Video: Building Trails on the Oregon Coast

Jun 7, 2019
by Jason Fitzgibbon  
Views: 6,607    Faves: 19    Comments: 2


Nestled between the quaint coastal cities of Coos Bay and Bandon, Oregon lies several thousand acres of rolling county-owned timberland; the Coos County Forest. The forest is a working forest - originally established only to produce timber - and it has served as a critical revenue source for the County for decades. Characterized by a relatively small and stable population, Coos County has historically been dependent upon resource extraction to make ends meet, but now non-consumptive tourism such as mountain biking is providing the County with another, less intensive economic opportunity.

Landcruiser and bikes at Whiskey Run OR. Photo by Jason Fitzgibbon

It was not all that long ago that the first mention of mountain bike trails arose amongst Coos County Staff, Commissioners, and Land Managers. Yet within months, overwhelming community support, local political advocacy and the cooperation of a once-reluctant land manager, all culminated to get the Whiskey Run Trail system put in the ground with record speed. Last summer when we visited, they already had ten miles of flowy singletrack weaving through shaded canopies of fir, spruce and alder. The riding is swoopy and fun with a plethora of natural features to pop off of, and enough trees and roots to keep you on your toes and polish your cornering game. Oh, and did we mention loam?

Photo by Colton Jacobs

Since our visit, they’ve not put their shovels down and now boast roughly 16 miles of trails at Whiskey Run, complete with some more advanced trails, jump lines and features. And they aren’t anywhere near complete - with plans to weave another fifteen miles of trail through these coastal forests, Coos County has all intentions of making the Whiskey Run Trail network a must-ride destination for anyone cruising up or down the coast.

Bandon Beach. Photo by Jason Fitzgibbon

The network is up on Trailforks now, so be sure to get out there and ride it if you’re in the Coos Bay/Bandon area!

Photo by Colton Jacobs
Photo by Colton Jacobs
Photo by Colton Jacobs
End of ride at Whiskey Run OR. Photo by Jason Fitzgibbon
Whiskey Run Forest. Photo by Jason Fitzgibbon



55 Comments

  • + 24
 Cool start for sure. I love the towns here are starting to get with the program, but I hope these local trail systems can do more here in Oregon though. These tame flow trails with traverse-switchback-traverse build styles are getting super old and we don't need anymore built that way. It's a bummer when all the skilled riders feel like they have to move to WA to ride anything remotely challenging (that isn't unsanctioned haha). Switchbacks should only be built if truly necessary, not as the default corner style.
  • + 6
 Yeah, making tame flow trails may sound good in theory to them because it caters to more riders. However, in reality many hardcore riders won't even go there because the trails are not challenging enough. If you look at all the most popular mountain bike destinations, they all have super challenging trails.
  • + 11
 @tacklingdummy: That being said a green trail is absolutely necessary in a new system. It's just unfortunate when one is built then the rest of the trail system uses it as a baseline to mimic. I know land managers like to dip their toes in first, but a beginner first mindset pushes out the core people in the community. We've been working to change that in our area, but we've lost so many good riders to places like Bellingham and Seattle already its hard to get people in your corner. Then you have the issue of mislabeling difficulty so local people think a green trail is really a black trail and the issue is perpetuated. Cough cough Alsea cough.
  • - 4
flag Sshredder (Jun 7, 2019 at 11:50) (Below Threshold)
 Same situation every where. Including where I live. One must ask permission from land managers to build trails. Liabuility is the concern. Fact is 90 percent of people who mountain bike can't and don't ride gnar and have no desire to ride a trail comprised of steep sections, roots or rocks. The local flow trails get about 90 percent of the traffic according to trail forks.
If you like gnar you are very much a minority and quite frankly bike manafactures do not make bikes that suite this style of riding.
Does any one make a single crown Free Ride bike? Nope not one.
  • + 5
 @Sshredder: your data is obviously amis, because lots of people, especially those riding trails which you must be in the know about, or nice trails that they dont want to get overrun with squids like you , do not publicize what we are riding all the time.

single crown free ride bike?? they are out there, you'll have to pull your head out of your ass to get any perspective though.
  • + 2
 @getsomesy:
The trails I ride for the most part are not on any map. I have no desire to ride flow trails.
Trail builders , land managers and the data compiled from trail forks offer overwhelming evidence that the majority of people ride easy flow trails.
Check out Mt Fromme. North Shore.
Expresso and Bob sled both flow trails get 90 percent of the riders as shown on trail forks. Can't make this stuff up son.
What's a Squid ? Other than a marine creature?
  • + 1
 @mustbike: I’m curious what you perceive as mislabeled at Alsea? I find them pretty accurate in grade, but always am curious of what others think.
  • + 5
 @mustbike: I think the main problem with Alsea is that the builders are green trail riders. I was pretty excited when Alsea first got built and it had a few somewhat distinct trails made, but over time and over way too many build days, the blue'ish trails all got their roots removed and turns were made easier and the trail lost its character and just became another green flow trail in the woods. I haven't ridden at Alsea falls for quite a long time now, (a few years) and have heard there is a gnarly trail there now, but I don't feel the need to check it out. To some builders out there, black diamond means Jank. I really want Evergreen to just take over all of Oregon. We'd benefit by having trails for every grade of rider. I would be over the moon if I could have a Predator or NOTG at Alsea. I am tired of new zones opening up and they just have green flow trails. I'd love to move to Bellingham or Seattle area...
  • + 2
 @ChachiArcola: Whistlepunk is labeled as black. That is not a black trail, there is literally nothing that makes it an expert trail. It's not steep, the tech sections are manmade, and most of the corners are switchbacks. This is an issue for me as a local I've met people who go out there to learn, and think thats what black trail is. I've known at least 2 people who got into serious trouble riding elsewhere due to this belief. The other trails like Springboard is accurate though, and I can understand why Highballer is a blue. I took my mom who doesn't mtb out there and she had no problem riding the entire system. She should not be able to ride a black, and should struggle down a blue. Carpenters Bypass (Whypass) outside Eugene has this same issue. The black trail out there is maaaaaaaybe a blue but really a green.

And to be clear- I love Alsea. It's a blast, and Team Dirt does a killer job maintaining and building new stuff. Seriously awesome crew of people. I just take issue with over rating as it is a legitimate safety concern, just like under rating difficulty. I think a lot of the folks building that area were/are beginner level riders, which makes it easy to over estimate how difficult something actually is. I want to be clear me dissing the rating is not a dig on the trails. Like I said, I love Alsea and recommend it to most people visiting our area to ride.
  • + 4
 @whoozh: Ohhhh noooo, the builders of Team Dirt are definitely not "green trail riders", that so far from accurate I spit out my pop.

Also, the newest trail, Misery Whip is about to open and it's awesome.

There is so much that goes on with creating a trail system that you may not be aware of, dealing with BLM, government officials, etc. way before considering trail designations and even though a trail would never be considered black by any of the riders who built it...it simply has to be labeled as such because in relation to the other trails in that system it is the "hardest" one so by default it's labeled black. Until the newest one actually is black and then they all get to be relabeled.
  • + 1
 @Sshredder: Is Status 1 freeride, it's single crown.
  • + 1
 @JDown: I wasn't aware they go back and re-label the trails. That is good news!
  • + 3
 @mustbike: Yep, as the system grows and more (what we would consider to be) black / double black trails come into existence one of the million things on the todo list is redoing signage and re-classing the trails appropriately. As always, it all takes time and a lot of help from volunteers too Smile
  • + 1
 @JDown: Super sick to hear, glad you guys are thinking about double blacks as well. Keep kickin ass!
  • + 1
 @whoozh: it's coming! just west of Salem and near PC!!
  • + 2
 @mustbike: Thanks for the reply to my questions. First off, to clarify, Whistle Punk is a Blue trail. I’ve never heard it described as a Black trail, by anyone, including the builders of the trail. Second, you have a serious misconception on who the builders are of that trail system, with your comment about them being “green riders”. Team Dirt is loaded with some riders that have been putting in the hard work on the lower trails, with the intent that it will soon be “their turn”. This wasn’t necessarily by choice…..It’s the way a trail system is designed, with it starting with a Green trail, lower on the hill, and working your way up in elevation and skill. Now that the initial trails are in and running great, the builds have moved further up the hill, building the trails that the builders want……Fast, gnar, big hits, steeper, tech, rocky chutes, all of it. There will be Black trails, like really soon.

Sorry, I don’t mean to sound like I’m taking it personal, but I guess I am. I’ve put my time in building out there, and I take great pride in the progress that going on out there. The crew that has been involved of late is straight up killing it. Come check it out, Misery Whip is opening on the 22nd for the shuttle fundraiser. Come check it out, then give your revised feedback. Or, come out and help build. Yeah, come out and build and put your $.02 into the trail system, and make it what YOU want it to be.
  • + 2
 @Sshredder:
I agree you need to pull your head out of your ass on the single crown freeride bikes..there are tons
Transition TR250
Specialized status 1
Specialized SX trail
Are just a few long before the word Enduro was coined and long travel bikes started to have lockouts on the forks pretty much any bike with a marizocchi 66 or rockshox lyrik RC2DH on it or any fork like that were put on freeride bikes.
Go back to NWD days and watch Darren rip his SX trail those were the days.
  • + 1
 @Sshredder: How about Knolly? #Delerium
  • + 1
 @cyberoptixs: any bike with the Totem....

Still that fork would hold up to today's standards and SHRED
  • + 1
 @krashDH85:
Yes the totem forgot about that fork
  • + 3
 @ChachiArcola: hey sorry I must have gotten mixed up then about whistlepunk. Is there even a black trail out there aside from misery whip? Haha questioning my memory now... Been a year since I've been out there. I want to be super duper clear I think the trails and crew are awesome. Everyone has a different rating scale in their head, mine goes off dh racing and places like whistler and queenstown. I guess when I say begginner/intermediate rider thats where they would be at a dh race, not their time on the bike or level of trail they can get down. I know plenty of riders who have been mtbers for years and would would still fall into the beginner/intermediate category. I also dn't know the blm has ratings go off the local system itself, not a broad standard. Keep killing it up there, if you guys can get some proper gnar and jumps Alsea will be world class.
  • + 1
 So much in Oregon that isn't "flow" but sure tends to flow! Pretty much always beautiful too... Never met a trail in Oregon I didn't like, and I usually ride Bellingham...
  • - 1
 Classic 1st comment that shit's not "gnar" enough. Wahh wahh. @mustbike must be so pro he's in the whip offs at Crank Works. If so, this trail system probably isn't ever going to meet your high demands. Perhaps you need to come back and visit before going all hateraid on everything our small community and local government is trying very hard to accomplish.
Also, didn't see you at our 6 Hour Whiskey Chaser Fundraiser race.... too "green" for you?
For those that care... There will be 30 miles of trail completed when this project reaches completion. Current contract is for 75% of funds for Blue and Black trails. (Keep in mind our ratings and all trail ratings differ based on all sorts of factors. A Black Trail here is probablg a Green in Squamish. Phase 1 was specifically designed for FAMILIES and people new to mt biking to get the youth, working professionals, and travellers to stop and pedal and enjoy our working forests. Heck, we are even starting a NICA team for kids now!
There are plans for fall-line black trails, more jumps, and technical stuff. (We dont rocks and massive vert here, it's just not what this area offers.) Not sure what "switchbacks" you're referring to, I'm assuming the green climbing trails which allow the rider to sessio the Black trails?
Also, who the heck cares?! More people on bikes is the goal. Negativity is not welcome around here, opinions are always welcome if you're a WRCMBA Club member and actually come out and volunteer. If you can refrain from complaining you should come back this winter and see what we've completed with Phase 2.
  • + 2
 @whiskeyqueen: Not hating on the trail you all built whatsoever. Sounds like its super fun and it's rad your community has a long term plan with this. All positivity to ya. My comment was not meant as a dig on your work, just an expression of "Sick but I hope this doesn't fall prey to the same design flaws similar areas have in Oregon". I also wish it wasn't the top comment haha. I'm just continuing to put this out here so people are more aware that we should be trying to build more diverse trails.
I'm swamped with trail building stuff in my area and likely won't be able to help, but I'll show ya mine if you show me yours! Still planning on coming down to ride this trail at some point.
Ooh also when I said "switchback-traverse-switchback" I'm referring to the style of trail design where a trail traverses into a 180 turnaround and repeats. It's something people use to get more mileage out of a hill when they really should just be focusing on quality of the trail. Very common with flow trails. Quality>quantity IMO. Sorry again if my comment was negative, from what I hear and see you guys are off to a great start and I can't wait to see this area develop.
  • + 9
 New legal singletrack open to the public and free of charge...and the top comment is complaining that it's not double black gnar! Y'all got so good in OR. Amazing places to ride all over the state. Maybe invest a little time lobbying land managers/owners and build the trail you're craving. Sounds like you might be able to build it in Coos County?
  • + 6
 If you lived here, you'd understand...
  • + 8
 The top comment is necessarily complaining there is no double black. It more of a yearning for a better balance of difficulty in the trails being built. The overwhelming majority of newly built trails are novice flow trails. Destinations would likely get a lot more riders visiting if the majority of trails were blue and black with a few green and double blacks in there. The riders that travel the most to ride are the intermediate/advanced crowd because they ride a lot.

Those trails are not necessarily free. They are paid for by local property and business owners from property taxes and business taxes.
  • + 4
 I'm not hating on the trail, just pointing out this style is all that is currently being developed here in Oregon. My hope is the builders and more importantly land managers will start to listen a bit more to folks like myself if I make it known. I'm also heavily involved in the local trail building scene, both on private land and public land, and for the public land aspect I'm working to remedy the issue I highlight here. Just putting it out there.
  • + 2
 @whoozh: Lived in Bend from 1990 to 1998(it's where I learned to ride mountain bikes) and Travel to your state every year. So many good trails to ride! Where I live mtbers are the devil and there are zero NEW trails (legal) within a 150 mile radius of my home.
  • + 3
 @tacklingdummy: True, it takes some $$$ to build trails. But my point was that they are free for you and I to go ride whenever we want.
  • + 2
 @mustbike: Thank you for pitching in building trails! I'm sure I will enjoy the fruits of your labor someday. I travel up at least once a year to my Moms little farm in Gates, and try to hit up a new spot each time. Best of luck gettin' those double blacks your after.
  • + 1
 @mtbyoda: Noooo shit. Thanks for pointing this out.

Always fun to hear the expert haters. As builders we know people want more and we try to work that in. But we have a job to do. We are moving in to steeper terrain and more complex trail texture with a lot more variability. There's so many factors involved in how the "free trails" get built.

We're building trail for lots of visitors, not just mid 20's expert riders in their tacomas and vans. I'm sorry but the goal is local trails, economic diversity for our community and for people willing to spend money in town on lodging and food. That was the main goal in the first phase.

The fact that we get to build steeper, rooty and challenging trail in phase II has been a bonus. Let's just keep in mind that there's nuance in everything.

Oregon builders are not "green" riders. Jeeze man, just take a pause before you write stupid things. We do our job, and trust me, we hear you loud and clear. We too want the gnar. We just dont always get to build it first.
  • + 3
 Definitely will ride there. . . If I happen to be in the area . . . until there are more black diamond trails. Just rode in Arcata California and was thoroughly stoked to ride the Blue Lake trails which should be similar terrain.
  • + 3
 I think the "Multi-Use" timberland model with MTB community has a lot of potential to work (continue to work) for small communities. It'll help drive revenue to small communities and spread out the tourists a bit too.
  • + 2
 I stopped by there in April on birthday trip down the cost, it was an awesome find! Great place to spend the afternoon, run the dogs, swap out laps while watching the baby. Anyone who’s passing by should give it a go. I’m sure some more techie goodies are on the way it’ll be good to see what else develops.
  • + 4
 Man we drove through Coos bay 2 years ago and I forget the name of the trail we rode but it was gorgeous! Really top notch video work by Jason!
  • + 1
 Thanks for the write up PInkbike! These are my local trails and the mtb scene is really starting to ramp up because of the accessibility and quality of these trails. Every type of rider can have a good time here! I see negative comments about what type of trails really should be made and how this kind of green stuff is bad for... whatever. Those people obviously haven't ridden whiskey run. As a local rider and an active member of my local mtb club (shout out to wrcmba.com) these trails are incredible and ONLY helping the mtb scene here.
Thanks again Pinkbike!
  • + 3
 That looks really fun. Geez, the number of gotta-check-that-out road trip destinations keeps going up. Gotta love living in the PNW.
  • + 0
 This area already is in tune with this type of non-consumptive land use with the Oregon Dunes National Recreation areas. We have been "non-cosuming" the sand dunes on our ATVs, motorcycles, rails and side by sides for years. Probably my favorite place I have ever vacationed. This just makes it all the better. I can't wait to go up this summer !!!!!
  • + 1
 Awesome. I'm driving down from Van to SanDiego later this month, hitting some fun spots with my bike along the way. I'll check out these OR trails.
  • + 1
 I live a couple hours from here. Great new trail system in a nice part of the Oregon coast. Definitely don’t have to worry about crowds.
  • + 1
 Not every ride can be black diamond and trails look perfect for my little sidekicks. I plan family trips around trails lol. I'm planning the trip already!
  • + 1
 Oregon is an awesome place to take kiddos out on bikes. Hit Alsea falls on the way down, it's a wonderful beginner trail system. Oakridge is all beginner trails as well, but the climbs are pretty large.
  • + 4
 @mustbike: have you even ridden Oakridge!? Wtf are you talking about? Yeah some of the popular trails are easier, but that does not mean they're beginner trails..
  • + 1
 @Cmercado1995: I would definitely put all of oakridge in the begginner category except eula ridge. The climbs and descents are long, but everything can easily be ridden on a hardtail. That doesnt mean I dont think the trails are awesome. Maybe I'm missing something? Going off of the grading scale at whistler or queenstown I guess.
  • + 1
 @mustbike: yeah dude. If you are comparing A Line to trails at a public mountain bike system they are never going to match up.

I would basically base every trail system on their own subjective merits. What is blue at Alsea could be green in Hood River. A "black" sinewy, hand built trail built in 1998 is obviously not going to match the ratings when you go to Black Rock.

Haven;'t ridden all of Oakridge, but I wouldn't call the main draw ATCA green by any means. The speed and exposure alone, if you are skilled rider, moves the raiting in to the blue square zone.
  • + 1
 @ptrailsEK: I feel that, but I also think there should be consistency in ratings. Right now you can drive a few hours and be all over the place rating wise. Considering mountain bikers travel a fair bit, even beginners, this makes sense to me. I think a lot of stuff is just so far off its a bit unsafe. I dunno meeting people who have gotten into trouble outside of local spots makes me feel this way.
  • + 1
 New road trip destination! Gotta love it!!
  • + 1
 Looks like i'll be making a trip to Coos Bay.
  • + 1
 Is that a SB4.5 with a 150mm fox 36 and a dpx shock?
  • + 1
 Need to get over there to ride one of these days.
  • + 1
 Nice work builders!
  • + 1
 Sign me up!
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