After years of waiting, the Timberline Bike Park has finally opened. Officially open for an initial preview season, as mountain bikers get to enjoy a new system of lift accessed single track, trail crews continue their work on Phase 2. It’s been a long time coming; mountain bikers have been waiting years to ride a new bike park on Mt. Hood. Lawsuits held up the construction of the new park, but after almost 10 years, the Timberline Bike Park is a reality. And though we missed opening weekend due to being in Crankworx, getting up to ride the newly opened trails was a priority for our first available day.
As you’d expect, we were excited to touch tires to new trails. However, after watching marketing videos released by the bike park, we were a bit concerned as the trails looked flat and devoid of technical features. Hopefully, this wasn’t the case, and the good stuff was just hidden away in the woods, or the video footage was already dated.
Construction is on-going
The newly minted bike park currently boasts 8 trails (according to the conditions page – note, Lower Brobi-Wan is listed as a separate trail from the upper) It was closed for trail work during our day of riding) available to ride between 11am to 6pm. Operating seven days a week through Labor Day, trail work construction continues as the park offers what they’re calling their preview season. In fact, a second trail with a black diamond rating, C.D.M., had just opened days before.
The fee for a day pass will run you $36 for an adult all day ticket, (7 hours of riding) and $32 for age 12 and under. They also offer a Twilight ticket for $5.00 less, but it is only good for 3 hours of ride time.
The bike park currently is divided up into traditional green, blue and black tiers based on rider skill level:
|Camino De Michoacan (C.D.M)||Black||Advanced|
Most mountain bikers and skiers are already familiar with the trail rating system. Green for beginner, Blue for intermediate and all around, and Black is reserved for advanced riders. Trails with gaps and drops receive a double black diamond designation.
Does Timberline Bike Park live up to expectations?
Portland area mountain bikers have been waiting for almost a decade (see our post in 2010) for lift served, Whistler-inspired trails to be constructed on our local mountain. Though we’ve had a bike park at SkiBowl for years, the trails there haven’t ever reached their full potential, (though we still always have a good time riding there) and although a few solid routes have been added, the park is still best known for its gnarly, technical Black and Double Black Diamond level runs loved by advanced riders and racers. It is a bummer they’ve never successfully managed to add jump filled flow trails like ones that draw mountain bikers from all over the globe though.
Whistler is the model that sets the bar; Crank it Up is arguably the most popular flow trail in the world. And yet, so many parks are unable to replicate the model of a blue/ intermediate level jump trail that pleases both novices and experts alike. Here’s a clue, bike park planners: create this trail and you’ll make money, it’s that simple.
So did Timberline crack the code? How was it? Did it live up to expectations?
Well, the trails are fun, and the trail crews have managed to get an impressive amount of mileage constructed in a single season. But if you were hoping to shred the gnar on your DH rig, you’ll want to stick to Skibowl. That said, we enjoy mountain biking on a wide range of experiences, and who doesn’t love singletrack descents where you don’t have to pay for it first with a climb?
Bring your trail bike
We knew it wasn’t going to be super technical and brought our trail bikes knowing full-blown gravity sleds would be overkill. And it’s indeed heart pounding — the more you pedal, the more you’re rewarded. The grades feel pretty mellow, so that meant we were often cranking out of the saddle, and it’s one heck of a workout.
The trail conditions are surprisingly decent, even good to great in the trees. We expected the trails to be far more loose than they were. In the wooded sections, there was still moisture in the soil, and while there were certainly plenty of sandy loose spots where you have to push the front tire to keep traction (several of the riders we rode with lost their front tires and went down) it wasn’t anything we weren’t prepared for.
If I was to summarize the experience of the park, I would call it lift-assisted trail riding. Like so many riders we spoke with stated, it’s a great destination for kids and the family, anyone new to mountain biking, or anyone that just loves to ride new trails. Feedback from all the riders we encountered was extremely positive, and everyone was stoked saying it was “So great to finally have it.”
Additional feedback from riders encountered on the chairlifts included bits like, “short lift lines”, “Not as dusty and blown out as expected”, and “No real jumps to speak of”.
The lack of dirt jumps was certainly a bummer but sadly not a surprise. Having heard the challenges first hand from a friend and one of the park builders, the build crew was under extreme restrictions in building the park. Anything that wasn’t on the original trail plan that was penned up over a decade ago wasn’t permitted, and the Forest Service had personnel on-site to essentially watchdog the process. If you’ve ever worked on trails under these conditions, it’s pretty lousy.
There’s also a lot of consideration to minimizing the environmental impact of building trails. From a building standpoint, it can pose challenges, but with environmental groups already concerned about the impact of the trails, it’s a tricky line that needs to be balanced with the desired final user experience.
An additional note to users riding the park: its important to stay on the trail, as venturing off-trail (even to take that Instagram photo) can pose issues.
So you should go and ride it?
The answer is “heck yes”. New trails are always a blast and you don’t have to pedal to the top! There is enough mileage to make a full day worthwhile. We got at least 6 runs in and we started our day pretty late, which basically cost us $6.00 a run which is pretty solid.
The park is slated to be constructed in 2-3 phases. Hopefully phase two of the build includes additional technical challenge and more grade reversals and rollers to add some spice, as the park experience as it is is heavily biased towards less experienced riders. That said, it is just the start and we won’t know for some time what the long term plan for the park will be like; there isn’t much information about the trails plan available online. I bought a season pass for Bachelor again this year, which included two day passes for the park, so I’ll be headed up at least one more time, and my plan is to wear myself out riding all the trails on repeat, including the greens, in order to get the entire experience that is the new park.
It’s pretty killer training for enduro too – I’d much rather wear myself out pedaling downhills with a big grin on my face than spinning circles up a gravel road somewhere. Plus you can always end the day with a final run down T2Town.
For more info visit Timberlinelodge.com