Mountain Biking in the Rogue Valley

by Jen Anderson

Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley is one of the region’s top mountain-biking destinations for good reason. With hundreds of miles of trails of all skill levels and terrains near Medford, Grants Pass and Ashland, this supremely beautiful area is largely accessible year-round (except for the upper trails, which get snowed in during winter). 

Given the sheer size of Southern Oregon, the trails are also less crowded, which makes them perfect for social distancing. “You have a better chance of not seeing anyone on your ride; we have enough trails to disperse everyone well,” says Casey Botts, an Ashland mountain biker and board member of the Rogue Valley Mountain Bike Association, which builds and advocates for trail projects in the region. 

Another defining feature is, along one trail, an uninterrupted 5,000 feet of vertical descent through the backcountry, which lands riders right downtown – not a common experience among other popular trail networks. Whether you’re a brand-new beginner or a black-diamond thrill seeker, here’s how to start exploring.

Trail biking in Ashland Watershed. Photo courtesy Travel Ashland.
Trail biking in Ashland Watershed. Photo courtesy Travel Ashland.

A brand-new beginner looking to get into the woods on an easy trail might enjoy the Britt Canyon Trail in Jacksonville, a mellow .4-mile out-and-back that’s great for kids and others just learning. The trail connects to the larger Britt Woods network for 18 miles of rolling hills along interconnected loops – great year-round riding for the whole family. The ground is hot and dry in the summer and cool and tacky in the winter. 

Just outside of the town of Rogue River, Mountain of the Rogue is a premier destination with 15 miles of fun, flowy, gravity-fed singletrack that starts with a big climb. Mid-mountain, Breakdown (1.1 miles) offers a number of challenging and playful elements, and Sasquatch (1.9 miles) offers views of the Rogue Valley on the way up, with wildflowers in the spring and colorful leaves in the fall.

Mountain of the Rogue bike trails. Photo: Jak Wonderly.
Mountain of the Rogue bike trails. Photo: Jak Wonderly.

The region’s crown jewel, the black-diamond Time Warp Trail (16 miles) on Mt. Ashland includes a rocky, technical and super-fast 2,600-foot descent over 3 miles that’s for experts only. “The locals who ride it can do it in eight to nine minutes; your ears are popping at the bottom,” Botts says. “That’s why they call it Time Warp – you start at the top and end up in the forest a few minutes later and say, ‘Wow, did I really come from there?'” 

Lost Lake, Upper Rogue. Photo Chad Thorsen

  • Bike shops and services: Ashland Mountain Adventures provides transportation and shuttle service up the trails between late May and late October. You don’t need to use a shuttle service; it just makes the uphill easier. Other great bike shops in the area for rentals, gear, service, maps and friendly advice include Bear Creek Bicycle (Ashland), Cycle Sport (Ashland and Medford) and Cycle Analysis (Jacksonville). Note that e-bikes are not allowed in the Ashland watershed. 
  • Be prepared: Whether you go on your own or with a shuttle service, it’s important to remember that backcountry trails are still far from town, with limited cell service. Plan ahead and be prepared with your Ten Essentials as well as a map and bike tools. Know your skills and check travel conditions before you go, especially in the winter. When in doubt, call or stop in at the local bike shop and ask the experts for advice. 
  • Stay awhile: There’s a lot to do within an hour of the Rogue Valley. Consider making your base camp here, and spend three or four days exploring tasting rooms in Rogue Valley Wine Country or diving into even more outdoor activities. 

Eat and drink: Gil’s and Ruby’s are both locally owned mountain-bike hangouts with excellent breakfast burritos, beer, kombucha, cider and open-air seating.