Skip Oregon's crowded destinations with these 5 underrated trails in Northeast Oregon.
Oregon is filled with famous mountain bike destinations and iconic trails. Big-name destinations include places like Bend, Oakridge, Hood River, and more… all places you’ve most likely heard of. With 5 IMBA Epics (both past and present), individual trails like the North Umpqua River Trail and other epics (whether or not they’re acknowledged by IMBA) like the McKenzie River Trail are constantly on the lips of mountain bikers from across the nation.
But all of those destinations? All of those epics? They’re found in the western half of Oregon.
Who’s heard about mountain biking in Northeast Oregon? Almost nobody… except for you, right now, and the other people who have read this guidebook. If you want to discover an untapped mountain bike paradise with a fraction of the trail traffic found in other places in Oregon, read on.
Northeast Oregon is a wild and sparsely-populated area of the nation, with mountains ranging from rolling hills to jagged, rocky peaks. The area is dominated by the Blue Mountains and the Wallowa Mountains, but unfortunately for mountain bikers, most of the Wallowas are protected by the expansive Eagle Cap Wilderness—the largest wilderness area in Oregon. While mountain bikes may be banned, the Wilderness Area does make for great hiking and peak climbing! And aside from some small swathes of wilderness, the Blue Mountains are largely open to mountain biking.
The Umatilla Rim Trail is one of the true gems of Northeast Oregon. Serpentine strips of dark, black dirt run through the deep woods of the Umatilla National Forest, breaking out into wildflower-filled mountain top meadows that afford stunning views of the deep gorge formed by the Umatilla River. With singletrack this sublime and views this stunning, the Umatilla Rim Trail is an instant classic!
For an epic alpine ride high in the jagged Elkhorn Mountains, try this epic point-to-point ride utilizing the Elkhorn Crest Trail. The highest elevation singletrack trail in eastern Oregon, this demanding route is only snow-free for a couple of months a year, so get it while the getting’s good!
Nearby, you’ll find the Anthony Lakes Trail System, with both mellow XC trails around the beautiful lakes and the only lift-served mountain biking in Northeast Oregon.
Last but definitely not least, the premier trail system in Northeast Oregon is undoubtedly MERA, the Mount Emily Recreation Area just outside of La Grande. MERA is home to a plethora of ride combinations, so be sure to read through the dedicated guidebook for even more detail. But for two of the top rides, consider this steep top-to-bottom loop ride with 2,800 feet of climbing (and descending) in less than 15 miles, and the enjoyable pedal on the MERA Loop and Sasquatch Trail.
After experiencing the incredible trails on offer in this isolated corner of Oregon, you may have no desire to brave the crowds of Sandy Ridge and Phil's ever again!