Located in Silver Falls State Park east of Salem, Oregon, the Catamount Trail loop is 12 mile ride that features a four-mile, mostly downhill single track. Part of a larger trail network, this loop is a great example of the modern XC mountain biking trail experience.
Described as an ‘enhanced’ cross country trail, the single track twists and turns through the forest over a mixture of hardpack and pine needles. Punctuated with roots and the occasional pile of rocks, there are a number of optional features along the route allowing riders to get creative along the way.
Whether they’re the little stump kickers, occasional log ride, or bump to root-filled berm, it makes the blue rated trail enjoyable for a range of rider skill levels.
Though upper Catamount is designated as a directional trail, with a number of uphill segments, its not a gravity trail by any means. Our preferred way of experiencing the trail is the four mile pedal up the gravel road and come back along the single track. For rider that prefer a lifts, occasionally the gate at the trail head is open, though it isn’t clear how often this is the case.
At the top of the climb, you have the option to drop down to the right on the Lost Creek Trail. This connects into the Shellburg Falls Recreation area, to access a number of directional trails. As the Catamount trail is short, adding this to the route would provide a bit more variety. (on our to-do list, updating coming soon)
The alternative is to do a second lap, or explore the Newt Loop, which contains a number of skills loops and lines that are ideal for taking out young riders for their first MTB excursions, with green, blue, and black diamond features well signed and labeled.
Additional options for XC epics
On a recent visit to the trail to plan a group outing, we elected to start in a different location from the 214 trail head in order to experience additional trail segments and add mileage to the day.
The longer, alternative route was fun, and adding the Buck Mountain loop adds additional options for adventure and exploration. It opened up our eyes to the potential for an epic day of trail riding.
We even discovered a few fun, directional spur trails off the Lost Creek Segment.
Like the rest of the trail system, navigating is easy with the well signed trails and even the occasional posted trail map. The only real confusion came when we were taking a loop through the Newt Skills trails.
With a number of short, skills oriented tracks splintering off the access trail, finding our way back to our starting point took a minute as we felt like we were going in circles (which we were) before taking the 214 north towards the Howard Creek Loop.
Silver Falls is managed by Oregon State Parks; there is a charge for parking at the Silver Falls State Park trail head for a State Park Pass. ($5/day, $30/year)
Alternatively, one could start in the Shellburg Area, which is managed by Oregon Department of Forestry. (note, the Shellburg Trails were damaged a few years back during a fire and we’re unclear of their current status; they have been closed for some time.)
For more info, trip and wayfinding, search for info on trails in both the Shellburg Falls Recreation Area and Silver Falls State Park. Although we’ve visited this area a few times in the past, we’re looking forward to revisiting it more soon and exploring all it has to offer.
I plugged this address into my phone to get to the 214 Trail head. This is typical starting point for the Catamount Trail Loop :
Lookout Mountain Rd, Sublimity, OR 97385
This got me to the 214 parking lot in both Google and Apple Maps. If you don’t have a State Parks pass, you’ll need to drive further in to locate a kiosk. Bring cash, as not all payment portals will take cards.