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Few people will have "Southern Oregon" written on their bucket list of must-visit mountain destinations, but if you've ever driven through Southern Oregon's Rogue Valley while heading up or down Interstate 5, you might wonder why you've never heard of it before. Rolling mountain ridges surround the valley, with the tallest mountains soaring over a vertical mile above the valley floor. In the distance, snowcapped volcanic peaks tower over the landscape, providing omnipresent navigational landmarks. This mountainous landscape is home to hundreds of miles of trails and a lifetime of adventure... if you're willing to dig a little.


While the Rogue Valley wasn't originally high on my hit list, I had been vaguely familiar with the town of Ashland for some time. Mt. Ashland has long been a paradise for enduro riders looking to rip endless shuttle runs. In fact, mountain bikers have been skidding down the flanks of Mt. Ashland since before the word "enduro" was associated with the sport. These days, Ashland is a popular stop for the California Enduro Series, as it sits just across the California border. When the opportunity arose to immerse myself in the landscape of Southern Oregon, I jumped at the chance!


A four-month stay gave me plenty of time to work with. I not only pedaled and hiked as many trails as I could find in the Rogue Valley, but I ventured further afield to explore the Mount McLoughlin area, Klamath Falls, Grants Pass. Mount Shasta and Redding in Northern California. I also ventured to Oregon's Coast Range on a long weekend and spent a week exploring Oakridge, but you can find out more about those two stops in separate guidebooks.


Thanks to my extended stay in true vagabonding style, this guidebook is chock full of adventures, both large and small. But if you're looking for a greatest hits list of the best mountain bike trails in Southern Oregon, be sure to read this dedicated guidebook.


While naturally I focused on shredding singletrack, my stint in the Rogue Valley spanned the changing of the seasons from late summer to mid-winter. After soaking in as much of the beautiful fall colors as possible, I had to embrace the cold and the rain, powering through less-than-optimal trail and weather conditions. But finally, finally, it began to snow! While I didn't get to spend a full season snowboarding at Mt. Ashland, I was fortunate enough to thoroughly explore the small ski area before departing the region in January. In uncharacteristic style, you'll find both summer and winter adventures in this guidebook.


Even after four months spent exploring the region, there are still stones that I didn't get the chance to turn over, still trails that I didn't get to ride or hike. But the ones I did explore thoroughly impressed me! Most notably, the shuttle runs on Mount Ashland can rank among the best shuttles in the Western USA. The backcountry rides near McLoughlin are wild and immersive. And the purpose-built trails on the Mountain of the Rogue are the stuff mountain bike dreams are made of.


The next time you're heading up or down the West Coast, consider a lengthy stop in Southern Oregon!


Click here for the full guidebook.

 

Photo: Marcel Slootheer

I can't even begin to explain how incredibly "unprecedented" the year 2020 was. (And if I never have to hear that word again, I'll die a happy man.) But we all lived through it—we all have our own experiences to share from 2020 and the COVID 19 pandemic. We all had our plans for the year completely derailed.


So when you're faced with an utter shit storm of a year, what do you do? Focus on the few things that are within your control, and then make the most of them.


While international travel was off the table for 2020, thousands of miles of the world's best mountain bike trails are found right here in the good ole US of A. Instead of hopping on a plane I slid behind the wheel of my car, and the once-mighty interstate system of my dysfunctional country took me from Colorado to Arizona, Pennsylvania, Utah, Northeastern Oregon, California, Arizona again, more Colorado, a bigger dose of Utah, and a large helping of Southern Oregon to wrap things up.


Over the course of this chaotic year, I rode dozens of the nation's top trails and logged thousands of miles of pedaling. While I did re-ride a few perennial favorites, I spent most of the year exploring tons of new-to-me trails and destinations. Below, you'll find 20 of the very best trails that I rode for the first time in 2020.


Whittling the list down to 20 was a real challenge. Even just naming my favorites left me with a list of about 40, and I had to cut it in half. But the 20 that remain are all creme de la creme singletrack trails. All of these selections qualify as world-class mountain bike experiences, even if nobody has heard a few of these names


While this list is just an overview, I've penned dozens of guidebooks for FATMAP about these various destinations. So if anything here piques your interest, you can definitely dive deeper into each region and get more info.


Topping the list of my favorite trails of the year were a handful of routes in the Cascades. I don't know why this region doesn't get more ink, but flying down the loamy singletrack of the Cascade mountains is downright euphoric! O'Leary MountainLawlerEula RidgeHeckletooth, and Rye Spur collectively convinced me of the supremacy of the dark black dirt in the Cascades.


Somehow I've reached the end of the year and I'm still only in mediocre shape—blame the shuttle runs. Apparently, 2020 was the year of the point-to-point shuttle for me. The Big Boulder IMBA EpicTime WarpWOW TrailO'Leary MountainLawlerEula RidgeHeckletoothClassic Mt. Ashland ShuttlePauley CreekMills PeakMr. Toad's Wild RideMrazek Trail, and 9k Trail all thoroughly impressed me... and that's only the highlights reel of the shuttles I rode this year.


By far the best overall mountain bike destination I explored for the first time in 2020 was Downieville. While I had briefly passed through Downieville in 2012, this was my first deep dive into the region, and I'll definitely be back! Mt. Elwell along with the Big Boulder IMBA EpicPauley Creek, and Mills Peak especially impressed me.


Early in the year, I spent a month living and riding in Northeastern Oregon, and two of my favorite rides from my time there were this loop at MERA and the Umatilla Rim Loop. For more on Northeastern Oregon, be sure to dig into this guidebook.


Finally, there are a few outliers that don't fit any of the above categories. While I've ridden almost every trail in Colorado's Arkansas Valley, this spring I had an absolute ball pedaling the brand-new Camp Elevation and Unchained trails. While Spence Mountain is technically in the Cascades, the dry dirt there is much more reminiscent of Bend, since it's on the eastern side of the mountains. The descent on North Ridge is also arguably one of the most technical trails in Oregon. Finally, while I spent a couple of weeks riding in the Sonoran desert this spring, only one of the rides there managed to earn a spot on this top 20 list: Golder Ranch.


Whether you live in the United States, Canada, Europe, or someplace further afield, each of our home regions offers many lifetimes worth of adventures to enjoy. While international travel is a life-changing experience that everyone should take full advantage of, don't let limiting factors outside of your control rob you of the joy of exploration. Sometimes, the best adventures are hiding right under our noses.


Check out the full guidebook here!

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