Moderate mountain biking in Methow Valley

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of April 9-15, 1998
Moderate mountain biking in Methow Valley
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Moderate mountain biking in Methow Valley
Question: I'm looking for a place to mountain bike with my wife in June. Thinking of Oregon or northern California but don't know where to find moderate trails that my wife can do. She hates the steep drops and stunts that are in Vancouver.

Jason Howell
Vancouver, BC

Marin County, California
Adventure Adviser: Although you can find plenty of moderate riding in both Oregon and California, why not explore Washington's Methow Valley in your backyard? On the east side of the North Cascades, the Methow Valley is backed by craggy peaks, laced with shallow streams and Aspen groves, and home to some of the country's best riding. Locals refer to Methow as the "undiscovered Moab," and the valley offers a full range of terrain and plenty of rides for all levels. Scenic Sun Mountain Lodge, cresting a knoll overlooking the valley, offers stellar accommodations and a forty-mile network of trails, from single-tracks to old wagon paths. Call 509-996-2212 for details. There are also numerous rides throughout the valley and foothills. You can rent bikes, purchase maps and solicit trail advice from Sun Mountain or any of the bike stores in the funky, old-western towns of Mazama and Winthrop.

If you still want to check out Oregon, pick any one of the state's 16 national forests. Depending on what scenery you're after, parks on the east side of the Cascades are drier, with ponderosa and juniper forests, while the wetter west side has a dense ground cover and spruce forest. Just outside of Bend, and two hours southwest of Portland, is Deschutes National Forest. There, amidst hemlock forests, you and your wife can choose from more than 20 different rides, ranging in length and difficulty from the ten-mile gently meandering Deschutes River Trail to the more challenging canyon ride, affectionately called Phil's Trail Loop. Best rides for beginners include the 420 Loop, Cultus Lake Loop and Swampy Lakes Loop. The tree-lined Kiwa Butte Loop is another moderate ride with great vistas. The friendly folks at forest headquarters will happily stear you on the best routes. Call 541-388-2715 for more information.

Although it tends to be crowded, ever-popular Marin County and Mt. Tamalpais remain one of the best choices in California. Winding along old fireroads, the Railroad Grade is the most gradual route up the mountain and affords stellar views of the Bay Area and environs. Nearby Tennessee Valley offers a handful of relatively easy rides through the hills along the coast. And 40 miles away is Point Reyes and a plethora of seashore trails. Try the out-and-back to Arch Rock.

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