Welcome back to Oregon. After our ride in Bend, we left early morning for a short drive to McKenzie River, because today we’re hitting the world famous scenic McKenzie River Trail. This trail was at one point rated the #1 trail in the US, can it live up to that? The trail starts with a shuttle about 20 miles up the road to a nice open trail head, the trail the follows the river back down crossing over a few times, ending back on the road to ride back to the shuttle pick up point.
In hindsight, I regret not taking the lava field route, later research showed that the views of clear lake were even better and that the section was totally ridable, unfortunately, we may have listened to wrong type of rider as we rode up on the shuttle. If you’re doing this for the first time, give the lava field a shot, just don’t take super thin tires and don’t crash on it cause the rocks are sharp beyond belief.
For most of this trail you’ll be riding close to the river, meandering close and away from as the natural path formed between the old lava deposits allows, in general, the technicality of this trail is very low, there is an exception further ahead where lave rock is more present, but in general, expect to cruise through this one. I personally didn’t feel there was anything to gain from going faster, it just not that type of terrain. Every so often, you’ll cross over the river on bridges made of downed trees which feel perfectly at home and add to scenery instead of taking away.
There are however a few sections where the trail and the river start to gain vert difference, and more often than not, its a sign that you’re about to reach one of the amazing waterfalls. Its worth stoping and taking the time to just bask in nature, the roar of the water and the quiet of the forest contrast incredibly well in a kind of power and peace balance.
You’ll know you’re getting close to the blue pool area for two reasons, it’ll get a lot more rocky on the trail and you’ll encounter a river of hiker as this part of the trail is what most hikers come do. Overall, there seemed to be nice interaction for us, but you have to slow down a lot to avoid unpleasentries.
After this upcoming bridge the rockyness stops almost instantly, the good part, is that you’re up for the best fastest riding on the trail, a few short punchy climbs will gain you some solid elevation to lose once again.
As we come to the end of the video, I want to leave you with some final thoughts, because, I honestly struggled with figuring out if this ride was worth it or not. When I first asked around about this trail, Matt from Shut Up and Ride MTB described it as riding through a postcard, and I now understand just how perfect of an assesment that is. You see, this trail is stunningly beautiful, its peaceful, its full of nature, and lava rock, and perfect lakes and rivers and the bluest of blues, kinda of like a post card its amazing to look at, but its mostly so you can cherish a memory from a place you once went, also like a post its somehow static, it lack excitment and energy.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that whether you enjoy this ride or not, is greatly going to depend on what you expect from it. This is not a fast bombing downhill, if you expect that, you’ll be dissapointed, if you want the nature experience you’ll most likely love it.
For us, the last section got to be a bit too much, every corner felt like it was this is the end of the trail, and somehow it kept on going, and at this point it was dead flat. Eventually we got to this bridge which connected back to the road, and we, well skipped, the last 4 or 5 miles, because as great as the middle had been, we had had enough of the end. I want to make clear, I’m not speaking ill of this trail, if you watch my channel regularly, you know the kind of riding I like and this isn’t exactly it. Did I like it? Yeah. Do I thin its the number one trail in the US, well no, not at all.
McKenzie River Trail on Trailforks: https://www.trailforks.com/trails/mckenzie-river-trail/