Finding new spots to ride is always cool. One of the best things about being back in the northwest after a prolonged absence, is that a number of new places to ride have sprung up. We’ve lost some places too, but I’m all for celebrating the spots we have and working towards making the old ones better. Or even better, working to create new ones. And sometimes it is just a matter of being turned on to spots and scenes that are already there, and below the radar. While the Pacific Northwest is already known as a great destination for riding, only a fraction of the possible potential riding is documented and out there.
Take Longview, Washington: a small industrial city of 34,000 or so, Longview is less than an hour’s drive from Portland. For many, it is simply a pit stop between Portland and Seattle. However, Longview boasts a small but robust cycling community. With two completely different trail systems in place, it has been a regular destination for us while we’re living on the coast. Both trail systems are completely off the map, which is the way the locals prefer it. Because the trails are located on private timberland, the land managers prefer to limit access to the general public. However, they currently do allow recreational use, and because the locals have a good relationship with them, it allows not only their use, but trail building privileges as well. As long as the riders “don’t do anything stupid” their access to the trails will continue.
Our favorite of the two trail networks is known as Growlers Gulch. Many of trails angle away from the access road in loops that make for great intervals. The single track is typical of the northwest; twisty forest single track that goes on forever. For the most part, there aren’t any really long climbs, making for a fast tempo on group rides. It’s all good stuff, with some sections putting a serious grin on your face. The flow of the trails for the most part, is open and flowy, although you’ll encounter tight turns here and there that will keep you on your feet to avoid flying off into the bushes.
We’ve had epic days connecting various loops in order to get a full day of riding in. The Growlers Gulch crew, known as Growlers Gulch Racing, has been holding an underground race series even, that highlights an aspect of each riding discipline. Participants are limited, and priority is given to those that participate in regular build days.
The Stella Trails make up the other trail system in the Longview/ Kelso area. Like Growlers, the entrance to the trails is unsigned. You know you’ve reach the trail head when you reach a locked gate that bars the way to an firelane access road. We haven’t ridden the Stella Trails as much yet, but they were fun as well, with a decidedly more XC twist. While the Growlers Trails are also XC trails, they have more of an overall all mountain feel to them. The Stella Trails reminded me of more traditional cross country trails, with the addition of log rides and balance lines. The flow at Stella is a bit more technical and slow speed.
We did lose our way at one point, as many of the trail converge into a playground area that is littered with log rides and balance features. Many of the trails loop around and back to this nexus, making for a bit of confusion. Next time we hope to get the tour with a local.
Because of the current status of these trails, the locations is not disclosed to the general public. If you would like to get more info on these trails, visit WriteTekNorthwest.com to start your digging.