10 Trails You Like More Than Me – 2017 Edition

McKenzie River Trail, Blue River, OR

Navigating some of the lava on the McKenzie River Trail (photo: Greg Heil)
Navigating some of the lava on the McKenzie River Trail (photo: Greg Heil)

Okay, I’m really committing some sacrilege now! McKenzie River is the #1 trail in a state blessed with a ton of great trails.  That’s okay… send the Inquisition; if I must be crucified for speaking the truth, so be it! I’m confident my tongue will not burst into flames. How dare I badmouth the top trail in the entire Pacific northwest? Easy, let’s break it down into its components.

Starting with the top third of the trail, we begin with great promise. The right fork can easily be discarded as it’s too easy, but the left fork… now there’s something to get excited about. Jagged, tire-shredding lava turning the trail into a delicate dance of trials-like maneuvering, I actually like how things get rolling here (so to speak). But just as I start to become one with the rock, the trail suddenly turns… paved? Yep. Singletrack covered with blacktop.  What’s up with that?  If you’re going to pave the trail, pave the easy side, not the challenging side! Who’s idea was that?

Then there’s the middle section. Now this is some USDA Choice singletrack! Mixing superb flow with highly entertaining technical challenges, all on a nicely tilted grade, this is some trail I could really get into…. if it wasn’t completely overrun with hikers. The gorgeous blue pool the area is famous for sits near the route’s midpoint. With access points on the nearby highway, hikers come flooding in by the thousands, alone, in groups, carrying babies, accompanied by unleashed dogs.  All those wonderful features and marvelous flow?  Forget it.  For the best part of the trail the routine will be dismount, remount, pedal a few strokes, repeat.

Lastly, after the crowd finally dissipates, so does any hope of excitement on the trail.  The grade abates to ever so slight a tilt, and the trail meanders ever so slightly in the most repetitious and unimaginative way, and does so paralleling a busy highway, so you can forget about any kind of woodland experience for the last leg of the ride.

Does this ride actually suck? Of course not. But is it all it’s cracked up to be? Of course not.

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