What’s to Love: If you’re wondering what “Freeriding” means, you might want to first check-out OPB’s feature from Oregon Field Guide. Basically, it’s riding a mountain bike through “technical features” setup along forest paths. These technical features can be something as innocent as a small bump. However, as one progresses further into freeriding, the “technical features” become narrow balance beams (far off the ground too!), teeter-totters, banked turns, and HUGE drop-offs. This is a popular form of mountain biking, and “Post Canyon” outside Hood River is one of the country’s premiere areas.
I know you might be thinking, “That’s got to be illegal;” however, these features and trails were built with a special use permit through the Forest Service. Please, do not think you can just go into the woods and build this type of stunt equipment! It’s obvious to me that the people who built these features knew exactly what they were doing. While the sport itself looks extremely dangerous, the wood platforms, beams, and overall construction looks very solid.
Located about 10-15 minutes from downtown Hood River, Post Canyon offers an EXTENSIVE network of trails. Many of the trails of Post Canyon have freeriding features, so please be careful when riding the trails in the area. Most of the time, it looks like there are alternate routes around the features. However, it would be tragic if someone came upon some of these by accident. From a quick glance at the map, the Post Canyon trails could keep a rider busy for days on end.
Why am I featuring this area? The freeriding is divided up into different areas of difficulty. The first area you’ll come to (Off Riorden Hill Dr.), and conveniently located just steps from a parking area, is “Family Man.” The Family Man area is a nice collection of low-to-the-ground-features. Even if you and/or your kids were to fall off these, chances are, there would be no serious injuries. The Family Man area offers a nice introduction into this daredevil-ish sport. Definitely start in this area!
The next area of difficulty is right next door – “Middle School.” Middle School offers a continuation of some of the smaller features found in the Family Man area. Again, do not start here! The Middle School area has some easier stunts, but there are definitely features that will test both your skill and guts.
If you’re ready, head over to “Drop Out.” This area begins with a series of big drops (although, I’ve heard these are nothing compared to higher levels of Post Canyon). These drops are featured at the end of the video clip (see below). My son is actually climbing up the first jump, and it looks very intimidating from the ground. I was nervous just watching our featured rider do this series. I can’t imagine actually do it myself.
This is just a taste of the area! There is so much more, but we didn’t have enough time to fully explore, and technically, it’s not riding season yet. The trails are just to muddy, which makes the wood features VERY slippery. We intend on heading back to this area very soon to try out the Family Man area.
Caveats: This sport is dangerous! There is no other way to say it. You have to have such a combination of skills to even think about doing this type of riding. Plus, the proper bike with dual suspension is not cheap. Add in the cost of protective gear, which is an absolute MUST, and you’re looking at a sport that is expensive!
It’s kind of a hard place to find. Definitely ask at the local bike shops for directions. Also, the riding should be limited to dry weather. This type of riding can be hard on the trails and surrounding environment.
Unfortunately, the popularity of the sport is outgrowing the amenities offered in the area. There appeared to be no restrooms, porta-potties, or trash cans. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to visualize what we saw in the parking area (and it was off-season!). Hopefully, the area is policed a bit better during the high-season. Otherwise, the trails looked like they were in good condition.
Distance from Portland: About 63 miles from Portland. Here is a Google Map that will get you to the corner of Country Club Rd. & Riordan Hill Drive. You’ll want to head west or Riordan Hill Drive for about 2-3 miles. Look for the parking area on your left. There isn’t a sign announcing the “Family Man” area.
Recommended Ages: This is definitely a sport for older kids (10 and older). Make sure they have all the safety gear and possess some Evil Knievel-level bike handling skills. In the “Family Man” area, I think younger kids would probably be fine with adult supervision. Be careful!
Parental Stress Factor: High! Geeeezzz…what did you expect? Watching your kids fly through the air is probably a bit stressful for most parents. Although, if you keep things in perspective and ride within your limits, it can be a pretty enjoyable day, I’m sure!
Physical Difficulty: HARD! Post Canyon trails are up, down and all over the place. This is some serious riding, even if you avoid the features. If you want an easy day, just stick to the Family Man area, and you should be just fine.
Family Fun Factor: I’ve heard there are plenty of families who bike together in this area. It can be a great sport to get into with your kids, but just make sure you’re always riding within your limits.
Pet Friendly: Not a good idea to bring dogs into this area of Post Canyon. If you do, you’ll want to make sure you keep them on a short leash at all times.
Weather Considerations: Riding on muddy trails just causes more damage to the trails and environment. Save your riding for the dry days of Summer and Fall. Plus, when wood gets wet it’s almost like there’s a layer of grease smeared on it.
Insider Info: There are two great bike shops that can get you setup with gear, maps, and information. Discovery Bicycles used to be located on Oak Street, but they recently moved a block off Oak to 210 State Street. On the main drag, look for Mountain View Cycles. I recommend both shops. Heading in and checking-out all the cool bikes will get you all fired-up for some riding.
If you’re not into the freeriding movement, there are still plenty of options in Post Canyon. Hood River has become quite the mecca for mountain biking in general. Unfortunately, you’ll need your car to transport bikes to most rides. Check with the bike shops for maps and more information.
Check-out my article on Hood River. To head to this town for mountain biking alone should be a crime! There are many excellent restaurants, clothing stores, skate shops, a toy store, and even yoga. When it comes to outdoor recreation, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a town that can compete with Hood River (fishing, kite boarding, boating, biking, climbing, mountaineering, etc.).
Family Tips: If you’re going to just hike around and watch the action, make sure you keep a CLOSE eye on your kids, especially if they have a tendency to climb or walk around the features. This is NOT a good idea at all. When we were there, there was single rider, and we knew exactly where he was at all times. Please make sure your kids do not run out onto the trail by these jumps. Riders will not be able to see them until it’s too late.
Bring plenty of water and snacks back to Post Canyon. You’re just far enough from Hood River to make it inconvenient to head back to eat.
Finally, if you’ve run out of things to do in Hood River, which is highly unlikely, head east on 84 to The Dalles. The Dalles offers some nice family biking, Maryhill Museum, and the great-for-kids “Columbia Gorge Discovery Center.
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Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge on August 29th, 2013