: Daniel Sharp

Weekender Rides on the OTT Hood Tier

Mountain bikers sample the Oregon Timber Trail in shorter, yet still epic, rides.
April 8, 2019
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About the Oregon Timber Trail Hood Tier

This getaway adventure is close to Portland but takes you worlds away in backcountry exploration. Between the precipitous trails on the shoulder of Mt. Hood and the dip into a broad nearby valley, the Hood Tier of the Oregon Timber Trail is like the samples you’ll find at many fruit stands in the Hood River Valley: one taste and you’ll want as much as you can get.


Of the four tiers of the Oregon Timber Trail (OTT), the Hood Tier particularly includes many outstanding natural wonders. While these three rides all start “up-mountain” from Hood River, the city itself is a cornucopia of food, spirits, shopping and other activities. And if you want a more pastoral long weekend, you can set up in the Parkdale area.

Either way, bring good legs and even better skills – these rides will demand the best you’ve got, with enough strenuous climbs and technical challenges to satisfy hardcore dirt surfers. And if that description just scared you, think about trying the Post Canyon trail system outside Hood River.

 

A mountain biker on an orange bike pedals along fallen trees in the forest.
The Knebal Springs Loop is a classic old-school singletrack ride with something for every skill level. (Photo credit: Daniel Sharp)

Knebal Springs Segment

9 miles | 1,683′ elevation change

Give yourself a good feel for how the weekend is going to roll out, with a 9-mile excursion that packs a whole lot of oomph into a short ride. It’s a versatile track that provides for a variety of skill levels – non-technical but not boring, smooth but not easy, steep but not long.

Wake those legs up with a sharp climb that’s less than a mile but will get your internal systems working. You’re rising into true alpine country, thick with forest and occasional mountain views. Take the subsequent long descent – more than a thousand feet – slow or fast; just make sure you safely balance focusing on the trail with taking in the surroundings. Remember it’s not a race. Stop to take photos!

After you bottom out at a creek crossing, find the proper gear and grind it up an extended climb that will put you in an impossibly tranquil meadow, where the view will make you feel like Mt. Hood is right there. Snack break here or maybe a nap in the sun? It’s not like you haven’t earned it.

A close-up image of a mountain biker speeding down a dusty singletrack trail.
The Fifteenmile Loop is an adventurous, remote route that delivers both pleasure and pain. (Photo credit: Daniel Sharp)

Fifteenmile Loop Segment

20 miles | 3,374′ elevation change

If you’ve ridden Knebal Springs, you know the way to the start here – it’s the same spot, but this route goes in a different direction, in more ways than one. You’ll have a hard time believing how much it feels like backcountry here, even though you’re not all that far from ski resorts and windsurfing spots. The trail starts by rolling uphill alongside Eightmile Creek for a few miles before plunging east toward the Dufur Valley. (In fact, an alternate approach to travel planning might include the magnificent, historic Balch Hotel in Dufur; it’s not much difference in mileage to the trailhead.) Seven miles of rip-roaring downhill takes euphoria into overtime.

Don’t miss noticing the change in topography and vegetation. You’re going from westside fir forests to eastside pines, and even the topography changes dramatically. It’ll take some doing to rip your attention away from the trail fun, but you should at least try. Soon enough, you’ll be reminded of that old saying: What goes down must, well, you know. Think about it this way: You’ll burn enough calories getting back up to the trailhead to justify pretty much anything you want to eat afterward.

Two mountain bikers pause to look at the massive peak of Mt. Hood.
The Surveyors Ridge segment offers some of the most fantastic views of Mt. Hood you can find. (Photo credit: Daniel Sharp)

Surveyor’s Ridge Segment

24 miles | 3,750′ elevation change

If you haven’t curled up in a whimpering ball after the first two rides, you’re ready for the piece de resistance: Surveyor’s. This route is actually a combo pack of three trails, building an epic sojourn that you won’t forget anytime soon.

You can also look at this ride as having two parts: the up and the down. (Yet it’s not quite that simple.) Yes, you start with some 9 miles of climbing, but it’s not all at once, and you’ll spend a good part of that exertion time gawking at the views and concentrating as you ride across talus and other challenges. Oh, and there’s some killer, rolling singletrack to break up the climbing.

All this work will take you up to 6,000 feet elevation, where you’ll want to pull those shoes a little tighter, check your helmet straps and maybe have a quiet internal pep talk. Because you’ve got 20 miles ahead of you that’s net downhill – but not the mindless, brakes-occasionally kind. The first drop alone will throw short sharp-shock climbs at you, plus rock gardens and other twisted fun. Eventually you’ll hit the steep Oak Ridge to finish up , and you’ll have experienced a legendary ride.

Picnic tables on a farm, with Mt. Hood in the backdrop, provide an idyllic resting point.
You should also make time for some farm-fresh produce along the Hood River County Fruit Loop. (Photo credit: Daniel Sharp)

Local resources

Hood River has a plethora of good restaurants and strong representation in the brewing industry – too many good choices to list them all. The same goes for lodging. Here are just a few favorites: the combo of pFriem Family BrewersSolstice Wood Fire Cafe, Celilo and Broder Øst restaurants, and Inn at the Gorge B&B.

For a more localized experience, consider checking out Parkdale, up the valley on the way to Mt. Hood. This agriculturally rich area boasts some first-class establishments, including Solera Brewery, Apple Valley BBQ, Blue Canoe Café and the Old Parkdale Inn. You should also make time for some farm-fresh produce along the Hood River County Fruit Loop: check out Kiyokawa Family Orchards, Draper Girls Country Farm, Mt. View Orchards or Mount Hood Organic Farm.

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