To say that former pro snowboarder and voiceover artist Kris "Jaymo" Jamieson can be overly enthusiastic is putting it mildly. So, a couple of Saturday's ago, when he went off about the greatness of the new Sandy Ridge trail system near Brightwood in the shadow of Mt. Hood, I figured if the riding was half as good as he indicated, it would be incredible.And, as it turned out, he was right and the ride was worth the extra drive. Sandy Ridge is pretty amazing. It's a small trail system at present, but one that's slated to be expanded over the next several years.
Laid out on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property bordering the Bull Run watershed and reservoir of the same name that supplies most of Portland's water, the Sandy Ridge trail system is a joint effort between the BLM and the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA). The BLM had the land and sought out IMBA for design and trail construction help.
Former Bend local, and Northwest IMBA trail creation and maintenance representative Jason Wells did the trail design, and local Mt. Hood area riders and other interested parties have stepped up to help with the construction of the trails and, two weeks ago, completed a brand new kiosk at the upper trailhead.
So let's talk about what the riding is like. It's definitely new school with plenty of high-banked switchbacks, whoops and places to get big air. In this respect, it's akin to the riding in the Post Canyon near Hood River. But, and this is a big "but," unlike Post Canyon, Sandy Ridge riding is much more average-human-being, mere-mortal friendly. That's right, the majority of people who ride there do so without wearing body armor or needing to be astride a long-travel downhill bike.
The trail system comprises several loops, all accessed off the paved but gated Homestead Road. Riding up this paved access road from the lower trailhead, you first come (within a tenth of a mile) to the beginner-friendly Laura's Loop on your right. About a quarter mile farther up, the three-plus-mile long Hide and Seek loop dumps out onto the pavement. There's an entrance point to this trail about a mile up the paved road that allows you to ride just the lower part of it.
Continuing the 1,000-feet, and just over three-mile climb up the paved access road, you top out at the new kiosk and upper trailhead. From here you can ride the recently opened two-and-a-half-mile Three Thirty Eight Loop and connect it into the much shorter Three Thirty Eight cut-off loop that feeds down into Hide and Seek and a fun finish. You can also take Hide and Seek all the way down from the top.
It takes most riders around forty minutes to ride the paved access road from the lower trailhead to the upper trailhead. However, if it's early in the day and no vehicles are in the parking lot, many locals like to ride up Hide and Seek all the way up to the upper trailhead. That's a big time grunt. Some riders do the lower part of Hide and Seek coming back onto the pavement at the aforementioned access point a mile up the trail. This is less of a grunt, but a decent one given the fact that you're climbing right from the get-go.
The day I rode Sandy Ridge, I did it with a local. We went up the lower Hide and Seek instead of riding the paved access road all the way. After connecting back onto the pavement, we headed to the upper trailhead. The uphill riding took us just over an hour.
Topped out, we rested for a few minutes then came back down Hide and Seek enjoying the top-to-bottom gravity feed. Had we both had enough time, we would have opted to ride at least part of the Three Thirty Eight loop which had been closed for months until July 24 to let the trail settle after a wet spring and heavy usage took its toll.
Again, the way overused "build-it-and-they-will-come" sentiment proved true as the parking lot at the lower trailhead and roadway leading to it was jammed with vehicles on July 24. Obviously, the word is out on the west side of the Cascades that Sandy Ridge is the hip new place to ride.
In the grander scheme of things, Sandy Ridge is the best of all riding worlds. The trail system will have new school armor-wearing riders whining about the climb to get to the gravity, but will be in hog heaven once on the loops. As for traditional cross country riders, they'll have fun, and learn a lot about bike handling, but in the end probably chalk up the whole experience up to something akin to a carnival ride.
Interested in getting in on the Sandy Ridge scene?
Here's how to get there.
Driving west on Highway 26 coming down from Government Camp, you pass by the small roadside towns of Zigzag, Welches and Wemme. All these towns are within a long 45-mph zone. When that 45-mph zone turns to 55 mph, look to your right for a sign that says Brightwood.
Turn right and follow the road to an intersection at the Brightwood store. Turn right here and follow the road over the Sandy River.
Across the Sandy River, turn left at the T intersection and drive about a mile where you'll see a paved road take off to the right and a small trailhead kiosk. This is Homestead Road and time to park and ride.
For more, go to:
Click on "Recreation" and scroll down to Sandy Ridge.