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Oakridge is a small town 40 miles east of Eugene on Highway 58 in the Willamette National Forest.  Located on the Middle Fork of the Willamette River and the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, Oakridge is known as the Mountain Biking Capital of Oregon.  Designated as a “Gold Level Riding Center” by the International Mountain Biking Association, there are over 500 miles of trails in the Oakridge area.  Oakridge once depended on logging as its primary economy.  Loggers used a trail system along the hills and the river to haul its timber down to the sawmills in town and for the Southern Pacific Railroad.  The sawmills have closed, but the trails remain.  Oakridge now almost exclusively depends on tourism as its local economy.  The trails are multi-use for mountain biking, hiking, and trail running.  The river is primed for fly fishing and in the winter, Willamette Ski Pass is located just 27 miles to the southeast.  Oakridge also has a Bus Fair featuring school bus tiny homes in June.

Larison Rock Trail in early fall

Aside from the Forest Service recreation teams at the Middle Fork Ranger District, there are many volunteer groups that help to maintain the trails in the Middle Fork area. The primary groups include High Cascades Forest Volunteers (wilderness and high country trails), Greater Oakridge Area Trail Stewards (trails closest to Oakridge township including Dead Mountain, Greenwaters Park and Larison Ridge), Alpine Trail Crew Association (north of Westfir Alpine and North Fork trails systems) and the Disciples of Dirt (Goodman Creek, Hardesty and Lawler trail systems). “While each group has a primary focus area, members coordinate regularly to collaborate on priority trail projects, especially those that may need specialized skills such as sawyer operations, brushing, or major tread and drainage improvements,”  says Michelle Emmons McPharlin, ATCA communications coordinator.  “The Forest Service typically sets these priorities in the early fall season, and trails groups work together to identify resources and schedule work parties to meet the specs of each trail facility as determined by Forest Service. Work parties are advertised through social media and other online communication forums, as well as local newspapers and events calendars, to help recruit volunteers to join the efforts. Besides the regular local stewards, people come from all around the Pacific Northwest and beyond to lend a hand, creating a sense of pride and ownership in public lands and preserving outdoor experiences for future generations of trail users.”

This project was led by the Alpine Trail Crew Association and hosted by the Oregon Mountain Bike Coalition as part of its first annual Trails Summit. PC: Gabriel Amadeus Tillman

 

The Alpine Trail Crew Association was formed in 2017 and “officialized” in January of 2018 as a non-profit trails organization addressing the eminent need for more volunteer leadership on trails systems in the northeast side of the Middle Fork Willamette District. “While our main focus area is the Alpine and North Fork trail systems, we work wherever the Forest Service has a need for more volunteer leadership in the greater Middle Fork Willamette District,” says McPharlin. “Our mission is to preserve and protect the Alpine Trail system and trails throughout the Willamette National Forest, for future generations of outdoor enthusiasts, while also educating future trail stewards on sustainable trail building and maintenance techniques.” McPharlin is working toward her B Sawyer certification and sits on the steering committee for the Middle Fork Willamette 20-year Trails Plan.McPharlin’s role in the organization is to coordinate communications and work parties and assist in community engagement programming, grant writing and other fundraising procedures to raise the resources needed to maintain great user experiences on the Middle Fork Trail System.  Check the Facebook page for other work parties with Alpine Trail Crew Association.

Devin VansCoy, race director for the Oakridge Triple Summit Challenge, ran in college before starting a teaching career in Oakridge.  “My running has been a life long progression. I am a firm believer in keeping things fresh, and one way to do that is by setting up new challenges for yourself, says VansCoy.  “After college, I wanted a new challenge, so I started to compete competitively as a triathlete. I did that for a few years and did very well, but then I moved to Oakridge for a new teaching position. I found that they did not have a pool and didn’t really have many places to do any kind of road running. That is when I started to discover trail running, and I have never looked back.”

Competitors enjoying the Oakridge Triple Summit

Oakridge has an abundance of trails in such a small area. “When I lived in Oakridge I could go out for a 2 hour run with my dog and never see a soul, states VansCoy.  “The trails are also diverse with long sustained climbs, rollers and flat trails. Also, depending on the altitude you can be deep in rainforested trails or dryer alpine trees.”
VansCoy favorite trails are Larison Creek in the summer because it is a pretty easy trail to run (maybe 1,500 feet elevation gain in 6 miles.)  “After the run, you can head down to the hills creek reservoir and take a dip with your dog to cool off. Larison Rock offers a harder workout because it is 4 miles of climbing without letting up.  I also really enjoy bombing down Larison Rock.  There are some parts that you can go pretty fast if you are familiar with the trail.”
Now Vanscoy lives in Eugene.  He tends to find himself running the Hardesty trail a lot since it is on the way into Oakridge. Hardesty Mountain (4,500 feet) can get a lot of snow and is hard to run from December to February.
“My favorite view is Devil’s Backbone on Dead Mountain Trail,” exclaims VansCoy.  “I love running down
Alpine trail. I am not a huge switchback guy but I enjoy running down the mountain, so Alpine has a lot of downhill running without the switchbacks.”
The Oakridge trail system is also expanding.  “Currently, the Forest Service in collaboration with the local watershed council is overseeing a new trail know as the Coal Creek project, which is re-routing trail users across a section of the previous trail that was taken out by a stream enhancement and restoration project,” according to McPharlin.  “This new trail is scheduled to be opened in 2020. The North Fork Trail, along the Aufderheide Scenic Highway, that follows the North Fork of the Willamette from the Westfir Portal out to FS1912, will see many new bridge improvements over the next two years, as well as additional clearing on the section between FS1910-1912, which was devasted in last year’s unusual late snowstorms, where trees in lower elevations were not used to such loads of snow. Planning is also underway for the new Larison Ridge Trail System located on the south side of Greenwaters Park, alongside Larion Rock Trail – which includes a progressive skills trail loop system for mountain biking and trail runners alike. Tire Mountain will see at least two new bridges next season, and a new extension between the bottom of the first Cloverpatch section and the trail entry for “22 Switchbacks” planned to break ground next spring.”

 

View from Devil’s Backbone near Dead Mountain

Oakridge Trail Runs

Check with the Middle Fork Ranger District for trail status of the Oakridge trails.

Middle Fork Ranger District
46375 Highway 58
Westfir, OR 97492
541-782-2283

A couple of popular loops in Oakridge are:

Larison Rock Loop –  This loop is 12 miles with 3200′ of ascent that starts from Greenwaters Park on the Southeast side of town.

Dead Mountain and Salmon Creek Trail –  An out and back on Dead Mountain Trail is 13 miles and 3000 of ascent.  Add the Salmon Creek Trail for 7 more miles.

ATCA Loop–  This 25-mile loop features the Alpine, Tire Mountain, and Cloverpatch trails.  The Alpine Trail is the “Crown Jewel” of the Oakridge area, offering sweet singletrack and plenty of fun ascents and descents and spectacular vistas of Cascades.

Waldo Lake Loop – This fairly flat 20-mile loop circles one of the scenic lakes in the Pacific Northwest 20 miles east of Oakridge
Hardesty Mountain/Sawtooth Ridge Loop – A challenging 20-mile loop that summits Hardesty Mountain and Mt. June located just west of Oakridge on Highway 58.

Oakridge offers an abundance of other trails in the area including:

Deception Butte

Alpine 

North Fork

Aubrey Mountain

Eugene to Crest

Kitson Ridge

Oakridge Trail Races

Oakridge Triple Summit Challenge – A three-day race that climbs different peaks and features many of the trails around Oakridge that’s put on by VansCoy.  “One day I was hiking on one of the many Oakridge Trails with my dog and thought about putting on a trail stage race,” says VansCoy. “I wanted to do something unique, that you can’t find just anywhere. I wanted to create a race that I would enjoy so when deciding on putting on the event I knew it had to be very hilly. Since then, it has been a gradual progression, adding things to make the race better, and getting rid of things that hinder the race. This year I decided to make the race dog-friendly by having dog biscuits and water at every aid station, and by having dog finisher awards. I believe that you can get a glimpse of the race director’s personality by running one of their races. This race definitely fits my personality. It is the only three-day stage trail race in Oregon. Twenty years ago, I think you could get away with creating any race and it would be successful. With so many races out there every weekend, you need to showcase something unique to make it successful. Also, I believe creating something that you really love will show and will attract other runners to participate in the event.”
WHEE – Also known as the Willamette Headwaters Endurance Events, this race on the Middle Fork National Recreation Trail #3609 on the Willamette River has distances of 11, 22, and 33 miles.  Profits from this race benefit the Eugene Mission.

Waldo 100k – One of the oldest trail races in Oregon, this race starts and finishes at Willamette Ski Pass.  It features many trails in the area and the Pacific Crest Trail around Rosary Lakes.  The feature climb is the 3.5-mile, 3000′ summit to Maiden Peak.  Mt. Fuji and the Twins are also part of the 11,000 feet of total ascent.  The race is put on as a 501c benefit for Willamette Pass Ski Patrol by Rainshadow Running.  See the Waldo 2019 100k race report for more.

Hardesty Hardcore – Level 32’s 14 and 5.5-mile trail races in the Hardesty Mountain Trail System.

Elijah Bristow 24 hour Trail Run–  A 24-hour loop race in the Pleasant Hill/Dexter area between Eugene and Oakridge that benefits the Eugene to Crest Trail.

Bristow Trail Runs– 50k, 25k, 10-mile and 5-mile trail races on the 5.2 mile Bristow trail loop from Level 32 Racing.

“New events are planned in 2020, including a possible 50K on the Middle Fork Trail,”  announces McPharlin.

Oakridge Trail Running Groups

The trail running race scene has been developing for quite some time in Oakridge. There is a running club at the local high school and a couple of groups in Eugene that run the Oakridge trails.
Eugene’s Run Hub NW hosts a group run every Wednesday that always has at least 40 runners. It is a very laid back run with a 3 to 5-mile option. Everyone goes at a casual pace and a handful of runners go out for beers after.
Run Hub NW does a Destination Trail run on the last Saturday of every month. VansCoy leads this group that goes to a cool trail and runs for a couple of hours, then out for a beer and food. The group usually gets around 20 or so people and is a very laid back type run that makes everyone feel welcome.
My Running Peers is a Facebook group that meets for runs around the Eugene-Springfield area.

Coffee

Lion Mountain Bakery – “This place was next to the elementary school on Main street before it burned down. On my stressful teaching days I would head over there on my prep for a coffee and homemade muffin,”  remarks VansCoy.
Stewarts 58 houses a great coffee bar next to the best burgers and shakes in town according to McPharlin.

Beer

Brewers Union Local 180 – They claim to be Oregon’s only real ale Public House and Brewery and is known to have a great beer selection, and good food.
Westfir Lodge and Mountain Market – Located at the base of Alpine Trail, Westfir Lodge offers a little of everything, as well as a nice room to sleep.  The Market has deli sandwiches, beer, and drinks.
All pictures on this page not credited are from Oakridge Triple Summit photographer Joseph William Hart.