Oregon Crater Lake Wilderness Proposal Would Eliminate Treasured Mountain Bike Access

Among the 200+miles of mountain biking access that stand to be lost in the proposed Crater Lake Wilderness is a 15.6 mile stretch of the IMBA Epic North Umpqua Trail (photo: cogwilde.com)
Among the 200+ miles of mountain biking access that stand to be lost in the proposed Crater Lake Wilderness is a 15.6-mile stretch of the IMBA Epic North Umpqua Trail (photo: cogwild.com)

In what is becoming a depressingly-common phenomenon, yet more access to classic mountain biking trails is threatened by the potential creation of another new Wilderness area. After upwards of a thousand miles lost in Montana, Idaho and New Mexico, the newly-proposed Crater Lake Wilderness Area in Oregon has the potential to be the greatest loss to mountain bikers yet.  With upwards of 200 miles of trails threatened to be lost to mountain biking, this Wilderness proposal ranks right up there with all the biggies lost in the the last few years.  But it’s more than just the numbers that make this one such a kick in the gut; it’s which trails are included.

Part of the beautiful Umpqua River Trail (photo: cascadesingletrack.com)
Part of the beautiful Umpqua River Trail (photo: cascadesingletrack.com)

Losing the likes of Ants Basin in Idaho’s Boulder White Clouds and the Gallatin Crest south of Bozeman, MT were momentous events but, even as popular as those trails were, they didn’t begin to approach the national stature of what stands to be lost in the Crater Lake Wilderness.  Many classic routes, popular with mountain bikers for decades, would be lost, but one in particular stands out:  The North Umpqua Trail.  The North Umpqua Trail is one of the original IMBA Epics. It epitomizes everything about epic mountain biking and has done so for legions of adventurous cyclists for many years.  Below is a list of trails identified within the boundaries of the proposed Wilderness (source):

Trails Within the Willamette National Forest

  • Top of Willamette-3642 1.1miles
  • Windy Pass-3643 8.3miles
  • Sawtooth-3634 2.2miles
  • Indigo Lake-3649 1.9miles
  • June-Indigo Tie-3640 .4miles
  • June Lake-3639 2.2miles
  • Cowhorn Traverse-3641 .3miles
  • Opal Lake-3648 .2miles
  • Indigo Extension-4238 1.5miles
  • Middle Fork-3609 6miles

Trails Within the Rogue River National Forest

  • Reye Creek Trail 4.5miles
  • Blue Canyon-976 5.1miles
  • Sherwood Creek-1041 4.4miles
  • Union Creek-1032 4.4miles
  • Minnehaha-1039 3.1miles
  • Upper Rogue River-1034 9.3miles
  • Soda Springs-1039 .4miles
  • Sugar Pine 1080 3.1miles
  • Bitterlick 1079 5.5miles
  • Coldsprings-1080 3.1miles
  • Varmint Creek 1070 3.1miles
  • Greyer Springs 1087 1.1miles
  • Fish Lake 1013 5miles
  • Brown Mountain 1005 5.3miles
  • High Lakes 6200 9.3miles
  • Bounty Springs 1057 2miles

Trails Within the Umpqua National Forest

  • Mt Bailey-1451 5miles
  • Diamond Lake Loop-1460 10.5miles
  • Rodley Butte-1452 8.4miles
  • West Lake-1452A 2.7miles
  • Spruce Ridge-1458 2.5miles
  • North Crater-1410 8.7miles
  • Crater-1457 8.4miles
  • Howlock Mountain-1448 3miles
  • Mt Thielsen-1456 1mile
  • North Umpqua Trail-1414 15.3miles
  • Tennas Peak-1445 3.3miles
  • Wingo Pass-1412 8.7miles
  • Skookum Lake-1464 .5miles
  • Rogue Umpqua Divide-1470 7miles

Trails Within the Deschutes National Forest

  • Oldlenberg-45 10miles
  • Windy Lakes-46 9miles
  • Cowhorn-50 5miles
  • Meek Lake-43.1 4miles
More Umpqua Trail beauty (photo: westernspirit.com)
More Umpqua Trail beauty (photo: westernspirit.com)

The North Umpqua Trail is 79 miles, of which only 15 miles lies within the proposed Wilderness area.   Nevertheless, this would destroy the opportunity for a through-ride on one of America’s most storied, epic, and beloved mountain biking routes.  It would curtail one of the few long-distance cross-country routes available to mountain bikers. Most of our great cross country trails either prohibit bikes altogether (i.e. Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, Superior Trail, Ice Age Trail), or are frequently interrupted by existing Wilderness areas or other restrictions (Continental Divide Trail, Colorado Trail, Arizona Trail, Maah Daah Hey Trail).  While nowhere as long as those major cross country routes, at 79 miles North Umpqua is easily one of our longest continuous singletrack routes.

Map of the proposed Wilderness addition.
Map of the proposed Wilderness addition. (source: oregonwild.org)

As of now, the proposal is just a gleam in the eye of an organization called Oregon Wild. However recent history has taught us just how fast these things can gain momentum, and how fast we can lose access.  Oregon Wild is encouraging its constituents to contact Oregon Senator Ron Wyden; I encourage you to do the same (contact info here), but with a voice of opposition. This land can be protected without banning low impact, human-powered use.

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