: James Stolen

Mountain Biking for All in Eastern Oregon

Cruise more than 45 miles of mountain trails just outside of La Grande.
June 14, 2023

Situated in the heart of the Blue Mountains in northeastern Oregon, just over 4 hours east of Portland, the Mount Emily Recreation Area (MERA) offers an outdoor oasis for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts alike. With its beautiful scenery, more-than-45-mile trail system and diverse recreational opportunities, MERA is a year-round mountain biking destination suitable for all skill levels, from gentle cross-country cruisers to adrenaline-pumping technical descents. Here’s what you need to know to make your base camp in La Grande and get out on the trails.

(Photo by James Stolen)

Beginner Trails

Parent Trap is a gentle and scenic 2-mile loop ideal for beginners looking to get a taste of what MERA has to offer. With its wide path and open lines of sight, this easy trail offers a smooth and flowy ride with gentle climbs and descents. Small rollers and banked turns allow beginners to build their confidence and practice on varied terrain. 

Another beginner-friendly trail is the MERA Loop, a moderately challenging ride with a mix of technical terrain and flowing descents.

Intermediate Trails

Intermediate riders will enjoy the MERA Loop to Sasquatch/Ricochet, an exhilarating 9-mile loop that features a nice blend of flow and technical features. The Sasquatch section offers a zippy descent with plenty of berms and rollers to send you flying down the hill. In contrast, the Ricochet section contains more technical terrain like steep switchbacks, rock gardens and drops that will put your skills to the test.

Two additional short but thrilling rides include Caffeine and Whoopsy Doo. With its steep drops and fast descents, Caffeine will get your adrenaline pumping more than even the strongest cup of joe, while Whoopsy Doo is a terrain-induced roller-coaster ride.

Advanced Trails

Advanced riders can test their skills on Lower and Upper Hot Shot, two technical trails that feature steep descents, tight switchbacks, rock gardens and serious drops that will challenge even the most experienced riders. Ridgeline to Upper and Lower Dirt Circus offer rip-roaring terrain that includes steep climbs, technical descents and swift trails that will leave you wanting more.

Side A Brewing (Photo by James Stolen)

Where to Eat Before and After Your Ride

Start your day off right with a delicious breakfast or lunch to go from the Market Place/4th Street Bistro in La Grande. This local grocery store and restaurant offers fresh and flavorful meals like breakfast burritos and a range of hot sandwiches incorporating locally sourced ingredients. After a thrilling day of mountain biking, head to Side A Brewing to relax and refuel with craft beers and tasty food options like the famous dirty fries, topped with herbs, cherry peppers, parmesan and smoked aioli. 

Get Your Gear

Don’t have your own bike? Visit The Mountain Works, a full-service bike shop in La Grande that offers tune-ups, rentals and weekly community rides to get the gear you need to hit the trails. The friendly staff is more than happy to help you plan your adventure, and it’s also a great place to grab a local brew straight from the tap after a day of riding. Eastern Wheelworks, also in La Grande, is a full-service mountain bike repair center that specializes in custom wheel builds and getting your bike dialed in to shred. If you’re planning to hike or camp, Blue Mountain Outfitters can equip you with all of your outdoor needs.

(Photo by Brice Shirbach)

Organized Events

The Mountain Works bike shop and Blue Mountain Singletrack Trails Club host a free, all-ages, weekly summer short-track series every Monday night in June and July. Race on  a half-mile loop with mellow rollers and banked turns that are fun for all skill levels. The event includes a variety of activities that focus on fun and camaraderie in a low-key, casual atmosphere. Spring through fall, Mountain Works also hosts all-paces, no-drop group rides for all levels every Wednesday night and Ladies’ Rides every Thursday night. Contact the shop to confirm the schedule.

Competitive mountain bikers can participate in the Blue Mountain Super D, a one-stage enduro-type race (a mix of cross-country trails and downhill descents) where participants ride 1,200 feet to the top of the course on the Mount Emily Access Road, then down the Super D course. The Sasquatch Six-Hour is a self-supported endurance race that takes place in October with options for individual or two- and three-person teams, complete with prizes and a post-race barbecue.

About The

Jen Sotolongo
Jen Sotolongo is a freelance writer who owns and writes for the popular adventure dog blog Long Haul Trekkers. She lives in Bend with her rescued cattle dog mix, Sitka. You can usually find them trail running, hiking or camping in the mountains. You can follow Jen on Instagram @longhaultrekkers.

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