Oregon mountain biking trip

Overview

This is a mountain biking/camping trip I did in Summer 2018 from the Palouse through Central and Eastern Oregon. I did several mountain bike rides on my bucket list, and also did some great hikes.

Ochoco National Forest

Round mountain trailhead

The drive from the Palouse to Ochoco National Forest is scenic. After getting off I-84 onto highway 19 in Central Oregon the pace slows, and driving through the Oregon high desert is relaxing. I arrive at the Round Mountain trailhead and scope out a car camping spot just down the road from the trailhead.

The trail climb is challenging but the scenery is spectacular. The pine forests open up to meadows that are drying up at the end of summer. The climb is unrelenting but not too technical. It’s midweek in July and I don’t see anyone on the trail up or down. At the top there are great views of Central Oregon.

Heading up, the climb just gets steeper and steeper
View on the way up
Great view of Central Oregon from the Top. The ride down is fast and fun.

Bend, Oregon

The next day I pack up and make the drive to Bend Oregon. There are many rides near Bend and on this trip I decide to do the highly rated Funner-Tiddlywinks. It is a hot day and there are groups of people including kids riding the trail downhill as I ride up, a very different experience than Ochoco NF. It’s also hot on the way up and I drink a lot of water. On the way back about 1 mile from the trailhead a thunderstorm erupts and I get drenched. The main challenge is getting all the mud off my clothes. The reward is a Bachelor Bitter at the Deschutes Brewery afterwards.

Elkhorn Crest

The next day I head off for Eastern Oregon. I have mapped out the trailhead and have the coordinates in the GPS. As I turn off the highway onto the forest road, I am thinking I haven’t even put the new 4runner in 4wd yet. That’s about to change. The road gets gnarly and I am glad I have a high clearance SUV. Once I get to the top of the pass the views are spectacular. I meet a couple who drove up from Baker City for the sunset and they say the road down into Baker city is rough but I should be Ok in a 4runner. I camp overnight and at night I hear mountain goats outside the vehicle. I manage to get one pic out of about 20 tries that captures the goat. The next morning I head off while it’s cool. Again the views are spectacular and I can see both west and east from different places on the ridge. The trail is very rocky and with a hardtail mountain bike I find the going a bit too rough for my liking. If I come back I will either hike it or have a full suspension 29er bike.

View from Elkhorn trailhead, great spot to SURV camp

I camp overnight and at night I hear mountain goats outside the vehicle. I manage to get one pic out of about 20 tries that captures the goat.

The next morning I head off while it’s cool. Again the views are spectacular and I can see both west and east from different places on the ridge. The trail is very rocky and with a hardtail mountain bike I find the going a bit too rough for my liking. If I come back I will either hike it or have a full suspension 29er bike.

Heading out

Into Baker City

After the ride I drive North from the pass, down into Baker city. The road is in great shape at the top, and I think this will be much easier than on my way up from the South. However, the road gets progressively worse and by the time I get near the bottom the ‘road’ seems more like a dried out creek bed to me than a road. Again I am glad I have the high clearance 4runner. If I had it over I would go back the way I came up from the South. After three nights of camping I am ready for a hotel and have booked one in Baker City using Chase credit card UR points.

Elkhorn North

The next day I head up to the Northwest end of the Elkhorn trail. I decide to just hike it. On the trail I am glad I decided to hike as there are some technical sections and I see several hikers, but no mountain bikers. It’s another beautiful July day in Eastern Oregon and midweek not many people are on the trail.

Hiking the Elkhorn trail
Great views from the Ridge

Umatilla Rim trail

I arrive at the trailhead and scope out a campsite. The next morning I head out on the trail. I am not sure what to expect and am thinking it may be remote with the potential for cougars on the trail, so I have a can of bear spray with me. I actually see two other mountain bikers and two groups of horses on the trail.

Umatilla Rim trail

The views look down into the valley and there are several places to stop. The trail is not too technical and very enjoyable, I plan to do it again.

Heading home

After the ride I clean up and head down into Walla Walla. It’s a perfect opportunity to stop at my favorite winery, Zerba, and pick up some Wild Z Red along with some Wild Pink for the misses. Then the drive back into the Palouse. The mountain biking was great, and the first road trip in our new 4runner fitted out as a SURV was a success.

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