Top 5: Mountain Bike Trails in Oregon & Washington

There is a huge amount of fantastic mounting biking in Oregon and Washington. And while I haven’t been able to ride every trail in these states, I have managed to get in some pretty amazing rides on some excellent trails throughout the pacific northwest. Coming up with a list of just my five favorites was pretty difficult and I debated many of these quite a bit – but in the end, these are five trails I could (and have) ride over and over again and always have a smile on my face.

So here you go; my Five Favorite Mountain Biking Trails in Oregon and Washington (not in order):

1. High Prairie to 8 Mile [Mt. Hood, Oregon]

The whole 44 Trail System off of Oregon’s Mount Hood Highway 35 offers fantastic mounting biking. In my opinion this zone offers the best mountain bike riding in the region. High Prairie (also apparently known as Lookout Mountain Trail #450) is hands down my favorite trail in the pacific northwest. It provides the perfect gradual grade for fast flowy turns, mostly non-technical smooth riding, and occasional obstacles to keep things interesting. It can be done as a shuttle up a fairly long but not too rough gravel road or combined into a loop.

For the shuttle, there are a couple of options.

  1. From FS 44, you can take FS 4410 up to FS 4420 (left) to the parking area (with a bathroom) where FS 4420 turns into a 4×4 track. Then you ride down FS4420 to the trail head a couple miles down on the left
  2. From FS 44, you can take FS 4420 up to a large gravel turn around before the road turns fairly rough. Mind you there is a right turn in there to avoid continuing on to FS 2370. Anyway, head on up to the big gravel turn around on FS4420, park there, and then ride up hill for about a mile along the rough road to the trailhead. Yes you could continue going up the remnants of FS 4420 to get all the way to the trailhead, if you have a big 4×4 vehicle… but why? The ride up the road provides a nice little warm up before you start the thrilling descent. This is my preferred shuttle method, as it is much faster than taking the 4410 from the other side.

To do it as a loop, I recommend going in the following sequence:

  1. Park along FS 17 near where the Surveyors Ridge Super Connector trail combines with Surveyors Ridge Trail #688.
  2. Ride Surveyors Ridge Trail #688 southwest to Cooks Meadow Trail #639.
  3. Ride up Cooks Meadow (south) till it reaches its terminus at FS 4420, then ride east on 4420 to  High Prairie (Lookout Mountain #450)
  4. Take High Prairie down to Knebal Springs Trail #474 and the Super Connector back to the car.

As an even bigger bonus, you can add Eighmile Loop Trail #496 to the mix, either in the shuttle (park the bottom car at or near Eighmile Campground) or as part of the loop. In fact, the southern section of Eighmile Loop Trail, where it runs along Eighmile Creek is also high on my list of favorite trails ever. A shuttle of High Prairie should absolutely include this extension.

MTB Project Link | Trailforks Link

If you enjoy these trails, consider donating to the
44 Trails Association.

2. Devils Gulch[Leavenworth, Washington]

The Devils Gulch / Mission Ridge trail system is a Washington classic. And with good reason. Its beautiful scenery, fast and smooth downhill sections and technical rocky sections make it a great all around trail. Its also doable as both a out and back and a shuttle – but the shuttle is pretty time 101_2577 consuming. My suggestion (even though I don’t particularly enjoy riding uphill) is to suck it up and do the loop.

The mountain bike ride up is a classic pacific northwest dirt road slog. Yeah, its exhausting, but doable. And so worth it for the beautiful singletrack on the way back down.

To get there, head to Cashmere, Washington and then go south on Mission Creek Road. The road eventually forks and turns into FS 7100. From there it winds around a bit and leads to a moderately sized parking area. If you are shuttling, you can leave a car here and then have to drive all the way around to get to the top (to my knowledge FS 7100 is not passable by vehicle). For the riding loop, you start riding up FS 7100.

Shuttle: Leave a car at the lower parking area of FS7100 then drive all the way back down Mission Creek Rd, east on Highway 2 / 97 to Wenatchee then south on Squilchuck Rd. to Mission Ridge Rd to the top trailhead.

Riding Loop: From the parking area jump back on FS 7100 and start the climb. Turn right on FS 9712 until you get to the top of Devils Gulch Trail, #1220. Yeah, it’s a 12 mile haul, but it gets you there. And the shuttle doesn’t really save you any time (but admittedly does save you energy).

From there you can choose to ride either Devils Gulch trail or Mission Ridge trail. My current preference is Devils Gulch, but that changes regularly. They are both fantastic trails and well worth the effort of getting up there (either way). You are rewarded with fantastic views and awesome downhill riding.

MTB Project Link | Trailforks Link

3. Tiddlywinks / Funner [Bend, Oregon]

There are tons of great trails in bend, but this pair tops my list. This can be shuttled or ridden as a loop. Either trail works as a downhill trail, but my preference is to ride down… ug… this is a tough one. My preference is to ride it twice and so you can ride down both! Tiddlywinks has a lot more built features, so that is fun. But there are some great little technical lines on funner, that make this a really difficult decision.

Both trails are accessed from the bottom at the “unofficial” green gate parking turnout on the Cascade Lakes Highway, west of Bend, Oregon. On busy weekends this parking area is usually a big cluster. As such, my recommendation is to park at the top and ride the loop, finishing on the uphill. Yes – I hate finishing on the uphills too, but I also hate parking frustration. So pick your poison. Starting at the top, at Wanoga Sno-Park there is plenty of parking. On the east end of the Sno-park is a pump track and the trails exit the parking area to the east. Funner is on riders left in the parking lot and tiddlywinks on the right. Tiddlywinks starts with a bit of a climb (actually kinda a hoof – especially when you are thinking downhill) but rewards you with some extra descent. Funner starts out fast and smooth – just really enjoyable riding.

[looks like I enjoy the riding there too much – apparently I don’t take any pictures when I ride in Bend]

MTB Project Link | Trailforks Link

4. Ape Canyon / Plains of Abraham [Mt. St. Helens, Washington]

Ape Canyon / Plains of Abraham is one of the most stunningly beautiful rides you can do in the Pacific Northwest (or possibly anywhere in the world). The views of Mt. St. Helen’s are incredible. The riding itself is also great, but you really do this ride because of the scenery.

Ape Canyon is accessed via FS 83, outside of Cougar, Washington. The ride is located in Mt St Helens National Volcanic Monument. Dogs are allowed but I don’t recommend bringing them, as the pumice would be pretty rough on their paws. There is a small parking area specifically for the Ape Canyon trail, but this fills up very quickly. Another larger parking area just 100 yards away at the Lava Canyon Interpretive Site provides ample overflow parking – but even this can fill up on a busy weekend.

From the parking area, the uphill climb is considerable. But getting to the top and breaking out above treeline makes it totally worth it. This is not a trail to do in very hot weather as there is literally zero shade protection on the upper plains of abraham section. The steep climbing on Ape Canyon Trail lasts for about 3 miles. There is still more climbing after that, but it becomes a bit more gradual as you approach treeline. Once you break treeline it flattens out pretty well, but riding on the gravel/pumice can be … exciting. I have only done this as an out and back, but some bold souls have reported being able to do it as a loop with the Smith Creek Trail. That would be quite the hoof. Once up above treeline you continue north to join the Windy Ridge trail then stay left to get onto the Plains of Abraham trail. Continuing on offers some great views of Spirit Lake, but you can pretty much turn around and begin the trip back whenever you desire.

The downhill could be a really fun single track descent. Unfortunately, every time I have ridden the trail it has been pretty crowded with both hikers and bikers. The trail is narrow (singletrack, duh) and visibility around corners isn’t great – so with the extra traffic this isn’t the kind trail where you can really open the throttle, for fear of having a pretty nasty collision. Even still it is a great ride and definitely deserving of a spot on the top 5 list. Oh yeah, its also on the list of IMBA Epics.

MTB Project Link | Trailforks Link

5. Elkhorn Crest Trail [Baker City, Oregon]

Picking just one more ride for the top 5 was challenging. There are just so many fantastic rides in the Pacific Northwest. I originally had Ranger Creek (located outside of Mt. Rainier National Park), and then Alpine Trail in Oakridge, Oregon. But ultimately decided to go with the Elkhorns. Its just beautiful riding and beautiful scenery with hardly anyone around.

Getting there is a bit of a haul. From Baker City, take Pocahontas Rd to Marble Creek Rd west out of town and follow it up until the road gets very rough. There is a small amount of parking at the fairly obvious end of road maintenance. From there I recommend riding up the road. Yes, its driveable with a larger vehicle – but its havoc on the vehicle and likely just as fast to ride. The road takes you to saddle before it drops down the other side. This is where the singletrack trail starts. The riding heads up the ridge to the right and its nothing but fairly smooth trail and breaktaking views all around.

The trail can be pretty narrow with fairly exciting exposure and rocky and steep at times. There are definitely some hike-a-bike sections. But its all worth it.

As mentioned previously, the road up (and back) from the trailhead gets pretty gnarly. Doable in a 4×4 Sprinter, but the going is slow.

MTB Project Link | Trailforks Link

Honorable Mentions

There are tons of great trails in Oregon and Washington – it really was difficult to settle on a top 5. Here is a list of other favorite trails you should check out, if so inclined. Listed as add-ons to trips that include the top 5 trails.

If Riding Devils Gulch, check out Xanadu and Freund Canyon, Rosy Boa, and For the Boys. Also, with a little more driving, check out Ranger Creek – Mt Rainier as well as the Stevens Pass Bike Park.

If riding in Central Oregon… check out Oakridge particularly Alpine Trail and Larison Rock, which is a fantastic shuttle.

Lastly for Eastern Oregon. Consider also heading to Prineville, for the Lookout Mountain Trail.

 

 

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