McKenzie River … America’s Top Trail?
My long distance riding buddy (Steve) had told me about the McKenzie River Trail, in central Oregon. He said the trail had been labeled “Americas Most Beautiful” by a popular magazine. He also told me the trail would be very crowded on a weekend … so, I chose to ride it on a Monday.
Length: 24.9 miles
Cindy and I left our campsite in Oakridge at 8:00 am and headed for Highway 19 (the road that connects Oakridge to the McKenzie River area). We were just past the little town of Westfir when she popped a CD into the car player. This was no normal music CD … but one which told the history of events and the people all along Highway 19. We had checked out the CD at the local ranger station the day before, taking the advice of some people camped next to us. As we wound our way through dense forest alongside the North Fork of the Willamette River we listened to the CD … and tried to picture the images painted by the narrator … the people and events of the past 150 years. We learned a whole bunch about the people who had pioneered and timbered the area along the Aufderheide Memorial Drive.
We stopped at ranger station along the McKenzie Highway (#126) and found two rangers (a middle aged woman and a young man) very eager to help us. The woman took charge (naturally). She tore a map off a tablet sitting on the counter and showed us where the trail began. She also gave Cindy some ideas about what to see during her day in the area. When Cindy asked how long it would take me to ride the McKenzie River Trail (MRT) the young man spoke up, saying it would take me 4 hours. I tore my own copy off the tablet, realizing it was very basic, but better than anything I had (nothing). We turned in our CD, thanked the rangers, and headed back out to the Tundra.
Please enjoy this interactive map of this ride on the McKenzie River Trail.
The “ P” marks the Trailhead.
Have you done this ride? What did you think of it? How about sharing your thoughts on our Visitor Stories page?
We followed the McKenzie Highway 37 miles east until we saw the sign for Clear Lake. The MRT starts just to the east of Clear Lake.
The trailhead is well marked … the whole trail is pretty well marked, except for a couple of spots (at the south end of Clear Lake … and later when the trail travels down a gravel road for less than a mile). Otherwise, I had no problems, even without a good quality map.
I said my usual good-byes to Cindy and she gave me the normal, “Be careful,” which I always heed. She had decided she would see some waterfalls and then hit the observation center up by Belknap Crater, which was to the southeast of the MRT. The rangers had recommended the observation center, saying a person could see several volcanoes at a time … weather permitting.
Cindy had her doubts as to how many volcanoes she could see at a distance, due to the poor air quality we had experienced our entire time in Oregon. Since we had entered Oregon the previous week we had encountered thick smoke, smoke from several forest fires in various parts of Oregon. The day we had visited Crater Lake the air started off pretty clean in the morning, but by late afternoon we could not even see the lake from the top rim. Anyway, I was sure she would find plenty of nature’s wonders to observe … and I would find the great MRT a delight.
Please click McKenzie for the beginning of my ride.