What’s to Love: Before I get started with my usual format, I want to apologize for the lack of photographs. It was raining pretty hard for our entire ride, and the camera batteries died right when we were getting started. Hopefully, I’ll get some additional photos soon! Despite that, the “EasyClimb Trail” in Cascade Locks is the perfect outing for parents who want to mountain bike with their kids. The two mile loop features a little bit of everything, EXCEPT hill climbs! There is ample parking, no fees, and plenty of signage – it’s almost impossible to get lost. I’m convinced this is the #1 option for mountain biking with young kids…period. If you think there is a better option, I’d love to hear about it.
The EasyClimb trail will eventually be part of a 25 mile system of new trails around Cascade Locks (reference) as part of the Cascade Locks International Mountain Bike Trail (CLIMB). If the new trails will be anything like the EasyClimb, then Cascade Locks will be the new hot spot for mountain biking. The EasyClimb offers fast single track with tight turns, burms, whoop-dee-doos, and very short uphill sections.
The course switches back and winds through a forested section where your fast-group and slow-group will get the chance to see each other. There are very few side trails where you can go off route – just keep looking for the EasyClimb signs. Various sections (e.g., Bobsled, Itchy Vista, Humpty Dumpty, etc.) are also signed and give character to the ride. Although it would be considered a “green/easy” course, advanced riders will love the tight turns and how well the track flows. Check out the YouTube Clip!
Caveats: Although there is little to complain about with the EasyClimb trail, there are no bathrooms or water available on-site, which can be inconvenient if you’re not prepared. If I get picky, I just wish the trail was a bit longer, but it’s perfect for young/beginning riders. A picnic area would be a nice addition!
Distance from Portland: About 45 miles from Portland. Here is a link/map directly to the EasyClimb trailhead.
Recommended Ages: On the right bike, very young riders (as young as 5 years) could tackle the majority of this course. They will need gears and hand brakes – make sure they understand to keep their hands on the brakes. Learning how to “ride the brakes” without locking the wheels up is essential in mountain biking. If they don’t have that skill, practice on some hills while road riding. Despite being an easy course, your kids will get some serious speed, and you don’t want them hitting a tree while going 10+ miles per hour.
There were several sections where both my 5 and 10 year old kids had to get off their bikes. This was both for technical reasons (not many at all), or they simply ran out of juice on one of the short uphill sections. I think you’ll find that even older kids (through high school) with advanced bike handling skills will enjoy this course. If they think it’s too short, just have them do laps!
Parental Stress Factor: Even on an easy course, it’s stressful! There is no doubt that mountain biking is a potentially dangerous sport. Please exercise good judgement while riding! Kids can quickly pick up speed and veer off the trail hitting any number of unwelcome targets including trees, rocks, patches of poison oak, and/or other riders. Because of that, I always like to ride in front of my 5 year old; however, when I felt he had the hang of braking and shifting weight, he led most of the way on the EasyClimb trail.
Physical Difficulty: Mountain biking can be a grueling sport! However, this trail is pretty mellow for the most part. There are a few exciting sections (e.g. Bobsled section), but for the most part, it’s not that much of a physical grind. Plus, it’s a pretty short loop – two miles goes by pretty quickly.
Family Fun Factor: If you want to have a positive family experience mountain biking, this is the trail for you! If you don’t have fun on this trail, mountain biking may not be the best option for your family. Taking on this trail is a great way to get your feet wet with family mountain biking. You’ll probably know right away if it’s going to work out or be a disaster.
Pet Friendly: The trail is also for hiking, which means that dogs on leashes are permitted. Therefore, you’ll want to keep a close eye on the traffic coming in the opposite direction. Also, when passing hikers, make sure they know you’re coming up on them and be polite! It’s often easy to blame mountain bikers for problems that happen out on the trail. Please represent the sport well by using good manners!
Weather Considerations: For the majority of the year, most likely, it will be windy and drizzly rain. Be prepared to get wet and for muddy/slippery trail conditions. However, the summer months will bring hot and dry conditions. My guess is that this trail is going to be awesome this September/October. We’ll be back soon!
Insider Info: There does not seem to be a preferred way to ride the trail, and we did bump into a rider going the opposite direction. It was no big deal, but you may want to remind your kids to watch out for riders coming at you. Do not wander off the trail! You’ll see plenty of signs for poison oak.
If you’re interested in getting a bite to eat, you might love the nostalgia of the East Wind Drive-in. They have burgers, hot dogs, and soft serve ice cream – still love that chocolate/vanilla swirl! Reminds me of the Tasty Freeze where I grew up in Fremont, Michigan. Another interesting place for kids/families is the Char Burger restaurant. It has a cafeteria style ordering/service where you slide your tray along and pick what you want, but you can also order food as well. They have some incredible antique mountaineering gear on display.
Also while riding, you’ll go right by the new “Locks Approach Disc Golf Course!” It looked like a pretty decent course, but we were unable to play it due to bad weather. I’ll try to highlight the course with a different article soon.
Family Tips: Just as with hiking, make sure your kids understand the rules of the trail! It’s important to allow uphill riders the right-of-way, don’t cut switchbacks, always yield to hikers. Make sure you come prepared with snacks and a way to fix flat tires and make minor repairs. It’s really a bummer when your kids are psyched to ride, and they end up walking back to the car due to a flat tire. And please, make sure your kids ride with helmets that are the correct size and fit!