Things to Do In Oakridge, Oregon

Things to do in Oakridge OR // tahoefabulous.com

After a couple of days in Bend, we headed west to Oakridge. Bend and Oakridge aren’t too far apart as the crow flies, but, the route isn’t super direct, due to the Cascades being in between the two. You can make the drive in under two hours by heading south on 97 then west on 58, but we decided to take a slightly more scenic route.

Bend to Oakridge Map // tahoefabulous.com
Map via GoogleMaps

After a delicious breakfast at Rockin’ Dave’s Bistro & Backstage Lounge, we went north on Highway 20 towards the town of Sisters, taking in the beautiful mountain view of Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, the Sisters, and Mt. Washington. We regrouped with my parents and decided our destination was going to be Metolius Springs, where the Metolius River pops out of the ground. It’s pretty incredible – the river just appears out of nowhere.

Metolius Springs // tahoefabulous.com
Metolius Springs, Oregon

From there, we detoured to tiny Camp Sherman where we tried to spot fish in the Metolius River, but were unsuccessful. We headed west from here, climbing up Santiam Pass and watching the forest quickly change as we went from the eastern slope of the Cascades to the western slope.

This drive took us along the Mckenzie River, which both Greyson and I were excited about. There are some gorgeous views along the drive, though several of the places we tried to pull over to explore were already full of cars. Eventually, we found an empty spot and climbed down to the river. There’s a 26 mile hiking/mountain bike trail that follows the Mckenzie River. We just walked along a tiny bit of it, but it gave me a taste and I’d love to come back and ride it someday.

Mckenzie River // tahoefabulous.com
Mckenzie River, Oregon

Finally, we got on 58 and headed back east towards Oakridge. This part of the drive was also beautiful – lots of deciduous trees mixed in among the firs and cedars, and some of the leaves were already starting to turn. Greyson and I visited Oakridge in 2016, but my parents had never been before and we were excited to show them around.

After a couple of visits to Oakridge, I’ve found a few awesome spots that I wanted to share.

Lodging
This time we stayed in a really great vacation rental – Jasper Lodge. It was really nice, inside and out, with 3 bedrooms/2 bathrooms and a garage for bike storage, located close to everything in Oakridge. I’d highly recommend it – especially if you’re coming to Oakridge to mountain bike. Having the garage to store and a place to wash our bikes was amazing.

Salmon Creek Falls Campground // tahoefabulous.com
Salmon Creek Falls

On our last trip, we stayed in one my all time favorite campgrounds, Salmon Creek Falls Campground. The spots are all first come-first serve, so your best shot is probably if you’re arriving mid-week. There’s a creek with a falls and a swimming hole that run right through the campground, which was awesome after a hot, July mountain bike ride. There are a few motels in Oakridge and other AirB&B and VRBO options as well.

Food & Drink
There aren’t a ton of restaurants in Oakridge, but there are definitely a few worth checking out. On both trips, we hit up Brewers Union Local 180, which is definitely the hippest spot in Oakridge. All their beers are cask aged (so not carbonated), but they have beers from other regional breweries if that’s not your style. The food is really good, and portions are large. I got vegetarian poutine and it was better than a lot of the poutine I’ve gotten in Canada.

Be sure to visit Lee’s Gourmet Garden, which Greyson and I went to after riding the Alpine Trail shuttle this time. The food is delicious and the owners were super friendly, plus we got a ton of food for under $30. It really hit the spot after a cold, wet morning of riding. Another delicious surprise was Cedar Creek Meats – I got the best Cuban sandwich of my life here.

For a throwback, there’s an A&W in Oakridge that’s still a functioning drive in! We went there for dessert one night. Fun fact: I worked at an A&W for one summer in college, and I am excellent at making root beer floats. Double Trouble Espresso is a small roadside coffee stand that has pretty good coffee, when you need your early morning caffeine fix.

Things To Do
While mountain biking is probably the most popular reason to visit Oakridge, there are other fun things to do in the area as well. Just outside of town is the Willamette Fish Hatchery, which might seem like a strange thing to visit, but we had a great time. There are informational displays and signage, so you can learn about the hatchery, the fish raised there, and the larger ecosystem. There’s a short, interpretive loop trail (~0.5 miles), mini golf, and a small historical museum. My favorite part was feeding the rainbow trout and marveling at the large sturgeon in one of the ponds.

Office Covered Bridge // tahoefabulous.com
The Office Covered Bridge, Westfir, OR

The Office Bridge, a historic covered bridge built in 1944, is about 4 miles from Oakridge, in the even smaller town of Westfir. It’s the longest covered bridge in Oregon and has some really cool engineering. You can walk or drive through, and it’s a great place to take pictures. There’s a small park on the other side, with a picnic area and a playground. This is also the base of some local hiking trails, and the end of the Alpine Trail.

Salt Creek Falls // tahoefabulous.com
Salt Creek Falls, Oregon

pensivewaterfallwatching

The second tallest waterfall in Oregon, Salt Creek Falls, is less than a half hour east of Oakridge, just off of Hwy 58. The viewpoint is only 50 yards or so from the parking lot and ADA accessible. You can also take a short hike down to the falls, but the hike is steep and mostly stairs. The view from the top is gorgeous, and we took a ton of pictures.

 

Mountain Biking in Oakridge, Oregon: The Alpine Trail

I just got back from an amazing road trip, mountain biking, camping, kayaking and beer drinking across Oregon and Washington. I had a great time at all of our stops, both those I’ve visited before and those that were new to me. I’ll be recapping our whole trip over the next couple weeks. Our first stop was Oakridge, Oregon.

Mountain Biking the Alpine Trail in Oakridge Oregon // tahoefabulous.com

Oakridge, Oregon is a small town nestled in the heart of the Cascades and parallels the Willamette River, about an hour east of Eugene on Highway 58.  Oakridge had been a busy logging town, but since the down turn in the logging industry, it had struggled, with many businesses closing and families moving away. Oakridge is a beautiful place, with trails for hiking, camping spots along Salmon Creek, rafting and fishing opportunities on local rivers and streams, and, more recently, trails for mountain biking. Oakridge has become a popular destination for mountain bikers – only 2.5 hours from Portland and a “quick” ~7 hours from the Bay Area and Tahoe. (Greyson and I stopped by the local brewery for dinner and literally everyone eating on the patio was visiting from California.)

Mountain biking and other outdoor adventures are helping to bring some much needed money and business to Oakridge. However, it’s a much more complicated story than “mountain biking saves dying logging town!” – check out this interesting article from NPR:

For decades after World War II, the small town of Oakridge in the southern Cascade mountains of Oregon was a booming lumber town. But by the early 1990s, the lumber industry had collapsed, and Oakridge has struggled ever since, losing families and businesses. Now, residents like Randy Dreiling are trying to reinvent the place as a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Dreiling owns Oregon Adventures, which offers mountain bike tours. Some 350 miles of trails have earned Oakridge the self-proclaimed title of “Mountain Biking Capital of the Northwest. Mountain biking is just a piece of the pie. It’s not the end all be all, but it’s what we got. And it’s been good to us,” he says. “Anybody that’s being honest to themselves can see the amount of people mountain biking is bringing to town — more and more every year.”

Greyson found us an awesome campsite, Salmon Creek Falls Campground, about five miles outside of town. We snagged one of the last few first-come, first-serve campsites and set up the tent. This campground has some amazing spots right along the river, but I’m guessing you have to get there early on a weekday to get one of them.

Salmon Creek Falls Campground Oakridge OR

While there are a ton of trails in the Oakridge area, mostly built and maintained by GOATS (Greater Oakridge Area Trail Stewards), we had decided to shuttle the Alpine Trail, booking a shuttle with Oregon Adventures, a local shuttle and tour company. They describe the Alpine Trail as

Oh glorious Alpine! Known as the Crown Jewel, this is one wicked trail. A combination of every pleasure known to mountain biking, you can’t not love Alpine.

I pre-booked the shuttle for 8:45 am the next day, so we decided to head in from our campsite for an early dinner and to scope out where we’d be meeting up. We (surprise, surprise) ended up at the only brewery in town, the Brewers Union Local 180. The brewery only has cask ale (or as they claim, the only “real ale” in Oregon) which undergoes a secondary fermentation in a wooden cask. These ales are much less carbonated that a typical IPA (it reminded me of a beer on nitro), and both of the ones we tried were tasty. This was by far the most popular restaurant in town, filled with tourists and locals alike. It was a long wait for food and beer, but both were worth it. We even met a group of people we’d be riding the shuttle with (and the Oregon Adventures owner!) at the brewery that night.

Alpine Trail Elevation Profile via Strava
Alpine Trail Elevation Profile via Strava

We met bright and early at the Oregon Adventures parking lot to drop off bikes with the shuttle van, and carpool to the bottom of the trail, a few miles from headquarters. We reconvened with the ten or so other riders, loaded into the shuttle and were off on the ~30 minute ride. The shuttle driver was very helpful, pointing out road crossings and landmarks that we’d use on the ride back, and soon arrived at our destination. While shuttling the Alpine Trail means a mostly downhill ride, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any climbing. In fact, you start off the trail with a ~350 foot climb that feels steeper than it actually is on cold legs.

Alpine Trail Map via Strava
Alpine Trail Map via Strava

After less than a mile of climbing, you come to a flat, grassy field with a narrow trail cut out and beautiful views. I remember commenting to Greyson about how it was hard to ride in such a narrow trail, and that I kept bumping my wheel on the edges. Little did I know that this was just a preview of the majority of the trail width to come!

Alpine Trail Oakridge Oregon // tahoefabulous.com

Alpine Trail Oakridge Oregon // tahoefabulous.com

The day was cool and cloudy, which was nice but I had a real problem with my sunglasses fogging up for most of the day! After the meadow, we rode into the trees and the first of the many downhills. At this point, we stopped to put on kneepads. This was the first of many stops – we definitely did not break any speed records on this trail. One of the coolest things about this trail was that it had some of everything – awesomely sticky Oregon dirt, miles of fast, flowy sections, rocky and rooty drops, long climbs, steep exposure, loose rocky sections, epic views and closed in forest canopies.

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I’m used to the wider trails of the Sierra, so the narrow, more overgrown trails took some getting used to, and I definitely walked some sections of narrow trail that had steep exposure. Luckily, the Alpine Trail seemed to be about 85% fun flow on good dirt, with a smaller percentage of steep climbs, loose rocks, and only a few sections that I needed to walk.

Alpine Trail // tahoefabulous.com

According to my Garmin, we climbed about 1,224 feet over the 13.8 miles (the shuttle cut off some climbing and mileage from the full, official Alpine Trail.) The trail was very well marked and easy to follow. We got a little confused at about 12.5 miles in, where there was a junction. The MTB Project app told us to go right to stay on the Alpine Trail, but we were pretty sure we needed to go left to get back to our car. One of the things our shuttle driver told us at the beginning was “when in doubt, go left.” We went left and followed an obviously newer trail (I think called A.T.A.C., but I’m not 100% sure) that did bring us back to our cars.

We quickly loaded up and headed straight for pizza and beer. The pizza wasn’t amazing, but we were hungry so that didn’t matter all too much. After buying some cans of local beer, we went back to the campsite and spent some time lounging in my birthday ENO hammock for national hammock day.

ENO Hammock // tahoefabulous.com

Salmon Creek Falls campground is next to (no surprise) a creek and a small waterfall. Just upstream from the waterfall was a great, but cold swimming hole. We tentatively waded in, and, once my feet and legs were numb, the water felt great!

IMG_2337 IMG_2339

We stayed two nights in Oakridge and I wish we could have stayed longer to explore more trails! The town was beautiful, the people were friendly, the beer was good and the mountain biking was phenomenal. That’s all I can really ask in a destination. I loved camping at Salmon Creek Falls, and there are a number of motels in downtown Oakridge. The Alpine Trail was worth traveling for, and it’s a trail I’d love to do again with a little more confidence now that I know what it’s like.

Trail Stats:
Location: Oakridge, Oregon (shuttle with Oregon Adventures)
Mileage: 13.8 miles
Elevation gain: ~1,200 feet
Difficulty: Intermediate