[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.]
flowy, and swooping,” singletrack.
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.
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.
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: