Closest Towns: Baker City (30min), La Grande (1hr), Boise (2.5 Hr)
Ride Format: Shuttles, out and back, various loops and lollipops.
Trail Style: Backcountry trail riding
Giggle Rating: ***
Technicality: Moderate (Easy South of twin lakes).
Physical Difficulty: Easy to gnarly, depending on the section and use of shuttles, etc..
Ideal Bike: Trail Bike.
Wet Conditions: Good, though snow and lightning should be on your list of concerns.
Overview: The Elkhorn mountains have got to be the most underrated chain in Oregon, with awesome high lakes, gorgeous glacier-carved valleys, and mountain goats dotting the high alpine ridges. All this sits within view of I-84 near the Baker City, and most folks just drive on by, missing some stunning scenery and an excellent chance at seeing wild goats. So be it, just know that marking that skyline is a trail which is (mostly) accessible to bikes, allowing decent riding in an absolutely stunning backcountry setting, rivaling the best lines in the whole state of Oregon. To summarize this summary, There are a few small logistical hurtles, but in TDM’s opinion this ride is unparalleled in the Beaver state for appealing scenery in an alpine setting, and there are few areas within Oregon where we are allowed to ride a bike in country this wild.
Pros: The scenery is really that good, the line the trail traces is as good as the scenery, and there are wild goats all over the place. Baker city is not far away, and there is even a local shuttle service, which may be a good call.
Cons: The trailheads are up fairly burly gravel roads, which require either substantial climbing if done as a loop, or a slow ride up in a high-clearance vehicle if done as an out and back. Much of the trail is fairly rustic, and there are places of fairly high exposure and narrow tread…this is a scenery ride, not a schredathon. Also, the full loop requires substantial riding on roads.
Need to Know: Shuttles are available locally; see below for more details. Beware lightning; the trail runs near the top of the ridge. Also note that the northern end of the trail runs through a wilderness, and is therefore not accessible to bikes. Note that the trail from Marble Pass to Twin Lakes is wide and extremely well built and makes a really awesome short/easy out and back. Highly recommended if you don’t have much time or energy!
Other Rides in the area: Dutch flat (***),Twin Lakes Trail (***), Anthony Lakes/Black Lake/Angell Pk.(**)
1) Short Out and Back from Marble Pass****about 10 miles and 700 feet climbing: The trail from Marble Pass to Twin Lakes is a mini-classic, with good tread, great scenery, and lots of goats. Bring a lunch, a camera, and enjoy.
2) Twin Lakes Loop (Short and Long versions).**** anywhere from 15- 40 miles and 2500-5500 feet of climbing: Park at the base of the Twin Lakes trail and climb the mining road to Marble Pass. Then cruise north of the Elkhorn Crest trail. The short version follows the crest to Twin Lakes, then descends that trail to the car, while the longer version does the whole Crest as an out and back, then descends Twin Lakes trail…a bigger endeavor, but oh-so nice!
3) Shuttles: **** and 15-25 miles in length. See the link below.
Links, Maps & Media
Range Tour & Shuttle Company: http://rangetour.com/elkhorn-crest-trail-photo-gallery/
MTB Project, http://www.mtbproject.com/trail/7003683