Joe Bike

Rocky Point Trail system is an exciting work in progress

Posted by on March 9th, 2020 at 4:26 pm

Trail builders test the fruits of their labor at Rocky Point trail system about 20 miles north of downtown Portland.
(Photos: Jason Van Horn)

This article was written and photographed by Jason Van Horn and it first appeared on his website, Bermstyle.

As a mountain biker living in Portland, one of the most exciting developments in the last few seasons is centered on the trail building activity near Scappoose, Oregon. Now known in mountain biking circles as the Rocky Point Recreation area, this trail system is located on private timber land and made available for mountain biking through a recreation-based lease to local mountain bike advocacy organization the Northwest Trail Alliance (NWTA).

Fresh tracks after a workday at the Rocky Point Trails, northwest of Portland, Oregon.

Many of the trails in the area have been used by local riders for years, but logging removed a large portion of the routes. Then the trails were closed and access to the area became a gray area; limited to the few approved for a special use pass to access the area.

While many of the trails continued to be utilized and there was trail building activity, but users not on an exclusive lease were technically trespassing.

Derek Kidd of Norco Bikes helps to move some dirt on a berm to grade reversal.

Finally, Trail Access For All (in good standing)

In the fall of 2019, the NWTA announced a groundbreaking partnership that would provide mountain biking recreation in the area for registered members. Through an agreement with the Weyerhaeuser Company, NWTA members in good standing have access to this growing network of trails. The land-use agreement is one of the biggest accomplishments in recent years for the club. Considering the sparse options for urban mountain biking in Portland, a significant investment is being made in the area, with volunteer trail builders donating thousands of volunteer hours into the trail system.

Local rider Scooter Sutterer stepped up as lead for the Local Stewardship Team at the Rocky Point Trail System, and has donated hundreds of volunteer hours on the project.

Portland, Oregon doesn’t have much in the way of mountain biking. Although the city houses the 7th largest urban park in the US, (Forest Park) cycling usage is restricted to natural surface roads, effectively banning mountain biking. That makes Rocky Point the closest legitimate mountain biking experience to Portland. Located 20 miles northwest of the city, mountain bikers on the west side can squeeze in an after work ride.

For comparison, Lacamas Park in Camas is 24.7 miles northeast of Portland; and while you could argue Powell Butte is the closest at 10.9 miles, in recent years the park trails have become rather unfriendly to mountain bikers, with the number of available single track dramatically reduced. Although we’ve ridden at Powell Butte for years, we tend to avoid it due to the growing user conflicts there.

Dig it, ride it

The best part of donating time swinging a shovel is riding fresh tracks directly afterwards — providing you’re not already wiped out from swinging tools all morning.

The trail experience at Rocky Point has already undergone a significant upgrade in the riding experience as connectivity between the North and South sides have been improved by a connector trail. And while the south side has generally been a personal favorite, it hasn’t always been very friendly towards less experienced riders. A number of new Blue Square/Intermediate rated routes have been added to the mix. In addition, some of the routes we used to only shuttle now feature climbing trails, providing more options for planning a ride.

The Rocky Point Trails offer a wide range of riding experiences for Portland mountain bikers.

The “old school” XC type trails are slowly being improved as well. One of the biggest issues with the heritage trails has been lack of consistency; a trail can go from a mile of rolling contour and then abruptly take you up a 20% grade, straight up a hill for no apparent reason.

A master plan is being put together now that should go a long way towards improving the network and the riding experiences.

A freshly built berm.

Weekly Build Days are ongoing

Ongoing build days are happening regularly, so if you’re a Portland resident and want to check out this area, we recommend coming out for one. It’s the best way to network and meet new riders. Just remember to save a bit of energy so you can get on the trail and learn some of the route afterwards.

We also recommend joining the Northwest Trail Alliance. Dues-paying members officially receive access to the area after signing the online waiver, and it is an easy way to support the on-going efforts, even if you can’t donate personal time.

For more details on how to gain access to this riding area, check out the Rocky Point page on NW-Trail.org.

— Jason Van Horn
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6 Comments
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    Shutupandride March 9, 2020 at 7:53 pm

    Thanks for the great coverage Jason and Jonathan. This is the best local mountain bike news in the PDX area I can remember. I have ridden the area countless times over the last 15 years but was blown away by the amount of recent trail work when I last visited.

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    SERider March 10, 2020 at 5:36 am

    Growing Powell Butte conflicts? Is this a recent thing?

    I rode very consistently (living pretty close by) at Powell Butte between 2011 and 2017, and NEVER had any type of conflict issue there. Most Portlanders didn’t know it existed much, and locals in this area of Portland aren’t nearly as militant as around Forrest Park.

    The old trails in Scappoose were fun, but it was definitely a bit of the Wild West out there. Nice to know the new ones are being built this way.

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      Brian March 10, 2020 at 6:08 am

      I’ve only had one issue in the last number of years, and it was minor. People at PB are friendly and willing to share the trail. They tend to apologize to me when I stop off the bike to let them pass. That being said, the number of trail users of all varieties seems to be on the increase. On the weekends it’s difficult to get in a ride without stopping often to let hikers pass. I don’t mind stopping and chatting, but some days I just want to ride without interruption. That is getting difficult to do at PB, making RPR a great alternative. Thanks to all who have volunteered their time out there!

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    jeremiah March 10, 2020 at 9:30 am

    I have similar concern re: powell butte conflicts. I find it to be one of the success stories where hikers/bikers/equestrians can all share the trails and there ISN’T conflict. Granted, there are always jerks and inconsiderate people on any mode of transit, but I find these to be the exception, not the norm at Powell Butte. I also recently visited Rocky Point to see the trails for myself and came away impressed at the volume of trails and the work that has been done. There is still much work to be done, but it is cool to see a closer to town network of trails than Sandy Ridge or Post Canyon, though it’s closer in scope/feel to Stubb Stewart than the former. It’s discouraging that most of the woods up there are still on the chopping block and it’s also ghastly to see how they log over streams and wetlands (Thanks to Oregon law, it’s totally “legal”) so we will eventually be riding through clearcuts, but trails are trails, I suppose.

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      Brian March 10, 2020 at 10:30 am

      There are multiple trails that are hiking only (including my favorite trail) and I would love to see a cycling only trail. I don’t even care if it’s bi-directional, just something to limit the start/stop that happens on a busy, shared trail. Seems to me like super “low hanging fruit” in a city with limited off-road options. Come on Parks, let’s make some advancements!

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    chris March 10, 2020 at 11:13 am

    This is gonna be sick! If you’re an NWTA member and sign the waiver to ride there, you can submit a form on the NWTA website to make the trail map available to you on Trailforks. I did so, and was amazed by how many trails are there. It’s way more extensive than Sandy Ridge – more akin to Post Canyon, and possibly bigger. Lots of XC trails, which aren’t my favorite, but plenty of downhill too. Haven’t ridden there yet though.

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