Going off-road on the new Sandy Ridge Trail System

[This article was written by long time BikePortland reader and active community member and volunteer Kronda Adair. She recently borrowed a mountain bike from River City Bicycles and headed out to explore the Sandy Ridge Trail System.]

Kronda on some of Sandy Ridge’s “awesome,
flowy, and swooping,” singletrack.
(Photo: Jessica Niggemann)

Mountain biking season is coming. The weather is teasing us with warm sunny days sprinkled between the usual spring deluge, so I decided to head out to the new Sandy Ridge Trail System (located about 40 minutes east of Portland) and find out what all the buzz is about.

Situated on BLM land, the Sandy Ridge trail network was built specifically for mountain bikes (read a BikePortland article about the project from August 2008) . It has just under five miles of trails, with ten more planned for 2010-2011.

The first section of trails are designed to be downhill only, so riding up is not recommended. To earn the sweet stuff, you have to climb paved Homestead Road. On our way up we enjoyed views of the surrounding forest and the peace and quiet of the carfree road.

When we finally reached the top, we snapped a few photos before dropping into Hide and Seek Trail.

Kronda’s partner in grime, Jessica Niggemann.

In mere moments we discovered that the upper half the trail was definitely out of our league. We were greeted by tight, steep switchbacks, slick rocks and roots, tight lines between trees and two stream crossings (I realize that sounds like heaven to more advanced riders). Suddenly our ride turned into a hike.

Everyone stayed in good spirits despite the walking, enjoying the adventure and hopeful that things would smooth out further down.

After the second stream and crossing two wide wooden bridges, we reached the start of the lower half. To the left we could see a short off-shoot trail leading back to Homestead road and the first gravel pile we’d passed.

A smooth, bermed turn. (Photo: Jose Sandoval)

Almost immediately the trail smoothed out and became rideable for all of us. And not just rideable, but all kinds of awesome. There were a few switchbacks, but the majority of trail was smooth and flowy, allowing for faster speeds and a whole lot of hooping and hollering. There were plenty of single and double whoops jumps big enough to catch air (if you’re inclined to that sort of thing), but small enough for any beginner to ride over in a controlled manner.

By the time we got back to the road (all too soon), the entire group was all smiles. We liked it so much that we did another run of the bottom section of the trail.

With two successful runs on the lower trail, our companions headed on to other obligations while my partner Jess and I explored a short circuit near the parking lot called Laura’s Loop. It’s just .75 mile long but a great loop for beginners or to warm up for the more challenging trails. If you plan to go, don’t take the first sharp offshoot to the right, g o either direction at the second fork. A clockwise direction will give a more leisurely cruise, while going counter clockwise results in slightly more challenging technical climbing (short and steep with some sharper turns).

Kronda (2nd from right) and friends.
(Photos: Jose Sandoval)

Jess was done for the day after our jaunt around Laura’s Loop. She headed down on the road while I went to check out the last mystery of the day. Between Laura’s Loop and lower Hide and Seek is TNT, a trail not yet featured on the current map (PDF) of the trail system. Here is where I found a group of armored riders in full face helmets, resting at the top before their next run on a series of sick jumps, ladders and seriously steep descents.

In the interest of thorough reporting, I ventured down, secure in the knowledge that bail outs are available around each stunt. Even so, I had some dicey moments getting through the course. I did O.K. until the very end, which was ridiculously steep and filled with small slippery roots; even walking down proved to be a harrowing experience.

Back in the parking lot, I thought back on my adventures with a smile and sense of accomplishment I haven’t had in a long time. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, these trails are not to be missed.

For more info on the Sandy Ridge Trail System, download the trail map and more from the BLM website. To be truly inspired (by both the trails and what expert riders can do on them) watch this video from IMBA:

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matt picio
14 years ago

Looks like a fun trail – thanks for the info, Kronda!

14 years ago

Does River City Bikes loan out Mtn Bikes to everyone?

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Reply to  OuterToob


no, I don’t think they loan out mountain bikes. Kronda got one from them specifically to do this story. Originally we planned this as a review of the bike (a 2009, f/s Gary Fisher Hi-Fi), but it ended up being too long so I decided to post the review separately at a later date.

14 years ago

Great story, Kronda! Sounds like a ton of fun.

gabriel amadeus
14 years ago

I just made my pilgrimage out there too and had a fantastic time! Going back ASAP!

FYI: The NWTA is holding a trail building party out there this saturday as part of Trail Fest: http://www.nw-trail.org/trailfest

14 years ago

Any trail that is “ridiculously steep and filled with small slippery roots” doesn’t sound like it was built to IMBA standards.

A trail should never run straight down a fall line but should traverse the slope at no more than half the incline of the slope.

Otherwise you are creating a trail that is going to erode and become a maintenance nightmare.

14 years ago

Relax Anonymous. My idea of ridiculously steep falls well within IMBA standards (hence the numerous switchbacks on the trail).

I was using flat, somewhat slippery pedals on my borrowed bike so I was more timid than usual. Had I been clipped in on my normal bike, I’m sure I would have tried riding more of the top half of the trail.

Don’t assume my lack of riding ability means the trail was badly built.

14 years ago

This trail is a blast. I don’t mind climbing. I rode my hardtail, and it was fine. I am looking forward to the new loop!

14 years ago


Thanks Jonathan, looking forward to reading the bike review in the future.

14 years ago

A couple of notes for those venturing to Sandy Ridge:
TNT was not designed or built by IMBA, but by local riders. It is a lot of fun, but is not officially part of the trail system at this time.

There will be a bridge across the big stream crossing some time in June.

We’re glad to hear that everyone is enjoying the system. The mild winter means that it has seen significantly more traffic than we expected! Please join us for the workday this weekend and watch NWTA for more opportunities to volunteer throughout the spring and summer!

14 years ago

The almost immediate popularity of the Sandy Ridge system speaks to the need for more quality singletrack in the PDX area. Support local, legal trailbuilding efforts, support IMBA, support Northwest Trail Alliance and represent often.