of Oregon’s North Umpqua trail will not disappoint.

Clear Lake, near the northeastern end of the trail. Photo: rtsian

Sandy Ridge Trail System

Photo: Chris Daniels

The Sandy Ridge trail system offers the closest singletrack to the trail-starved city of Portland, resulting in a consistently packed parking lot. The system has been well supported by local communities, the BLM, and the NWTA since the beginning and grows a little bit each year. The upper section of trails abuts Bull Run Watershed, where Portland gets its drinking water, which keeps the build crew from extending the system any higher than the top of Follow the Leader. This limitation has made for some fun and creative trail building throughout.

Sandy Ridge is a workhorse. It drains well for winter riding and there’s easy access to the Sandy River to cool off after a summer session. The Three Thirty Eight loop can serve as a good introduction to those [who are] new to mountain biking while the more experienced can find rock gardens and jump lines. You can stitch together a lot of good rides on the ridge. The rowdiness of Two Turntables giving way to the berm-filled Lower Hide and Seek is my favorite way to end a ride. -Chris Shoe

All of the trails start with a pedal up Homestead Road, with a couple options to ride lower loops if you tire of climbing asphalt. There is something for everyone at Sandy Ridge. Beginner and intermediate riders will enjoy legitimately smooth flow on Laura’s Line, Three Thirty Eight, and Hide and Seek. From there the tracks gradually grow rougher, with Rockdrop, Communication Breakdown, and Flowmotion. Once you have warmed up with the flow tracks there are a few opportunities to smash through some stones on Follow the Leader, Two Turntables and a Microwave, and Quid Pro Flow. If you need more air, the “secret” jump lines at Sandy are not so secret these days. For obvious safety reasons, all trails at Sandy Ridge are unidirectional.

The system has a mix of machine-built berms, and more natural turns. Photo: Hap Proctor

Alpine Trail, Oakridge 

Photo: Chris Daniels

When riders wax poetically about the depth and beauty of Oregon forests, they are often referring to a stand of trees near the township of Oakridge. The host city for the  Mountain Bike Oregon event over the past 14 years, Oakridge is arguably a national trail treasure.

Fantastic singletrack groomed for speed and beauty. Often called the “Crown Jewel” of the Oakridge area, and home of “Mountain Bike Oregon.” The views are stunning, and the trail is damn near perfect singletrack. Climb the mountain to earn your reward, or shuttle it for maximum fun factor. Shuttles are also available for purchase in town. Almost endless loop possibilities for all skill levels. –Tumbleweed14

You can shuttle or pedal FR 1910/1912 to the top of Alpine trail, and there are a few opportunities to hop on singletrack before you reach the true trailhead at “Kate’s Cut-in.” The 20-mile trail is tread with some of Earth’s softest and most forgiving dirt, ready to trail party with anyone, regardless of skill level. The track is flowy and rarely technical from top to bottom, and you can ride it as fast as you like because it is designated a downhill-only line.

If you want Alpine trail to fill even more of your day, you add in the “ATC” loop by turning right on Tire Mountain Trail about halfway down, then taking Cloverpatch back to Alpine further down. You will want a map or guide for this excursion, as the trail crosses and follows several roads and it is easy to become confused.

Photo: Greg Heil

Blackrock 

Photo: watusi512

A couple of hours south of Portland, and just outside the state capital Salem, a ladder rider’s lair hides beneath the trees. Locals have been digging trails on the side of Mt. Brown since 1991, and today Blackrock is the only true “freeride” center in the state. There are jump lines, DJ parks, and pump tracks in other locations, but nothing with the steep launch lines of Blackrock.

This is truly a gem for mountain biking. This place has it all from beginner to expert. Trails are marked at trailheads with ratings. Many wooden features to ride, technical as well as beginner. At the lower staging area is a practice area [known as] “basic training” to hone your skills before going out on the trails. Very well maintained. –Colton Palmer

The seven trails combine to offer something for everyone, including a skills park at the base where you can practice all of the tricks it takes to make your way down the hill. On the higher trails, all of the wooden features have B-line options for days when the ladders are damp, and most tracks are built with a succession of jump sizes to suit nearly everyone’s confidence level. If you are curious about spending some time airborne, Blackrock is a fantastic playground to for learning and playing.

Photo: BRMBA.org

Tiddlywinks 

Photo: Greg Heil

Bend is high on the list of popular mountain towns with loads of outdoor fun nearby. A massive trail system winds through and alongside the city, and all of the trails can be ridden from your doorstep. Though there are some lava rock fields to studder through, most of the high-desert tracks are designed to be ridden fast and furiously, rather than slow and technically. Tiddlywinks is one trail that stands out from the full-flow network.

We raced Tiddlywinks in the Oregon Enduro Series several years ago, and it was the Blitz to the Barrel course for 2018, proving its gravity chops. Being a cross-country rider at heart, I enjoy the mellow uphill warm-up after leaving the Wanoga snow park, then the DH fun beings. It descends into fast, flowy, man-made berms and jumps while offering natural rocky sections that keep you honest, all under a canopy of pine and hemlock. Highly entertaining for intermediate to advanced riders with a bit more tech than the lion’s share of Bend trails, this one has me grinning from start to finish. –Tina Brubaker

Tina’s quote is spot on for this trail, and for good reason. She teaches MTB skills on this trail and others in the Bend region, and she has raced on it numerous times. The sand and loose dust in Bend add to the technical element of this trail and make it one of the most challenging and fun tracks in the desert. There are a handful of trails to link together from the Wonoga snowpark before you head down Tiddlywinks, and day-long rides can be put together from the park or from town.

One of the rockier section of Tiddlywinks.

Oregon’s Cascadia region has a few prominent flags that share the love for the mighty Douglas Fir forests and predominantly progressive urban areas. Photo: Cascadianow.org

In addition to the trails identified by our readers, I would recommend checking out the Post Canyon trails, 44-trails, Ochoco National Forest, Whoopdie trail, Timberline to Town, Wilson River Trail, Jedi Trail outside Jacksonville, and Flagline trail near Bend.

Do you have a favorite track in Oregon that you want everyone to know about? Please share it in the comments, and add it to the Singletracks trail database if it’s not already there.