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  1. #1
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    McKenzie River Trail advice needed

    Mrs levity and I will be in Bend the second week of June and thought it would be fun to go over and check out the MRT one day mid-week. Some of the reviews I’ve seen suggest that volcanic rock on upper section(s) may not be so much fun and may require a lot of hike-a-bike, especially for non-expert riders.

    Do you think it’s worth it to go over and ride just the lower half of the trail between the McKenzie Bridge Campground and the Trail Bridge Reservoir? We don’t mind a bit of climbing, and the elevation change looks like it’s only about 1000 ft. Riding out and back would mean not being tied to a shuttle and would provide different views of the scenery, one slower one faster.

    Or, is the upper half too good (riding and scenery wise) to miss? Do you recommend other turn around points beyond TB Reservoir such as Tamolitch Blue Pool?

    Thanks! L

  2. #2
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    The most technical and rocky sections of the trail are between the Blue Pool and the northernmost trailhead at the reservoir. They're also the most crowded with hikers. Blue Pool, Sahalie, and Koosah Falls are the most scenic. So is Clear Lake and the bridge right where the river flows out of it. The lower stuff is just biking alongside a river, which is nice, but not particularly inspiring.

    In terms of riding I find the technical rocks the most fun, but it can be hard to ride through it at all because of the hiking crowds. There's many more fun trails - in terms of actual riding - in Bend. Even in terms of scenery, like the North Fork trail along Tumalo Creek to Happy Valley and then down Mrazek, is awesome. Dunno if it'll all be open by mid-June though.
    Last edited by tbmaddux; 05-22-2017 at 09:58 PM.

  3. #3
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    Personally, I would ride the upper half...and skip the last 10 miles of flat trail. The lava rock can be tough if you're not a technical rider.

  4. #4
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    Reservoir down is really nice. Very scenic and nice forest. Consider hiking up to the blue pool if you don't want to ride it as it is really interesting. Just climb up hill from res till the going get above what you want to do and stash bikes for short hike to the pool. Bend trails are riding great right now and snow is coming off up higher fast.
    Have fun.

  5. #5
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    The hikers will cause more hike-a-bike than the lava rock.

  6. #6
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    Thanks all for the helpful info!

    @tbmaddux - It will be our first time in Bend not skiing so the many trails there may be plenty to keep us smiling. Appreciate the tip on Tumalo Creek and Mrazek.

    @griz - Agree that techy can be fun, just concerned about comments from expert riders who said they didn't really dig it. That, and apprehension about going down on a cheese grater!

    @eastsiderider - Yes, I bet the lower half is also beautiful even if it's not challenging. Good suggestion about bike-and-hike as opposed to hike-a-bike. Sounds like a nice option if we do ride up to the Reservoir.

    @OldHouseMan - Is it crowded with hikers even mid-week?

    We'll see how it goes on the east side. Stoked - so many great trails, so little time. I'm sure we'll want to come back, and the MRT may have to wait until the next visit.

    Cheers, L
    Last edited by levity; 05-23-2017 at 08:00 AM.

  7. #7
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    I think we must have been lucky when we went. We went mid-week in August and didn't experience any hikers until after the Blue Pool, then we experienced a ton but they all moved aside and let us cruise on thru. No issues whatsoever.

    I agree with grip that the top stuff is by far the most fun. I can't imagine an "expert" not liking it. It's the only part of the trail that offers a true challenge. They may be experts somewhere else, but maybe not when the going gets rough? We had (2) guys in our group who are from Texas and they were bad-ass climbers on the smooth stuff because they race XC at home....where is relatively flat and not overly technical. They got eaten alive by the top section of MRT and also walked some steep stuff on O'Leary as well. All depends on what you're used to I guess.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by levity View Post
    Thanks all for the helpful info!

    @tbmaddux - It will be our first time in Bend not skiing so the many trails there may be plenty to keep us smiling. Appreciate the tip on Tumalo Creek and Mrazek.

    @griz - Agree that techy can be fun, just concerned about comments from expert riders who said they didn't really dig it. That, and apprehension about going down on a cheese grader!

    @eastsiderider - Yes, I bet the lower half is also beautiful even if it's not challenging. Good suggestion about bike-and-hike as opposed to hike-a-bike. Sounds like a nice option if we do ride up to the Reservoir.

    @OldHouseMan - Is it crowded with hikers even mid-week?

    We'll see how it goes on the east side. Stoked - so many great trails, so little time. I'm sure we'll want to come back, and the MRT may have to wait until the next visit.

    Cheers, L
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  9. #9
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    I agree with Maddux, but think the lowers stuff at least out to Paradise is good. Lots of huge trees down there.

    Is it worth it to catch the shuttle over from Bend just to ride the lower half? No. If you stopped on top of 242 and checked out the lava house, the upper falls and maybe got in kings too it would definitely be worth a day if you have not seen it.

    Edit-Rereading your post you may consider driving over 242 if it's open. Possibly riding around clear lake, then checking out the falls. A better option than out & backing (imo) the lower would be out & backing kings and possibly topping out on the mtn.
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  10. #10
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    If you've never ridden MRT, you shouldn't miss it. Especially the upper sections from around Clear Lake down to Trailbridge Reservoir. That's where the best scenery is plus the best riding by far. Techy sections won't set you back much if at all. Just do it -- you'all be glad you did. But by all means go on a weekday. The section between TB Res and Blue Pool (more accurately Tamolich Falls) can get very busy with hikers on nice weekends.

    Many tourists feel the need to hit MRT as well they should. It's one of Oregon's unique experiences and the river, waterfalls, big trees, hot springs and such make it so. I'm so glad I live close enough to it to hit it whenever I want. That said, Oregon has better (more awe inspiring / rugged / remote / "out there") singletrack than MRT. Come back whenever you can hang with some Oakridge locals and you'll discover trails like Bunchgrass, Middle Fork, Lawler, Tire Mtn, Larison Creek, etc. You'll want to stay longer next time.
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  11. #11
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    @WHALENARD, @Sparticus - Your comments and encouragement are appreciated!

    We're from arid SoCal and tend to travel to Arizona and Utah deserts, so we should branch out and experience the great northwet. The old growth pics I've seen are indeed beautiful. If not this trip, then perhaps combine the MRT, Umpqua, and trails out of Oakridge next time. I'll hit you up for
    advice then as well.

    In any case, I made a reservation at the McKenzie River Campground for Wednesday night, June 7, should we decide to head over the hill from Bend.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by griz View Post
    ......The lava rock can be tough if you're not a technical rider.
    Yep, the first dent in my Blur frame was on MRT lava.
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  13. #13
    Nat
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    Quote Originally Posted by levity View Post
    In any case, I made a reservation at the McKenzie River Campground for Wednesday night, June 7, should we decide to head over the hill from Bend.
    Which campground?

    One other option you might want to consider is staying at the Belknap Hot Springs, which is towards the southern end of the McKenzie River Trail. After riding you can go for soak. They also have day use in case you just want to soak without staying overnight.

    The southern half of the trail (below blue pool) is nice, it just doesn't have as much chunky rock. By the way, the 1000 foot elevation difference might be the total change from top to bottom, but the trail rolls up and down the entire way so you will be climbing more than it looks like you would based upon the map. Neither direction feels downhill.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by WHALENARD View Post
    A better option than out & backing (imo) the lower would be out & backing kings and possibly topping out on the mtn.
    King-Castle, yes. So fun. Don't out and back it though, you can pedal-suffer at home. Just shuttle it until your arms and legs fall off.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nat View Post
    Neither direction feels downhill.
    Exactly. The trees are nice and all but I have a lot of access to trails with trees over here in the Willamette Valley, and the majority of them flow better and have less crowds.

  15. #15
    Nat
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    It sometimes surprises people who were under the impression that they would be coasting downhill entire way from North to South.

  16. #16
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    Thanks for the tip on Belknap Hot Springs, Nat. We booked a site the McKenzie Bridge Natl Forest Campground, but we'll have to check out the Springs pools. That would be sweet after a ride! Hmm, maybe we should change our reservation...

    And yes, we assume the trail will roll up and down as most do, but the profile doesn't show any major climbs or descents in the lower section. I should have said "net" elevation change.

  17. #17
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    Good job! closure, sort of

    It was a blast riding the Bend trials, but Mother Nature interfered with our plan for the MRT.
    Who thought it would rain in Oregon?

    We had three and a half great weather days for riding while staying at Tumalo State Park and managed to ride parts of the Deschutes River Trail and many sections of Phil’s Trail system. Kudos to the trail builders and COTA - never seen so much nicely groomed, smooth flowing singletrack! SUPER FUN! It was all good, our favs probably Lower Whoops (of course), Skyliners, and Kent’s (going downhill).

    We rode over to Tumalo Falls, but unfortunately didn’t get to follow tbmaddux’s suggestion to try North Fork, Farewell or Mrazek after seeing his trail condition report June 4th (darn, but thanks, Tim). We’ll have to return and see more of the high country.

    The night we’d planned to head over to the McKenzie a storm blew in making for wet conditions, and we decided to head back to dry SoCal. After seeing how nice it was we’re already thinking about a return trip. Next time we’ll stay longer and bring our SUP boards to take advantage of the lake and rivers as well as the trails. And then there’s Oakridge, Ashland….






  18. #18
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    Gladja duggit. Sometime come back in September and spend a week or ten days at Waldo Lake. There you've got amazing options for both serenity and mountain biking. The lake itself is quiet (no motors allowed) and peaceful but the mountain biking feels endless. Fuji, Twins, Lemish to Little Cultus, Gold Lake, Bobby & Betty and of course Waldo itself. If you're into epic adventure, you can even ride from Waldo to Oakridge, just arrange for a shuttle back to camp in advance and plan for a long day in the saddle.

    Warning: I said September and I meant it. The kids will be back in school so you'll have the place to yourselves but more importantly the mosquitoes will be dead. They're so bad up there until mid-August they can dehydrate a human in seconds flat. Step out of your car in July and the sun disappears. Not kidding.

    Oh yeah, MRT is okay, too.
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