Astoria, Oregon is a popular tourist destination — unless your goal is to go mountain biking. For years, the town’s economy was based on its location along the Columbia River, with fishing and logging supporting many residents. Tourism has taken over as the main economic activity of the city, based on site seeing and the brewpub scene. Being surrounded by water and forests, water sports are popular, but due to the lack of a mountain biking trail system, the area has never been a draw for the singletrack trails tourism that draws adventure-seeking riders to communities like Oakridge or Bend, Oregon. (some of our favorite Oregon destinations)
Although the local terrain is ideal for it, there is a glaring lack of mountain bike singletrack trail. Much of it is due to a big storm in 2009 that effectively buried all the trails local mountain bikers used to ride. Occasionally I’ll come back to visit and explore the many gravel logging roads, (Astoria and Clatsop County are great if gravel-specific riding is your ideal activity) as you can travel for miles on the gated back roads. Explore enough and you’ll discover some of the many routes put in by local motorcyclists. They can be fun, but the moto trails tend to be wide and consist of mostly straight lines. (not exactly an optimal mountain biking experience) Not to mention, anytime there is a steep grade, the trail surface will be channelized and rutted.
Thanks to the pandemic and efforts of a few local riders with extra time on their hands, many of the old trails are opening back up. In most cases, the routes have been improved upon, with reroutes of the less sustainable alignments.
These trails in the hills surrounding the town are technical, and not friendly to beginners. Tight and twisty, they feature frequent and punchy climbs that require a significant level of fitness. There isn’t a lot of flow, with many of the routes being more of a technical XC style, connected by sections of the gravel logging roads.
On a recent visit to Astoria, I met up with some of the local gang for a tour. Our ride ended up being the biggest group ride I’ve seen in the community to date.
During our ride, we covered almost 13 miles, with just under 1,800 feet of climbing. However, much of it utilized gravel segments for connectivity using sections of Pipeline road and other logging roads.
The emerging trail system has a long way to go before becoming a destination. Though cyclists have been riding here off and on for decades, and there are bike-friendly master plans in place, to my knowledge, none of it is technically sanctioned yet. Wayfinding is a major challenge, as the single track bits are littered throughout the woods. Many of the best sections are concentrated in one area, which is rather maze-like and it often feels like you’re going around in circles.
There’s tons of potential though, and the local riders are working to improve mountain biking opportunities. And if you can connect with some locals, it can be a good time, and the best part is there are plenty of bike-friendly brewpubs where you can bring your bike in post-ride.