It’s one of life’s great truisms. Something very unique is cherished by a few, becomes a cult classic, and then, as more people find out about it, becomes more of a classic trashed. And so it is with the famed McKenzie River Trail. Once considered America’s definitive singletrack mountain bike trail, the McKenzie River Trail is suffering from overuse.
It's too bad but that's the price the trail is paying for its fame spurred on in part by constant "top trails to ride" stories about the trail in mountain bike and outdoor magazines. On any given weekend, like last this past one, the trail is now packed with mountain bike riders ranging from raw beginners to body armor clad freeriders and every description in between. Riding the trail has become a much sought after mountain biking merit badge worthy of a tee-shirt emblazoned with the words-"I rode the McKenzie River Trail and survived."
The problems with popularity and so much use is the trail has become overly eroded in many places, full of stutter (aka "tourist") bumps, more places where the trail is rim deep in loose dirt and other maladies great trails suffered when abused. The McKenzie River trail is still a great ride if, and I agree with Phill of Phill's trail fame on this, you ride it up-river. Then you don't notice the wear and damage as much.
So what to do? Restrict the number of riders that can use the trail on weekend? That would be nearly impossible and too expensive to monitor. Hope for a group like COTA to work their maintenance magic on the trail? That would be wonderful as COTA has a well-deserved reputation nationwide for keeping trails in shape. Maybe a moratorium on riding the trail for one of the summer months is in order? Ah, forget that, I can hear the whining now.
The bottom line is a group called "Friends of The McKenzie River Trail" or something like that needs to be formed to get riders involved in keeping the trail in good shape. Until that happens, the wear and tear is making an Oregon treasure lose much of its luster.