What’s to Love: Feel like riding some sweet trails with the family? The Sandy Ridge Trail System offers approximately 15 miles of prime mountain biking in a beautiful setting. The entire trail system is relatively new, and while hiking is allowed, the trails were designed primarily for mountain biking. Most of the trails fall under the “intermediate” or “advanced” category, but I can recommend two options for beginning-level riders.
I was very impressed with the entire layout and design of trails at Sandy Ridge. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to ride many trails, but I did talk with several riders about the trails, and the trail head has great signage, restroom, and a picnic area with grills. The trails we did ride were well constructed with berms, some cool whoop-de-dos, and for the most part, featured smooth riding.
The system has a unique access road called “Homestead Road.” Homestead Road is paved, gated, and closed to cars. However, the road is used by logging trucks and other governmental vehicles, so it’s a good idea to always expect traffic and ride in control. It’s about three miles long and a continuous uphill ride to the top of the trail system. From the top, you have many options for rides (view the trail map here).
As of 8/8/2013, there are no fees to use the trails or park at the trailhead. In addition, it appears that what currently exists is just “Phase 1” of trail development, so make sure to keep looking for additional trails to be developed in the near future.
Caveats: If it’s a hot day, you may want to hold off on taking the whole family. Homestead Road gets pretty hammered by the sun, and there wasn’t much cover. It’s just steep enough to get younger kids tired and whiny. I had to push our five year old up the last few hundred yards to the top of Laura’s Loop.
I may be wrong, but I didn’t see any water. There are pit toilets at the trail head, but you’ll want to bring plenty of water.
Website: Bureau of Land Management
Distance from Portland: Only 40 miles! It’s 11 miles east of Sandy, Oregon. Here is a map.
Recommended Ages: This is really a tough one! My kids are ages five and nine, so there is quite a big difference in their skill set as riders. I’ve chair-lift mountain biked with my nine year old (he was actually seven at the time) in Park City, UT, and he definitely could have done some of the more difficult trails at Sandy Ridge. However, our five year old had some trouble with Laura’s Loop – he had to walk several sections, and he wiped-out a couple times.
Therefore, the “recommended age” is going to depend greatly on the ability of your kids as riders. Some kids will definitely get freaked-out by some of the hills, even on Laura’s Loop, which is considered beginner-level. If you have doubts, start with the Homestead Loop, which is relatively flat with no major obstacles. This will give you an idea if your kids are ready for the next level of ride, which would be Laura’s Loop.
Parental Stress Factor: Riding with kids, especially if there are adult riders in the area, is stressful. Make no mistake, mountain biking is dangerous! I think it’s way more dangerous than rock climbing, but it offers wonderful rewards. You’ll need to weigh the risk factors here. Use proper judgement while
Physical Difficulty: Mountain biking is a grueling sport! I used to live in Durango, Colorado, and I’ve put in serious mileage on trails. Along with rock climbing, it’s my favorite outdoor sport. Even though mostly downhill, this trail system will have ups and downs, twists and turns, and serious trail obstacles that will work you over. Even small hills, especially if it’s rolling terrain, can quickly wear out kids.
Family Fun Factor: If you’re all comfortable trail riding, this could be a fun outing for the whole family, especially with the picnic options at the trail head. If you’re not mountain bikers, your family might be interested in riding up Homestead Road and back down (six miles). That might be a fun option for kids, if they can manage the uphill.
Pet Friendly: This is not an area where you’d want to bring a dog. However, since there is hiking, and it is BLM land, I would think a leashed dog is acceptable.
Weather Considerations: It was too hot to ride the day we were out there. My suggestion is to ride early in the morning or after 6PM, if you’re going to go during the summer months. I would think the best riding is in the fall, and I would avoid heading out during rainy season, even though it is open. You don’t want your kids riding the trails if they are muddy.
Insider Info: WATCH OUT! Be careful while riding – adult riders in full body armor ride these trails at blistering speeds. While they must stay in control, it’s your job to make sure your kids are doing what they’re supposed to do. For example, you wouldn’t want your kid to abandon their bike in the middle of the trail. This would be a big hazard to downhill riders. All adult riders we encountered were very friendly and super-psyched to see kids out on the trails. However, on a busy weekend, that attitude could quickly change.
There is a short “access trail” from the trail head to Homestead Road. It’s only a few hundred yards or so, but it’s a good warm up to see if your kids can handle the terrain. This short trail features some berms and small jumps. My kids kept riding this back-and-forth for over 30 minutes.
Just a note that this trail system is located right near Windells Skate Park, which is an incredible place to scooter, skate, and ride BMX bikes. There are certain times during the year where they are open to the public. Check their website or give them a call to make sure they’re open to the public.
Family Tips: It’s very easy for kids to get going too fast while trail riding. The last thing you want to see is your young child flying down a trail completely out of control. If you’re concerned about their braking skills, make sure you ride in front of your kids – this will help them manage their speed and keep their hands on their brakes.
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What's to Love: Before I get started with my usual format, I want to apologize for the lack of photographs.
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