(Photo courtesy of signeltracks.com)

Here in Colorado the seasons are definitely turning. The once green leaves on the trees outside Polar Bottle’s Boulder office have faded to the orange and auburns of fall, and — if our brisk morning rides to work are any indication — winter is just around the corner. But, if you’re like many of our employees, you’re probably not quite ready to trade in your bike shorts for ski mittens and might be considering playing hooky Friday for one final weekend mountain bike trip. Don’t tell your boss we told you so, but every once in awhile we support this type of activity. While we can’t personally call you in sick, we can make some suggestions of new mountain biking destinations to check out. So, each day this week we will share one of our favorite places to ride, hidden gems that you may have never even heard of — biking communities with small populations but big reputations in the cycling world.

Oakridge, Oregon:

Once considered the “Heart of the Timberland Empire” and a major player in Oregon’s timber industry, Oakridge, Oregon today looks might seem like a ghost town. Since the major lumber mill closed in the early 1980s, Oakridge’s population has shrunk to around 3,000 and, at first glance, the town appears to be little more than a deserted main street, a high school and a few shops and restaurants. But, over the past decade, the town has begun to reinvent itself as the Northwest’s premier mountain biking destination. Nestled in the foothills of Oregon’s central Cascade Mountains, Oakridge is surrounded by over three hundred miles of some of the best singletrack bike trails in the country. Hitting the trails in Oakridge, which wind through the Willamette National Forest alongside creeks, waterfalls and old growth trees, you might feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. The town, however, is actually only 150 miles southeast of Portland and the dedicated community of bikers who have set up shops, hotels and tour companies designed for cyclists, make organizing a vacation in Oakridge relatively simple and easy.  

Places to stay: Vacation rental homes are often available in town and there are several local motels and bed and breakfast options. National motel chains chains, including Best Western, also have locations in Oakridge. If you’re on a budget the National Forest campgrounds just outside town have tent and RV sites as well as yurts available with a reservation. The Oakridge Hostel Guest House also offers a cheaper alternative, with rooms ranging from around $40 to $100 a night.

Bringing/Renting a bike: The Portland Airport has several bike assembly and repair stations inside the terminal for riders who choose to fly with their bikes.  The airport also has tools available for travelers to rent to reassemble their bikes. The Willamette Mountain Mercantile in Oakridge also has bikes for rent, ranging in price from $55 to $75 a day.

In nearby Eugene, Arriving By Bike has a good selection of bike apparel and accessories (including Polar Bottles) as well as repair services.

Hitting the trails:  Oregon Adventures, a locally owned and operated tour company based out of Oakridge, offers private one and multi-day tours until the end of October. Most tour packages range in price from around $150 to $500 per person.  Tour prices include camping at the company’s private campsite along the Willamette River, three meals a day and shuttles to and from trailheads. Camping equipment is not provided. Tours are limited to groups of 25 people, including guides. Several other tour companies offer similar packages, but may not operate past the summer.

Most importantly:  Have fun and be safe!