Move Over PCT: You’ll Soon Be Able to Mountain Bike From Washington to California

It's estimated to launch in April. But go ahead and start planning your trip now.

(Courtesy Oregon Timber Trail)

Since 1992, hikers have been able to traverse Oregon north to south using the Pacific Crest Trail, which traces the Cascades from the Bridge of the Gods to the California state line. This summer, you can finally bike across the state, from Hood River to the mines of Modoc County, Calif.

The state's biggest bike route is called the Oregon Timber Trail, and it's a collaboration of Travel Oregon, the U.S. Forest Service, the federal Bureau of Land Management, and outdoorsy trip planners Limberlost. They're taking 650 miles of already-extant trails and combining them into a massive, state-spanning single-track mountain bike trail.

"We have the Pacific Crest Trail, which is amazing and aspirational," says Harry Dalgaard, one of the leaders behind the project at Travel Oregon. "But we realize there's a significant dearth of long-distance mountain-biking opportunities in Oregon. We started looking at this route, and we realized that the [Southern Oregon] Fremont National Recreation Trail is over 100 miles long. How can we link that with other trail systems to provide this cool, iconic single-track experience? We started looking at other national forests, and stumbled upon a route that was 650 miles long in five national forests."

The route is 55 percent single-track mountain bike trail. The balance is unpaved Forest Service and backcountry gravel roads.

The trail is split into four sections—from south to north: Fremont, Willamette, Deschutes and Hood—each of which shows off a different slice of Oregon wilderness. The route winds its way through Ponderosa pine forests, salt lakes, Cascadian rain forest, mountains ranges and cinder cones. However, it is also designed to veer close to popular Oregon hot spots like tourist town Oakridge, middle-of-nowhere giant steak and whole-chicken spot Cowboy Dinner Tree, and the brand-new Suttle Lodge from the people behind Ace Hotels.

Completing the entire track is no small feat, with a suggested trail time between 10 and 25 days. "If you're doing the whole trail, you'd need to be an expert with experienced backpacking," says Dalgaard. "But to do the Deschutes tier, you could be a relatively novice backpacker. If you wanted to cut your teeth, it's a great place to explore and have a good time."

Dalgaard is waiting for a letter of support from the U.S. Forest Service before officially debuting the Oregon Timber Trail, with an estimated launch in April. If you want to start planning a trip, go ahead: All trails exist and are legal for mountain biking. "It's amazing that Oregon has all of these trails on the ground already," says Dalgaard. "What we were able to do is take this global perspective of Oregon, look outside forest boundaries, and link these trail systems together."

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