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McKenzie River National Recreation Trail Professional Review and Guide
"Details are for north to south ride. This ride really is a treasure. The trail closely follows the river and passes through many contrasting environments. The northern end traverses an area of recent volcanic activity. The riding is extreme as the path crosses lava flows and skirts Clear Lake. You will pass two magnificent waterfalls before entering Tamolitch Valley. The northern half of the trail is technical and demanding with narrow, twisty sections over razor-edged lava rock. Steep ups and downs are real skill-testers. South of Tamolitch Falls, the riding gets easier. The southern terminus of the trail is 1.5 miles east of the tiny community of McKenzie Bridge, on OR 126 (approximately 50 miles east of Eugene)."
--Laurie & Chris Leman, Mountain Bike! Oregon (Menasha Ridge Press).
Great trail with distinct sections. The upper section has lava fields that are fun, technical and can all be cleared if you have the skills. Middle section has great waterworks with great waterfalls and beautiful water - a wonderful, translucent blue. The bottom is a wind and grind along the river. The only change would be to cut out at mile 20 or so - just a bit long to be worth the 5 hour grind it can turn out to be. Definity set up your own shuttle if possible. There are some local services but at what I would consider a premium price. We rode on Thursday and still came across 10 hikers and over 20 bikers - so expect some traffic...not a big hinderance but just beware as you''re sailing around a corner.
This is one of the most magically beautiful mountain bike trails I've ever had the pleasure to ride. In fact, this trail may well be the coolest trail ever. I'll return as often as possible. (my reference is northern CA trails) The trails here run through spectacularly beautiful and dense old growth Doug Fir forests which were a good 20-25 degrees cooler (in July) than the trails over in Bend. The seemingly endless single track goes on and on and on.... You just can't believe how it goes on and on...
Although it is often recommended to do this ride using a shuttle- ie, parking at the upper end closest to Sisters then riding 26 miles down to the McKenzie Bridge Ranger station - we discovered this is not 100% mandatory. (we had no second car for shuttling) During one ride we parked at the lower end of the ride at the McKenzie Bridge Ranger Station and rode up for 13 miles = 26 miles total. On another day we parked halfway up at one of the recreational lakes then rode UP to Blue Hole and Siskatel fall - gorgeous trails and spectacular scenery. The McKenzie River Trail is both flat/easy in places AND uphill/technical in others - you get a bit of everything on this trail. Overall there is not a lot of elevation gain yet this statistic is deceiving. You work VERY hard to make it up some of the rocky climbs so the moderate elevation you gain can be made difficult by severe volcanic rock which frequently rises in 10-25' gains here and there. Attempting to cool off in the McKenzie River is not recommended (numbingly cold) though many of the lakes you pass are refreshing.
This ride is hands down one of the coolest - if not THE coolest - mountain bike rides in the world if you like riding in dense, beautiful forests.
As the book, Single Track Anthology says, wherever you are, the drive is worth it. Everything from Lava fields to blue pools. Quite the ride along the Mac River. Very technical with some wide open sweepers to cruise on as well. The senic beauty is hard to duplicate with except maybe the Umpqua River Trail. Another favorite ride of mine.
This ride is one of the "must do" rides in Oregon. No doubt.
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