As we crave a greater connection to nature, mountain biking is one of those perfect activities for social distancing. Locals can welcome autumn with open arms and helmets and knobby tires at a number of trails across the state made for mountain biking. You’ll find some of the best mountain-bike terrain anywhere on the twisting, tacky singletrack that winds across Eastern Oregon’s high desert and Cascade Range foothills near Bend, along the slopes of Mt. Hood and Mt. Ashland, and through the old-growth forests of Oakridge. It’s best to stay close to home as much as possible and practice etiquette on the trails out of respect to local communities. Here are some of Oregon’s top fall trails, selected for the ideal elevation — to avoid surprise snow as temperatures drop — while still offering an epic ride.
Central Oregon (Reworked): 15 miles, moderate
Just 5 miles outside of Bend, Phil’s Trail System Warm-Up is meant as a fun space for beginners and families to tool around, as well as for experienced riders to ease their way into the more rugged stuff.
Ben’s Trail, which flows uphill in quintessential Bend style, is a gentle moderate-grade climb through lodgepole and ponderosa pines. Visit Hutch’s Bicycles in Bend or Redmond to gear up.
Eastern Oregon (New): 15 miles, challenging
If you want to ride in pristine wilderness with hardly a soul around, look no further than the challenging, 15-mile Mt. Emily Recreation Area Loop on the eastern flank of the Blue Mountains, just outside of La Grande. One of 28 named trails in the 3,600-acre park, the loop includes a bit of everything: steep climbs, gravel, switchbacks, expansive views of the Grand Ronde River valley and an exhilarating finale. Visit The Mountain Works in La Grande for bike rental gear as well as friendly advice.
Mt. Hood/Gorge Region (New): 9 miles, challenging
Sandy Ridge is one of the state’s most beloved networks, with a system of routes originating from one trailhead. Most are meant for experienced riders, but if you’re bringing a newbie or your kid, there’s a little practice loop circling in and out of the parking lot that’s suitable for even the littlest rider. The 9 miles of challenging trails include a customizable off-road paradise: banked berms, natural rock features, big-air jumps and more. Otto’s Ski & Mt. Bike in Sandy has all the rental gear you’ll need.
Willamette Valley (Different Oakridge trail): 9 miles, challenging
About 50 miles southeast of Eugene, you’ll find what many avid mountain bikers swear are the best trails in the country. The Dead Mountain and Larison Rock trails pair a classic (Larison Rock) with a new trail (Dead Mountain), which riders appreciate for its convenient shuttle drop-off. With 9 miles of challenging terrain in all and a combined 6,000 feet of descent, it’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s a truly epic way to embrace the world-famous Oakridge experience. Oakridge Bike Shop & Willamette Mountain Mercantile is a one-stop shop for rentals, trail maps and friendly advice.
Southern Oregon (New): 10 miles, moderate and easy
Designed to meet all ability levels, Mountain of the Rogue features fun, flowy trails on the lower elevations — great for laps with the family — along with rocky, more technical options higher up for experienced riders looking to test their skills on narrow, exposed tread. Most of the trails here are one-way, so you can safely bomb downhill if you’re comfortable. The trail is conveniently located just off Interstate 5 in the town of Rogue River, just east of Grants Pass. BikeKraft in Grants Pass is the oldest and largest shop in the region and has you covered — call ahead for rentals.