Editor’s note: Oregon’s COVID-19 restrictions have eased, but businesses may ask you to wear a face cover – bring one along and be patient and kind if asked to wear it. It’s also wildfire season – plan ahead and do your part to prevent wildfires.
Surrounded by mountains and graced with forests, lakes and sunny weather much of the year, Southern Oregon’s Klamath Basin is a mountain biking paradise with enough variety to please riders of all adventure levels. “We have excellent, uncrowded trails and three completely different mountain biking experiences within an easy drive of Klamath Falls,” says Drew Honzel, an avid rider and treasurer of the Klamath Trails Alliance, which maintains many trails in the area. Word of this top-tier destination is starting to spread among the mountain biking community in Oregon and beyond. Here’s how to explore.
This urban trail system boasts more than 20 miles of trails that are easy to access from Moore Park near downtown Klamath Falls. Half of the trails are scratched into a forested north-facing hill; the other half thread through a classic high-desert landscape dotted with sagebrush and juniper trees.
“We’re super blessed to have an outdoor recreational resource right in the middle of town,” says Zach Gilmour, co-owner of Zach’s Bikes in Klamath Falls, who with his wife coaches the high school mountain biking team. “We get to ride single-track every day.”
The classic single-track trails in the Moore Mountain system tend to be steep, narrow and technical; still, there’s something for everyone. The recently completed Sawmill, a short (less than a mile) easy trail, connects the 2-mile Link River Trail, a dirt-and-gravel riverfront route, to the rest of the park. The 1.4-mile 5 Gallon, a solid intermediate trail with some technical features up high and a flowy middle part, is fun in either direction, says Honzel, and one of the main routes bikers use to access the higher reaches. For a challenge, try Enduro — a short, aggressive, technical descent that starts near the peak.
For expansive views, Klamath Ridgeview, the system’s signature trail, is hard to beat. The best part? “You can sneak in a 7- or 8-mile ride after work and top it off with a pint at the Klamath Basin Brewing Co.,” says Honzel. For extra fun, you can catch the origin stories for some of the trail names via the Trailforks smartphone app.
On 7,400 acres of land about 15 miles northwest of Klamath Falls, riders will find a multi-use trail system created by the Klamath Trails Alliance. The trails snake through a young forest of manzanita, ponderosa pine and cedar, with peekaboo views of Upper Klamath Lake. Two Oregon-based outfits, Dirt Mechanics and Terra Velo Consulting, designed and built 42 miles of trails specifically for mountain bikes, and more are planned. The trails are a little wider than classic single-track trails, and several only allow travel in one direction.
A favorite among cyclists and runners, Shoalwater and Old Eagle trails combine for an easy 4.6-mile loop, part of which hugs the shoreline of Upper Klamath Lake. Hooligan, a popular 4-mile downhill-only route, is studded with little jumps and berms, ideal for intermediate riders. North Ridge is where the experts go. Restricted to mountain bikes, the 2-mile nail-biter includes large rock gardens, drops and a “filter” near the top: a 10- to 15-foot rock-slab chute recommended only for the most experienced riders. Honzel’s favorite trail is Spence Peak. Completed in 2020, the 5.6-mile route features a gradual ascent through a shady forest to the top of Spence Mountain, where you’ll catch impressive views of Mt. McLoughlin.
A 45-minute drive northwest of Klamath Falls, riders will find miles of trails in the high Cascades, with old-growth forests interspersed with lava fields. At an average elevation of around 5,000 feet, these trails offer a respite from summer heat, although in big snow years, they may not be accessible until June.
Riders can choose from three trails or a combo. The High Lakes Trail (9.3 miles) connects Fish Lake and Lake of the Woods. Much of it is flat and well maintained, making it ideal for families and beginners. The Fish Lake Trail (3 miles) continues on past Fish Lake and along Little Butte Creek, where sugar pines, Douglas fir and cedars tower over a lush understory. Narrower and more rugged, the Brown Mountain Trail (14 miles) skirts the south and eastern flanks of Brown Mountain. This and the High Lakes Trail combine for a decent loop — one you wouldn’t want to take on if you’re new to mountain biking, cautions Honzel. If you’re still not sated, consider hopping north of Highway 140 to the Rye Spur Trail, which starts at Fourmile Lake and climbs to a breathtaking overlook — one of the best cycle routes in all of Oregon, according to Gilmour.
Be sure to allow extra time for huckleberry picking in late summer. After a ride, Honzel recommends refueling at Fish Lake Resort or Lake of the Woods Resort, or dipping in one of the nearby cold mountain reservoirs.
If You Go:
- Visit RideKlamathRide for more trails, info and maps of the area. The popular Trailforks app provides maps, descriptions and ratings for every trail in these systems.
- Zach’s Bikes has been serving Klamath Falls cyclists since 2016 and offers sales, repairs and rentals.
- Brown Mountain and Fish Lake are among the 100 miles of trails that KTA stewards. Visit their website to learn more or to join a volunteer work party. (Note: Bikes are not allowed on the Pacific Crest Trail, which crosses both the High Lakes and Brown Mountain trails.)
- Wherever you head out, don’t forget to download a trail map, carry basic bike-repair tools and pack your Ten Essentials. Make sure to stay on designated trails, pack out everything you pack in and follow more ways to Take Care Out There.