Travelogue Oregon: Laughing outloud at Sandy Ridge

Purpose-built MTB trail system near Portland maximizes fun factor

Travel Oregon
The 11,239 foot-high Mount Hood towers above the lush orchards outside Hood River.

The 11,250-foot tall Mount Hood towers above the orchards outside Hood River (click to enlarge).

Editor’s Note: This post is courtesy of Travel Oregon.

Located in the shadow of the 11,250-foot peak of Mount Hood in a lush and dense Pacific Northwest forest, the Sandy Ridge trail network combines old school riding feel with a touch of new school flow. Designed and built with assistance from the International Mountain Bicycling Association, Sandy Ridge was created in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management six years ago, and has since grown to 15 miles of exceptionally fun trails suitable for a wide range of riding abilities.

Despite the foggy and wet weather at the trailhead, the Sandy Ridge parking lot was completely packed as mud-splattered mountain bikers grinned wide with post-ride stoke. Before even putting tires to damp dirt, I knew this was going to be a memorable ride.

A pleasant four-mile paved climb delivers riders to the top of the Sandy Ridge trail network.

A mellow paved climb delivers riders to the top of the Sandy Ridge trail network (click to enlarge).

In a way Sandy Ridge resembles an amusement park roller coaster. The trail network layout features approximately a four-mile, 1,200-foot paved climb that’s closed to cars, making it the perfect way to warm-up and socialize. Off the top there are a variety of options, all perfectly seasoned with occasional berms, tabletops, optional drops and rocky technical sections. At the bottom, jump back on the pavement and climb up to the top for more singletrack goodness.

Despite being only 3,000 acres, Sandy Ridge maximizes its real estate. Indeed, it’s the largest mountain bike-specific trail system in the country built on federal land. And because of the paved climb, riders rarely have to worry about uphill traffic during descents. Most hikers steer clear of the area, knowing that Sandy Ridge is a mountain bike playground.

When there’s a break in the thick Pacific Northwest forest, views from top of Sandy Ridge are sweeping.

A break in the thick Pacific Northwest forest offers sweeping views (click to enlarge).

About halfway up the climb is the access point for Flow Motion, one of the area’s newer trails. Running about a mile in length, it’s a great way to break up pavement stints; the trail puts you right back on the road — and it’s a ton of fast and flowy fun.

Dropping in on Rock Drop Trail.

Dropping in on Rock Drop Trail (click to enlarge).

After reaching the top, I ripped down Upper Hide and Seek, one of the system’s main arterial trails. It’s a fun rip peppered with berms, small tabletops, and sections of rocky, loose singletrack. About halfway down, I popped back onto pavement and climbed to the top again, this time linking up Rock Drop, Quid Pro Flow and Two Turntables and Microwave with Lower Hide and Seek. It was a full top-to-bottom run that had me whooping up a storm.

Hide and Seek trail features high speed flow with bermed corners, hip jumps and tabletops.

Hide and Seek features high speed flow with bermed corners, jumps and tabletops (click to enlarge).

Roughly five miles long, Two Turntables to Lower Hide and Seek for me wasn’t just the run of the day, it was the ride of my entire two-week Oregon road trip. Two Turntables was especially memorable, featuring longer straight sections where you can let off the brakes and blast through numerous rock features and high-speed switchbacks. Once onto Hide and Seek, speed and flow cranked to 11, the smooth terrain letting me test the limits of traction.

The fun Little Monkey jump trail is a great way for riders of varying skill levels to end the day.

The Little Monkey jump trail is a great way for riders of varying skill levels to end the day (click to enlarge).

At the bottom of Hide and Seek, I climbed the pavement for five minutes to hit Little Monkey, a jump trail with banked corners that ends at the main parking lot. It was such a blast, I felt like a kid running wild through an amusement park.

Sandy Ridge features deep, lush coastal forest terrain that’s rideable nearly year-round.

Sandy Ridge features lush coastal forest terrain that’s rideable most of the year (click to enlarge).

Leading up to this ride, I’d heard a lot of hype about Sandy Ridge. But the place exceeded its reputation. It’s pure, undiluted mountain bike bliss that appeals to all ages and skill levels. And because of its lower locale, Sandy Ridge is rideable most of the year, as it drains water well.

For maximum fun, most people choose to ride Sandy Ridge on geared full-suspension bikes, but I had no problems on my hardtail singlespeed with a 120mm fork and dropper post. In fact, Sandy Ridge is a great place for singlespeeding, as climbing almost always is on paved road, featuring a steady gradient that’s never too steep.

A collaborative effort between Portland-area mountain bikers, IMBA and the BLM created Sandy Ridge nearly six years ago.

A collaborative effort between Portland-area mountain bikers, IMBA and the BLM created Sandy Ridge (click to enlarge).

Sandy Ridge is also a terrific example of what can be achieved when avid mountain bikers, a mountain bike advocacy organization, and a land manager put mind and body together. It’s a truly special place that melds the challenge of riding on traditional, old school-style technical, rocky trails with the giddy fun of well-designed flow. As a model for balanced, sustainable trail building to accommodate all ages and skill levels, Sandy Ridge helps bring in new blood to expand the appeal of mountain biking while boosting the local economy. It’s a must-ride for any mountain biker passing through the Portland area.

Check out this summer’s 7 Bikes for 7 Wonders scavenger hunt. We’re hiding seven custom-made bikes around Oregon for someone to find and ride. For full details and rules, please visit traveloregon.com/7bikes7wonders. To learn more about the state and all it has to offer, check out TravelOregon.com.

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)
About the author: Kurt Gensheimer

Kurt Gensheimer thinks the bicycle is man’s most perfect invention. He firmly believes ‘singlespeed’ is a compound word. He sometimes wears a disco ball helmet. He is also known as Genshammer. He is a Gemini and sleeps outside in a hammock.


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  • Trevor G. says:

    I think the article should have also mentioned the work that the local organization, Northwest Trail Alliance, has put into Sandy Ridge! Credit is due to them as well. Epic riding at Sandy Ridge! Thanks NWTA! Team Dirt in Corvallis is inspired by your success and the trails you have created!

  • Brent Edens says:

    I want to hear more about your two weeks in Oregon…?

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