We’ve been spending a good deal of time searching for mountain biking near my home town in Clatsop County while getting ready to settle in the Portland Area. Naturally we’ve been busy taking inventory of what we’ve found. There used to be quite a bit of riding as we detailed on a previous post, ‘The Search for Riding on the North Coast.” Unfortunately, its not the same scene it was before, but hopefully it is on its way to recovering, and being even better. Here is our first finding, the Gnat Creek Trail.
Gnat Creek Trail: short and sweet
The Gnat Creek Trail is a hidden jem located 18 miles east of Astoria, Oregon just off of Highway 30. We were surprised to find such a sweet ride hidden out here, especially after searching unsuccessfully on Google for trail rides in the area.
Like most trails on the Oregon coast, a minimal amount of travel is required to have maximum fun on the trail. I could have an equal amount of fun navigating it on a hardtail or rigid bike; however, we have been having the most fun on our light weight all mountain or long travel trail bikes, ’cause it’s true, we’re all about the descents baby! A simple out and back, the trail is approximately 3.7 miles in distance one way for a total of just under 8miles in length. It’s a quality 3.7 miles though- in fact, the only thing this trail requires to become a destination trail for riders in the Portland area is mileage. Double the distance (preferably triple) and this trail would be a must do on any mountain biker’s list. The trail offers quite a bit in the way of the experience we’re looking for, especially since we’re on bigger bikes that aren’t as easy to climb- so the descent has gotta be worth all the work.
When you arrive, you are greeted by a nice trail side kiosk announcing the trail head location. A sign at the start of the trail clearly states you’re welcome to ride, along with hikers. Yes! After spending a good deal of time in Marin, County, California, it is a relief to be somewhere that is sane regarding bicycle policy on single track trails. The first 1 1/4 miles of trail are so much better than we had previously imagined- a twisty path snaking its way through the woods, with just enough roots and logs to make things interesting. The trail is anything but boring, as you dip up and down through the woods.
It’s really good stuff, better than we expected it would be- a designed trail, unlike many of the trails I remember riding years ago, that were created by motorcycles and ATVs. After that first 1 1/4 of goodness, you reach the highway crossing. The trail changes personality abruptly here, and goes from an intermediate level trail to a green beginner trail. It’s strange until you round the next few turns and encounter the fish hatchery, when it makes sense. Fortunately, once you are past the parking lot, you hit the next trail head and are back on the trail. It again goes back to a basic harden beginner level tread once you hit the lower falls and a section of trail with interpretive nature signs. Hmm. This is straight out of the “How to build a trail booklet.” (nice) Fortunately, as the trail is not on the radar of the local populous, we rarely encountered that many other users on the trail. In fact, during 4 separate trail rides, we have only encountered one other mountain biker. Turns out he knows Ed Jones too. Go figure.
Once the trail crosses the access road, you’re back in the game, and the trail gets “real” again. For here on, you are mostly working your way up, with various sections of down. Again, we’re impressed by the quality level of the trail- rolling grade dips are incorporated into the trail, as well a numerous grade reversals for drainage. All good stuff. At the end of the trail, it has a brief lollipop section where you loop around before heading back down. There is also a nice spot to sit and appreciate nature while you suck on a gel)
The descent down is all the same stuff you came up, but definitely more fun, because you earned it.
We’re glad to see some of that stimulus money looks to be going to our local parks. Not only is a trail head kiosk with signage, as well as some well maintained bridges, but in addition, the trail corridor is well cleared and appears to be maintained regularly.
Technical level: blue square/ intermediate
Distance: just under 8 miles; out and back
How to find the trail head: look for the sign labeled “Gnat Creek Camping Area” just west of the Gnat Creek Fish Hatchery. Coming from town, (Astoria) it will be a gravel road on your left. If you come up to the Fish Hatchery (on your right) you missed it.
Managed by ODF. Click here for more information plus camping info.
If you don’t have an adjustable height seat post, you will wish you did- we constantly were raising and lowering ours. I know someone else that wishes he had an adjustable height seatpost. (that means you Ed Jones!) There are just enough stairs and even a few solid technical sections, and rocky armored stream crossings.
We also recommend the Northrup Creek Trail.