Oakridge Alpine Trail
Places to Ride

Oakridge Oregon - MTB Capital of the Northwest?

Words Cam McRae
Photos AJ Barlas (unless noted)
Date Jun 7, 2018

Our pilgrimage to Sea Otter became a road trip about five years back and we haven't flinched. Riding and exploring along the I5 in both directions was the big draw, as well as saddling up once we arrived in Santa Cruz. We always ride in Ashland, Oregon because it's sweet and because Nathan Riddle lives there and he always gives us great advice. We have explored a little east of Portland and even stopped for a ride at Chuckanut in Bellingham on the way home in the past, but we've been looking for more. There has to be more!

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Rob our shuttle driver had recently moved to Oakridge from the eastern US - at the recommendation of his mother. No regrets thus far. 

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Heading out to Westfir.

Past Ashland there are plenty of mountains and the terrain looks spectacular. The closer you get to California the drier things become but the topography continues to scream "there are great trails here!" How can a town called Weed, California not have sweet single track? But how can it not (yet) sell legal marijuana either?

There was some stuff on Trailforks but nothing put us in the tractor beam. I asked a bunch of industry friends and most pointed us back towards Ashland. Nathan however, was once again the source of gold. He told us the Alpine Trail in Oakridge Oregon is one of his top five trails in the State. This is the sort of trail we don't have in this part of B.C.; it's 13.8 kms long (8.6 miles) and it's fast and smooth. Not the gnarly stuff we are used to but Nathan is never wrong. 

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Of the 54 remaining covered bridges in Oregon, the Office Bridge, near the bottom of Alpine trail, is the longest at 180 ft. Built in 1944 by the Westfir Lumber Co., it became property of Lane County in 1992 due to property foreclosure.

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The top of the bridge, an amazing structure, was rebuilt in 2002.

Coming from the south, google maps took us off the I5 into some banjo picking country. The 97 north is what you might call God's country. And Trump country as well. The countryside was spectacular but towns like Dorris, CA (pop. 896) were scarred with shuttered businesses. By the time we got settled into the Best Western (good hot tub!) and went in search of grub, most places in Oakridge were closed. The only place we found open after 8:00 pm was Big Mountain Pizza and they were vacuuming by the time we left. The food was fine but there were some other places we would have liked to try, including a new brew pub (Brewer's Union Local 180).

Below you'll find a little video of AJ and I riding in Oakridge. Clearly we need a chesty because this video does not do the trails (or us!) justice!

Oakridge is nothing like Ashland, a beautiful University town with a huge Shakespeare festival, or Leavenworth WA, with its kitschy but quaint Bavarian theme, or Bend which is filled with craft breweries and outdoor enthusiasts; this is a rundown post-industrial town banking on recreation to bring back some life and some cash. 

Oakridge's most famous son is Mason Williams, the composer of Classical Gas. Williams wrote the song in 1968 and went on to record 12 albums, including one that went gold in 1991. But he was just getting started. He was also a writer, stand-up comedian and poet. He worked on SNL and the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour earning 3 Emmy nominations to go with his 3 Grammy awards. He also wrote 13 books. He's even married to a Canadian woman FFS. The guy's a genius. 

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Just in case you want to camp out, this was at the start of our descent.

In the morning we had a little hotel breakfast and went to meet our shuttle driver Rob from Oregon Adventures. Rob had done some scouting the day before and he told us the top of Alpine Trail was off limits due to a late season snow storm. There was another spot we could drop in about two-thirds of the way down, which left about 5 kms of trail. 

The top of Alpine was single track bliss; smooth arcing corners, crunchy loam with excellent grip and lots of speed. The sort of trail experience that has you grinning like an idiot. Big trees and a spacious forest amplified the Ewok Forest vibe and kept us giggling. This is not a demanding trail but you can ramp your speed up and have all the fun you need. AJ and I are certainly more accustomed to technical trails but this was satisfying on a different level. 

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Game on. The fact that the top of the trail was the most fun bodes well for the 9 kms of trail above where we began. 

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Superhero conditions and beautifully built trails.

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AJ getting some air. Natural doubles abounded once we got up to cruising speed. Photo - Cam McRae

Trails with long straight sections or corners that aren't demanding don't interest me much. This was not that. Fun was obviously the mandate and it was executed beautifully.  The trail builders and maintainers in the area know what they are doing. And there are a lot of them it turns out. Rob told us about the GOATS (Greater Oakridge Area Trail Stewards), ATCA (Alpine Trail Crew Alliance), The Disciples of Dirt from Eugene, The Scorpions (a bunch of 'old dudes'), and the Dirt Mechanics. Hopefully they all get along because it sounds like a turf (loam?) war could get ugly. Despite the early season conditions I think we only had to stop to clear one section of trail. 

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This was a rad place to ride.

After Alpine trail Rob suggested we head to the other side of the valley to ride Larison rock. This was a little more bench cut with some nicely sculpted berms but again, speed was king. There were some long bench cut sections where falling would have been a bad idea but it was too much fun to slow down. I hit something hard enough to flat despite the smooth trail surface.

Someone described Eula Ridge Trail to us and it sounded perfect. Rob was a little reluctant to take us because he wasn't sure if he could get us to the top, but it's substantially steeper and a little more technical than Alpine, which sounded pretty good to us. Alpine drops 1200 metres in 13.8 km while Eula loses 1000m in just 6 km.

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I expected to see some Swiss cows in this unexpected meadow. 

We wanted to make it to Vancouver before it got too late and we had 9 hours of road ahead of us, so we had to cut our day short. It was clear we had just scratched the surface of this sweet little riding destination. The people were super friendly, the dirt is glorious, the town is small and unassuming and the trails are built and maintained by competing squads of passionate diggers. How rad does that sound?

Getting There

Oakridge isn't close to any decent-sized airports but Alaska flies from Portland to Eugene. Oakridge is about 45 minutes drive southeast of Eugene, 2,5 hrs from Portland and about 8 hrs from Vancouver. Oregon Adventures does daily Alpine shuttles in season or you can hire them to do whatever you'd like. 

Das Capital?

Is it hyperbole to call this the mountain bike capital of the northwest? We'd have to ask what you'd call the northwest. Most Canadians don't refer to B.C. as the northwest, perhaps because we're the southwest of Canada. Even so, I'd say that's overstating it. Mason Williams was born and  went to school in Oklahoma but the town seems to have claimed him as their own, so maybe exageration is a tradition here.* 

*Mason has chosen to live out his golden years nearby in Eugene though - so clearly he likes the area.

The riding in Oakridge is very good indeed (and we only got a small taste) and there is also Mountain Bike Oregon, a three day festival that happens once in July and then again in August every year, includes unlimited shuttles, all your meals and even adult beverages at day's end. Outside called it one of the best mountain bike festivals in the country.  Bend, Ashland and Klamath Falls (an emerging MTB destination) are all nearby so it would make a great stop on an Oregon loop. The real question is, should you go? 

Yep. You definitely should.

Comments

Cabana76
+2 Cr4w Cam McRae
Adrian White  - June 6, 2018, 11:52 p.m.

Loved my trip to Oakridge!  Awesome little town with great people.  I hope you got an opportunity to spend some time at the Brewers Union, really good beer and food.

Next time I suggest to avoid the brand name motels and book a reservation at the Oakridge Lodge and guest house.  Walking distance to the pub and really comfortable and bike friendly!

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - June 7, 2018, 7:06 a.m.

I mentioned Brewers Union 180 above but we didn’t manage to get there. 

Good tip on the hotel - but does the Lodge have a hot tub for aching bones?

Reply

Cabana76
+1 Cam McRae
Adrian White  - June 7, 2018, 10:21 p.m.

Hey Cam,

No hot tub at the lodge, but they make up for it with a totally comfortable and chill environment.   My buddies and I just drank beer and chilled in the upstairs living room after cleaning up post ride.  A good place to relax before walking down to the pub.

Another two places I must recommend were the local bbq/breakfast place, owned and run by the husband of the lodge manager (https://cedarcreekmeats.com/)  and the bike shop (http://oakridgebikeshop.com/) Willamette Mountain Mercantile.  Really cool guys who offered us beers on their back balcony!

I think everyone we met there was super friendly!

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - June 7, 2018, 11:21 p.m.

Great additions! Thanks Adrian!

Reply

Bushpilot
+1 Cam McRae
Bushpilot  - June 7, 2018, 8:59 a.m.

+1 for Brewers Union.  The beer is excellent and the food is good too.  There is also good camping nearby.  Tough to beat seemingly endless singletrack, good beer and no sales tax.

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FlipFantasia
+2 AM Cam McRae
Todd Hellinga  - June 7, 2018, 9:32 a.m.

Oakridge is mega rad, some decent camping and hot springs around too for people who don't mind roughing it a bit. So much just awesome benched speed and corners, we really enjoyed Hardesty too when we were there. Oakridge is the top of my must return to very soon list in Oregon

Reply

cooperquinn
+2 Adrian White Todd Hellinga
Cooper Quinn  - June 7, 2018, 9:38 a.m.

Ew.... "roughing it"? 

Hard pass.

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AJ_Barlas
0
AJ Barlas  - June 7, 2018, 1:32 p.m.

LOL.

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pedalhound
+1 Cam McRae
pedalhound  - June 7, 2018, 10:16 a.m.

I grew up in the Eugene/Springfield area and learned to ride back in the 80's on the surrounding trails...Oakridge included....such a great area for riding. When I moved to BC I missed the speed of the trails in Oregon....gotta make my way back down there soon!

Reply

craw
+2 Andrew Major AJ Barlas
Cr4w  - June 7, 2018, 12:44 p.m.

Rode there a year ago. The length and flowiness of the trails are unmatched. But after 3 days I was ready for gnar again. A highly recommended road trip stop.

Reply

whisper06
+1 Cam McRae
whisper06  - June 7, 2018, 2:09 p.m.

Did the Mountain Bike Oregon (MBO) festival a few years ago, and looking forward to doing it again with a bigger crew this summer.

If you are thinking about an MTB. trip this is a great one. The shear number of MTB. enthusiasts and the variety of trails were great. Not to mention the vendors on hand with gear and demos, and lets not forget the BEER and apres events.

I am getting excited about it again already!!!

Reply

Brocklanders
0 Cam McRae person person
yahs  - June 7, 2018, 5:30 p.m.

Only passed thru on way from Bend and rode the alpine trail. Funny enough it just rained and the mud was like riding in slippery dogshit which i had never seen before. Which made it interesting and challenging for part of the descent. Great fun that day, supertrail. Def wanna go back.

Kinda related, do NOT ride the Mackenzie river trail nearby. It is a waste of time, super lame.

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - June 7, 2018, 11:23 p.m.

Thanks yahs. I have heard that before but also a few positive reviews. I think you have sealed it!

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Brocklanders
0
yahs  - June 7, 2018, 11:40 p.m.

For some strange reason the Mckenzie trail has been rated the best mtb trail in America by some. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The first 6-8km is packed with hiker tourists, the rest is flat and boring. You just hope it will end, but it goes on forever. Stay in Oakridge, its miles better

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lostlunchbox
0
person person  - June 9, 2018, 8:52 p.m.

Each to there own, but I'd totally recommend it as a one off if you can get dropped at the top. As someone else mentioned, different  doesn't have to be bad. Techy and pedally in parts for the first half, then just mellow single track on the lower sections. For sure avoid prime hiker times, and you're not gonna be Strava racing it if that's your gig. The bridge crossings do suck as well, mandatory dismount, but it'd be dumb not to check it out for yourself if you're in the area and have the time imo.

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Brocklanders
0
yahs  - June 10, 2018, 11:14 a.m.

I thought the lake and the lava flow at the beginning was pretty cool. We did it in june on a weekday morning and the trail was packed with tourists. My point is that there is so many better rides in the Bend-Oakridge area to do. Its a haul to get there and spending a day on it would be low on my list.

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FlipFantasia
+1 person person
Todd Hellinga  - June 8, 2018, 6:57 a.m.

I disagree re. MRT, it's totally different, but also a great ride.

Reply

SixZeroSixOne
+1 AM
SixZeroSixOne  - June 8, 2018, 8:31 a.m.

I stopped off for a quick beer in the Brewers Union (Delicious British style cask bitter!!!) last week on the way home from Downieville.

The brewery isn't exactly new though...it was there when I did another roadtrip about 8 years ago. 

I'd echo what Todd said about the MRT...it's a destination trail, something different than the hard core biking we have here in BC, but enjoyable all the same. 

And for those not swanky enough to stay in the Best Western with a hot tub, nature has provided her own hot tub in the form of Macredie Hot Springs a couple of miles up the road.

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OriginalDonk
0
OriginalDonk  - June 9, 2018, 2:30 p.m.

Two of the best mountain biking experiences in Oregon are knocking out an Alpine shuttle along with a "triple" with Randy's crew in Oakridge and getting smoked by Wild Bill when you're fully pinned in Ashland.  If you can't get ahold of Randy to schedule a shuttle in Oakridge, you'll find him at the Brewer's Union.  Just catch him early enough so that he remembers the conversation.

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nortonwhis
0
AM  - June 10, 2018, 1:24 p.m.

We were there this year already for 3 days of riding. What attracted me was the amount of vert you could easily pedal in a day for that time of the year. We would roll out of our camp site at 11-12 with a solid 8 hours of daylight to go. Everything was snow free around the area this year by early may.

Did Lawler the first day from the highway - found the dirt to be just amazing, best dirt of the trip for me. Moon point the second day, which has some crazy treed sections, then crazy meadows with lava rock everywhere. Not as fun for me but still great. Then Alpine from the bridge the 3rd day. All the roads there are such a mellow grade, we managed to pedal 4500m+ elevation over 3 days and not be completely cooked. I don't think i would bother riding these trails twice in a day to get faster, so shuttling seemed kinda pointless to me. We hit Black Rock on the 4th day before driving home. Theres still so much to see here (Eula, Dead Mountain, Larisson, Cloverpatch variation of Alpine) and then lots more around Sisters too.

We ate one night at a sweet BBQ joint cant remember the name though and camped out at Black Canyon Campground. No showers but riverside camp sites. 20 bucks a night, but there are plenty of free ones around too. Brewers was good for beer, but theres so many good options out of grocery store that we just generally drank campfire beers.

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tdmsurfguy
0
tdmsurfguy  - June 13, 2018, 5:41 a.m.

I just finished a three day weekend in oakridge...what a f-ing hoot. We did the full ATCA, moon point, lairson rock, and dead mountain.  It rained for 36 hours straight during the weekend but hey we’re Oregonians buddies, beer, and bikes! What’s not to like.

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