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Ride in the McKenzie River Mountains

Published: October 26, 2022

 

The McKenzie River region is a surprisingly robust mountain biking destination — and especially stunning in the fall when the autumn leaves are changing. While nearby Oakridge often gets the glory for their miles of maintained mountain biking trails, the McKenzie River's reputation is built on waterfalls, whitewater rafting and fishing — but mountain biking insiders know there are collection of trails that offer epic mountain biking. 

Some of these ideal biking trails are beloved hiking trails, so please practice trail etiquette so that mountain bikes will continue to be welcomed along the McKenzie River trails. Bikes yield to pedestrians and mountain bikers should give a verbal warning before passing. Please walk your bike in congested areas (typically near waterfalls).

How to Get to the Trailheads

Horse Creek Lodge & Outfitters

This family-owned and operated outfitters provides five different shuttling options for mountain bikers. Well-versed on local mountain biking, they can help you select the right trail for you. Additionally, Horse Creek Lodge & Outfitters rents mountain bikes (just in case you didn't bring your own this time!) and provides lodging so you can ride more trails by multiple nights.

McKenzie River Mountain Resort

McKenzie River Mountain Resort offers daily mountain bike shuttle services to trailheads on the O'Leary Loop and the McKenzie River Trail. Bring your own bike and call ahead to reserve a seat for these popular shuttles.

McKenzie River Trail

Photo: Jody Trendler

McKenzie River Mountain Biking Trails 

O'Leary Trail Complex

The O'Leary Trail Complex is an IMBA designated "Epic Ride" with 22 miles of single track all linked together. Incorporating Forest Service roads creates a long loop — or arrange for shuttle service at one end.

Olallie Trail

 The Olallie Trail has six trailheads, and spans over twenty miles between the Ollalie North trailhead and the Pat Saddle trailhead. Much of it is through forest, both coniferous and madrone, and skirts the Three Sisters Wilderness. Some views are achieved along the cresting ridge lines. The midpoint, Horsepasture Mountain trailhead, is popular for mountain bikers, as this section links up with the O'Leary Trail. This trail is the most remote length in the Ollalie Trail Complex.

O'Leary Trail

The O'Leary Trail itself is 9 miles long and is accessed via the Olallie Trail near Horsepasture  Mountain Trailhead. It finishes at the Castle Rock Trailhead above Cougar Reservoir. The O'Leary Trail is a ride for the experienced mountain biker with a steep climb, plenty of switchbacks, narrow trail and rock walls. It crests two mountains, McLennan and Macduff, and showcases spectacular views. 

Castle Rock Trail

Castle Rock Trail is a short but steep ride up to the summit of Castle Rock along a steep terrain of single track switchbacks and ridgeline trail originating from the end-point of the O'Leary Trail. The views from the top of Castle Rock are breathtaking. 

King-Castle Trail

King-Castle Trail is linked to Castle Rock Trail offering shady forests and several stream crossings. The parking at King Castle Trailhead is unpaved and limited.

King-Castle Trail

Photo: Joey Hamilton

McKenzie River Trail (MRT)

One of the region's most outstanding shared-use trails, the McKenzie River Trail (MRT) parallels the McKenzie River through lush forests along a maintained singletrack. This stunning trail gently snakes across flat or mildly sloping terrain but is more likely to be congested with hikers and trail runners, particularly in the summer months — so fall and spring are great times to bike here. When passing through the waterfalls area, please walk your bikes, as these sections are prone to high foot traffic. Expect to encounter a few wooden bridges, rocks, tree roots and steps along the way.

The trail covers 25 miles and can be considered two rides — the lower and upper segments. Starting at the top by Clear Lake, the trail is a downhill ride. Coordinate with a shuttle service for the distance desired, as any number of miles may be arranged via multiple trailheads and road junctions. The lower segment has a longer seasonal accessibility in fall and spring. Don't overlook Belknap Hot Springs as the perfect end to a great day of riding!

Aufderheide Rides

The Aufderheide is a seasonal road that connects the McKenzie River region with Oakridge. Along its route there is a delightful natural hot springs with multiple pools (please walk your bike on the trail). This road is popular for graveling and is not maintained during winter, so plan accordingly. The following mountain biking trails are on the McKenzie River side of the Aufderheide, originating from Box Canyon, but local shuttles don't normally operate to these trailheads.

Grasshopper Mountain Trail

Grasshopper Mountain Trail traverses 11 difficult miles through remote backcountry. Steep climbs and sweeping views make it a challenging but rewarding trail. Be prepared that the trail may be overgrown in areas as it is sparsely used. Pack in your own water and supplies. A section of the trail combined with the Chucksney Mountain trail creates a loop.

Chucksney Mountain Trail

The Chucksney Mountain Trail, also starts at the Box Canyon on the Aufderheide. It provides a 6 mile looping extension to Grasshopper and crests a mountain ridge after meandering through forests and meadows. Lightly used by hikers as well. (This trail is currently closed due to wildfire August 2022.)

Author: Taj Barnhart Morgan

Taj Barnhart Morgan is the Director of Content Strategy for Travel Lane County. A journalism graduate from the University of Oregon, Taj has two decades of special event management and hospitality marketing experience in San Diego, CA and Maui, HI. Passionate about mothering, and back to her Oregon roots, she is discovering the Eugene, Cascades & Coast region all over again through the eyes of her daughter.