Ride the Oregon Timber Trail
Riding the Oregon Timber Trail is a serious undertaking, both physically and logistically. This page will provide you with the resources to be well informed about the route's alignment, highlights, and challenges.
2017 is the Oregon Timber Trail Pioneer Year. Up to this point only two intrepid adventurers—Sam Clark and Kim McCormack—have completed the rough and rugged almost 700-mile journey. We’re excited to share the route and this guide with you to inspire and inform you to ride it this summer or in a subsequent year. We want you to have fun and be safe, so please read this guide carefully to understand the challenges you’ll face.
The Oregon Timber Trail is a new, unrefined route and this guide is likely to be incorrect or lacking in some sections. As a bikepacker, be aware that change is inevitable and adaptability is the best skill you can take with you out on the trail. Stay in touch, we’d love to hear from you after the journey about your favorite areas, the hardest parts and what improvements you think could be made.
Start scheming, plan carefully, rope in some friends and have fun exploring the varied wild landscapes that have enthralled generations of Oregonians before you.
On behalf of the Oregon Timber Trail Alliance we sincerely hope you have a great season exploring the bounty of beauty that is Oregon.
ROUTE GUIDE AND GPS FILES
Interested in riding the Oregon Timber Trail in 2017? The route is actively being developed and the trails are still being rehabilitated so if you're looking for a rugged, primitive experience this may be it. But it's not ready for everyone. In 2017 we're encouraging people to join our trail stewardship events throughout the summer and ride the segments that are well developed. Want to connect with other riders who have ridden or are planning to ride the Oregon Timber Trail? Join the rider Facebook group here.
Sign up below to download GPS files, the full route guide PDF, and receive trail news. You'll be asked to take a quick 30-second survey first.
The route can be ridden in either a northbound or southbound direction, though the alignment is designed with northbound travel in mind. Not only is there is a net elevation loss, but getting to the California border is simpler at the beginning of your trip than the end.
The route begins about 20 miles south of Lakeview, Oregon on the California border. If you are coming from Portland, the Amtrak train runs to Klamath Falls which is roughly a 100-mile ride to Lakeview, or if you prefer to stay on dirt, use the suggested Klamath Falls start option on OregonTimberTrail.org to tie into the Oregon Timber Trail at Moss Pass (Mile 70).
Shuttle operators are also available to shuttle you to the southern end of the route:
Zach’s Bikes, Klamath Falls, Oregon
Bike Concierge, Oregon City, Oregon
Portland Sag Wagon, Portland, Oregon
Many changes, trail closures, weather alerts, and important information will likely arise. We’ll try to post all important updates on OregonTimberTrail.org and in the associated email newsletter, but use the Facebook group “Oregon Timber Trail Riders” to communicate with other pioneer riders about current trail conditions and planning logistics.
Is this route for you?
A route like the Oregon Timber Trail is unique and inspirational. Many people want to ride it, however, not everyone possesses the skill and experience required to ride it safely. You can ride it fast or slow, and make it easy or hard on yourself, but there is a baseline of experience that you should have before attempting the whole route. The Oregon Timber Trail is much more difficult than the Oregon Outback, the Great Divide Route, and the Baja Divide. The Oregon Timber Trail falls more in line with the likes of the Arizona Trail and the Colorado Trail. It is strenuous, technical, challenging, complicated and barely existent in some sections. Make sure you are prepared physically, mentally and technically. It’s important not to let your ego get in the way if you end up over your head. Many easy bail options exist, and there’s no shame in coming back to finish the job next year.
Group start or event
There will be no official group event or mass start in 2017. While a mass start or group riding is fun and softens many barriers to riding a difficult bikepacking route, we’ve decided the sensitive trail and minimal resupplies cannot sustain a large group traveling the route together in 2017. The Oregon Timber Trail Alliance is putting considerable effort into trail stewardship and community outreach and hopes to support a group event in the future. 2017 is the year of pioneers—feel free to band together with as many solid teammates as you’d like and enjoy the solitude of Oregon at your own pace.
Racing or Fastest Known Time (FKT)
We ask that you do not try to race the event or try to set any speed records in the 2017 Pioneer Year. Ride it slow or ride it fast, but don’t make speed the primary reason for riding the Oregon Timber Trail. You’ll be traveling through areas that will be visually stunning and through communities that are not accustomed to people traveling through on bicycle. Say hi, share a story, buy them a beer, or ask where their favorite swimming hole is. We’re all ambassadors of the Oregon Timber Trail and we want to leave a good, friendly, and respectful impression everywhere we go.
Season and Climate
Mid July - Mid October. The 2017 season will be particularly short as the Oregon Timber Trail Alliance works to rehabilitate and clear neglected trails. In subsequent years high-elevation snowpack will usually clear up by mid-June, but note that many backcountry trails may still be blocked by fallen trees that may not be removed until mid-late summer.
Most of the route is above 4,500 feet and parts will likely be under snow well into June. Snow flurries can begin to fall again as early mid October.
Expect freezing temperatures overnight at high elevation almost anytime of year, as well as heat during the day reaching 90º or higher.
The Fremont Tier will typically be the hottest and most sun exposed of the whole route, while the Willamette Tier will have the highest likelihood of precipitation.
The route is open to bikes during the summer months unless otherwise noted in the route guide, though nearby trails may have seasonal closures due to wildlife or safety concerns. Other temporary closures may occur for various reasons throughout the season, please adhere to any posted signage and check OregonTimberTrail.org for updates.
Navigation and wayfinding
The Oregon Timber Trail follows existing trails and road systems throughout the state. The surface, quality and signage of these roads and trails can vary dramatically. The route does not have signage anywhere indicating it as part of the Oregon Timber Trail. It is up to the rider to obtain detailed paper maps and GPS files before attempting a thru-ride or segment ride. The GPS and waypoint route files found on OregonTimberTrail.org are integral to successfully riding the OTT, as is this written route guide.
The route guide breaks down the Oregon Timber Trail into an overview, four tiers, and 10 segments. These are based on natural landscape changes and resupply points. The route guide will serve as a long-form description of the route and what to expect in each area in terms of highlights, terrain, riding conditions, landscape, resupply, historical context, ecological sensitivities, seasonal closures, lodging and off-route opportunities.
The GPS track is your primary tool for navigation. The majority of the route has no cellular service, and having a navigation system that works offline is mandatory. The alignment of the Oregon Timber Trail is fluid and may change slightly year-to-year as barriers, or better alignments arise. You’ll need to download the most current version from OregonTimberTrail.org. In order to use the GPS track you’ll need to upload it to a GPS device like a Garmin or a smartphone app. There’s typically a bit of a learning curve with this process and we suggest getting comfortable with the interfaces before venturing out on the Oregon Timber Trail. Since the Oregon Timber Trail is in its inaugural year, the GPS track is rough in some areas and may not be 100% accurate. Because of unknowns such as this, having paper maps or detailed topographical map files downloaded to your GPS device is essential.
Waypoints or POIs serve as key indicators of resupply points, good campsites, potential water sources, lodging, bike shops and other route highlights. These should be uploaded to your GPS device in addition to the track, and often include valuable notes about the resources and trail.
There are many different types of GPS devices and mapping apps, all with varying features. Bikepacking.com and other websites detail how to use these tools not only to follow a route, but also to navigate in the backcountry and make complex, informed decisions. Make sure your device will stay charged, show you detailed topographic maps even while offline, and can display not only the route file, but also associated waypoints as well. Test your navigation system and ensure you are familiar with its limitations before embarking on the Oregon Timber Trail.
There is no one paper map or map publisher that covers the entire Oregon Timber Trail route. Maps such as the popular Gazetteer are all but useless for a route at this scale. That said, roughly 80 percent of the planning and wayfinding can be accomplished with the following maps:
Resupply & water
Water sources on this route are limited, especially in the Fremont and Deschutes Tiers, and may dry up as summer progresses. Waypoints for these potential water sources are provided with labels like “poor” (unreliable, likely silty) and “good” (more reliable, cleaner water). DO NOT plan that every source will have water, and carry more water than you expect to need and have alternate plan. Carry a backup means of chemical water treatment like Aqua Mira or iodine. In areas where water is more prevalent (available roughly every 10 miles or more) water waypoints are not noted.
Food resupplies are also limited. To maintain the backcountry essence of the route, larger cities with full-service grocery stores are rare and most resupply points will have minimal food choices and limited hours. Pack up your leftovers, carry dry, light meals, and figure out how to get creative with convenience store fare. Call ahead to stores if you have particular concerns or questions about services and hours.
Camping and Lodging
Many official National Forest campgrounds exist on the route. These vary in size and amenities but most campgrounds that are marked as waypoints will have vault toilets, sites, tables, fire rings and tent pads. Fees will vary, carry cash.
Unless otherwise marked, dispersed primitive camping is allowed anywhere on National Forest land. We ask you to use sites that show signs of previous use instead of creating your own. Don’t add fire rings or tables to dispersed sites, and pitch your tent and walk where vegetation is minimal.
Many Forest Service structures are marked on the map. Most require a reservation and will be occupied so please respect these guests’ privacy and don’t trespass without explicit permission.
There are many private lodging opportunities along the route ranging from rustic cabins to luxurious resorts. We try to note where these are located in this guide, but call ahead for reservations and lodging information.
Leave no Trace
Plan ahead and prepare. Check with land managers, local bike shops, local cycling groups and OregonTimberTrail.org for the most up-to-date trail information.
Stick to the trail. When biking, durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, dirt roads and pavement. The Oregon Timber Trail route travels through many sensitive and important ecosystems, stay on the trail and don’t skid.
Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary. Protect ecologically sensitive areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams. In popular areas concentrate use on existing trails and campsites. Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy. Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent. In pristine areas, disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails. Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
Dispose of waste properly. Use restroom facilities where possible. Bring along a trowel and dig a cat hole six to eight inches deep at least 200 feet away from water sources and trails. Cover and disguise the cat hole when finished. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter. To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
Leave what you find. Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts. Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them. Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
Watch out for stowaways. Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species. Seeds, vegetative matter, and mud can stick to your bike and clothing and then fall off miles down the trail. This has the potential to introduce harmful plant species to fragile and vulnerable ecosystems. Shake out your clothes in camp each morning and keep your bike clean to prevent the spread of invasive species.
Minimize campfire impacts. Not only are burn bans prevalent throughout Oregon in the summer months, campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Check fire regulations before heading into the backcountry and where/when fires are permitted use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light. Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand. Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes. Burying fires does not extinguish them, it allows them to smolder and likely re-ignite. Never use fires to burn your trash.
Respect wildlife. Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them. Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors and exposes them to predators and other dangers. Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely. Control pets at all times, or leave them at home. Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, nursing, or hibernation.
Be considerate of other visitors. Travel on designated bike trails. Respect land management by avoiding travel over trails where biking is prohibited. Respect other trail users and protect the quality of their experience. Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail. Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering horses. Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors. Let nature’s sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
Other trail users
The entirety of the Oregon Timber Trail route is multi-use. The route pieces together singletrack trails, motorized trails, historic pack routes, wagon roads, dirt roads, gravel roads, and even a few miles of quiet asphalt ribbons. The route was created with mountain biking in mind but expect to see equestrians, hunters, hikers, backpackers, Off-Highway-Vehicle (OHV) riders, motor vehicles and other trail users at any point. When on roads, follow all traffic laws and be aware that vehicle and OHV traffic may be present. Many areas are near active logging zones where fast-moving logging trucks won’t be used to people on bikes.
The route is aligned on low-use backcountry trails and many different types of users can coexist with common sense and common courtesy. As a cyclist it is your responsibility to yield to all other users on the trail: being polite and giving horses and hikers a clear path to pass is paramount to continued access for multi-use trails. Maintain line-of-sight and control of your bicycle. Slow and stop when nearing other users. Alert them to your presence with a simple hello. If you’re traveling with a group it’s courteous to say how many more riders are behind you as you meet another trail user.
Don’t pass horses until you’ve stopped and the equestrian has acknowledged your presence and given you an indication it’s safe to do so. If you’re stopping to let horses by, it’s much safer to step off the downhill side of the trail and let the rider pass. Remember, a smile and “good morning/afternoon” is the best tool in your toolkit as a bikepacker.
The Oregon Timber Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) cross each other four times. Bikes are not allowed anywhere on the PCT, please respect these use-restrictions and make sure you continue on the Oregon Timber Trail route at these intersections. Or pitch camp nearby, and go on a day hike using the PCT to access nearby peaks and Wilderness areas.
A note about trails
The Oregon Timber Trail is almost 700-miles long but only utilizes a fraction of the thousands of miles of trails we have here in Oregon. These trails require constant maintenance by dedicated volunteer trail groups in every area. If you want to give back to Oregon trails, each of the following organizations would love a donation or your boots on the ground at their next work party. A huge thanks to Klamath Trails Alliance, Backcountry Horsemen, Central Oregon Trail Alliance, Pacific Crest Trail Association, Greater Oakridge Area Trail Stewards, High Cascades Forest Volunteers, Disciples of Dirt, Salem Area Trail Alliance, Oregon Equestrian Trails, Bend Trails, Sisters Trails Alliance, Trans-Cascadia, Northwest Trail Alliance, 44 Trails Association, and Hood River Area Trail Stewards.
In addition to the thousands of volunteer hours invested, none of these trail systems would be possible without the land management support from the Lakeview, Paisley, Silver Lake, and Chemult Fremont-Winema National Forest Ranger Districts; the Middle Fork, Sweet Home, McKenzie River, and Detroit Ranger Districts of the Willamette National Forest; the Chemult, Bend, and Sisters Ranger Districts of the Deschutes National Forest; and the Clackamas, Zigzag, Barlow, and Hood River Ranger Districts of the Mount Hood National Forest.