As the seasons change, and the forecast turns white, mountain bikes are often traded for skis and snowboards. And if you are not one to hit the slopes, your days are likely spent counting down until the trails thaw.
For many, winter riding is impossible, with some areas snowed in all season long. For others, cold weather trails are thriving, if you know where to look for them. This is certainly true for much of Oregon.
Ask a Portland mountain biker where to ride and they will likely point you toward Rocky Point. Rocky Point consists of 3,000 acres of privately owned timberland and is located just northwest of Portland. Trail builders currently have around 15 miles of trail built, an impressive number considering a land use agreement has only been in place since 2019.
Additional singletrack mileage is in the works for Rocky Point, adding to the already expansive network of XC and DH routes. Rocky Point has something for all riders from green to black, steep tech to dirt jumps and flow.
Here’s the catch: Since Rocky Point is privately owned timberland, all riders must sign a waiver and become members of Northwest Trail Alliance. This yearly membership will set you back about $40. Look at it as a much-needed donation to a group that works and advocates for trail usage here.
Portlanders will also point you toward Sandy Ridge. Located about 40 minutes east of Portland, it’s important to note that Sandy Ridge does get some snow due to its proximity to Mt. Hood. With that said, snow in the area is winter storm-related and doesn’t stick around all season.
A nearly 4-mile paved climbing road winds its way through Sandy Ridge’s lush old-growth forest. Most of the trails are accessed off of this climbing road. Green trails are harder to find as the area lends itself to more technical and advanced terrain. While Sandy Ridge doesn’t get super steep, trails tend to be chunky or jumpy. Despite the riding being a bit more advanced, trail builders implemented good trail progression: a trail like Little Monkey prepares you for TNT, which in turn prepares you for Johnny Royale. Much of Sandy Ridge seems to follow this progression.
Smaller trail systems are sprinkled up and down the Oregon coast. Rain is the majority of the winter battle here, with snowfall being fairly minimal throughout the season. On the southern coast of Oregon is the town of Bandon. Many come to Bandon to swing their golf clubs, while others come for the rowdy trails.
The Whiskey Run Trails are 12 miles of singletrack carved into the coastal mountains just off Highway 101. From greens to double blacks, Whiskey Run has trails for everybody. Longer XC loops can be made by connecting access roads and green trails. Faster, steeper, and more technical riding is on the black and double black diamond trails. Access roads are open for shuttle laps, and make climbing and navigation fairly simple.
Great breweries, surf shops, and unlimited saltwater taffy can be found in the popular coastal towns of Cannon Beach and Seaside. In between the towns are the Klootchy Creek Trails, Oregon’s most recently constructed mountain bike-specific trail system.
Klootchy Creek is known for being fairly steep and having slick roots during the rainy season. Most of the trails are relatively short — each less than a mile long — but can be linked together or lapped using the access roads. Defibrillator, one of the more popular trails at Klootchy, tears nearly a mile of black diamond singletrack down the mountain. Manageable jumps and chunky roots await descending riders. Most of the other trails are greens and blues, but a few other black diamonds are scattered throughout.
Oregon valley riding
Oakridge is arguably one of the most well-known mountain biking destinations in Oregon. Oakridge has several different trail systems — Larison Trails, Dead Mountain, Hardesty Portal, and, the most popular, Alpine Trails.
The riding in Oakridge is steep, chunky, and rooty. Despite its relative proximity to the town, it can feel as if you’re miles away, ripping some backcountry trails. Berms are few and far in between, and corners with quite a bit of exposure sneak up fast. Don’t be fooled by all the blue trails on the map; the area is fast and rowdy.
If you like to pedal up, Oakridge may not be your first choice. This is a shuttle destination. Larison Rock, for example, involves around seven miles of climbing for a 3-mile descent. Bring a couple of vehicles or hit up one of the shuttle services in town.
Central Oregon has well over 600 miles of singletrack, with the city of Bend being a mountain bike mecca. When the snow starts falling, many of those iconic trails are either covered or too sloppy due to the freeze/thaw cycle. With those trails being snowed in, locals head east to better winter riding locations.
One of the most popular destinations in the area is Horse Ridge, about 20 miles east of Bend. Where Bend’s westside trails tend to be more XC-friendly, Horse Ridge gets steep, fast, and gnarly. Local favorites like Sand Canyon reward riders with two miles of white-knuckle descending. Parkway and Escape From Moscow are more gradual descents. What they lack in speed they make up for in chunky riding. These are also great ascents if you’re looking to practice your technical climbing.
Just north of Bend is the Cline Butte and Maston Trailheads. These trail systems are directly across the street from one another and could easily be ridden at the same time. Cline is steep and chunky, and somewhat unforgiving. The soil is dry and loose making it all but unrideable in the summer. Access roads directly to the top are steep and are mostly “hike-a-bike” routes. Others will choose a more gradual route to the top on the Buttes XC trail.
While Cline may be the spot for more advanced riders, riders of any ability will enjoy the pedal-friendly loops at Maston. Nearly all the trails are green, climbs are gradual, and the area is perfect for a family ride. Maston is also a great training area to put in mileage, with 20 miles being easily attainable in a few hours.
There is never a guarantee when it comes to winter riding. There is always a chance of that unexpected snowstorm hitting the area you intend on riding. Or, as is the case with the Coast, Portland, and Oakridge areas, rain can fall for days at a time, turning trails into an oil slick. Check the weather and check with local bike shops in the area about riding conditions.
It is also a good idea to check with the local trail advocacy groups who can inform you about any closures or permit information. Stay warm out there.
Great list. You left out a few good spots in NE Oregon though. Echo is an old school XC trail system just outside the small town of Echo, Oregon right off 84 that stays rideable year round. And Pendleton’s trails are rideable most of winter, as long as it’s been dry for a few days.
I haven’t gotten out there but I’ll get it on my list! I’m pretty sure I’ve seen videos of trails out there, it looks rad!
I would add a couple spots in southern Oregon near Klamath Falls, Moore Park & Spence Mountain are both great areas to ride
I thought of both of those spots, as I’ve ridden Moore in the late spring, but haven’t gotten a chance to head to Spence. I tried to plan a trip down there during this winter season but each time I checked Spence was pretty snowed in. Maybe it was just bad timing…
Great info. I assumed Oakridge was more of a summer destination, good to know some of the trails are accessible even in winter.
Oakridge is more likely to have snow than some of these other spots, but you can get some winter rides in over there. My buddy and I went over there in mid-December when Bend had several inches of snow.
Heading to Oregon in May this year; a couple months earlier than normal. Not expecting Timberline to Town or the Road 44 trails near Mt. Hood to be open, but do you think Oakridge trails will be accessible?
I would imagine there would be minimal to no snow in Oakridge come May. With that said, there is always the chance of a freak snowstorm. I would imagine you would be more likely to deal with sloppy conditions due to rain.
I would agree. With that said, I hit a lot of snow Memorial weekend several years ago on the climb to Moon Point.