Closest Towns: Oakridge(40 min)Bend(45 min)Eugene(1.5 hr)
Ride Format: Loop.
Trail Style: Trail Riding with some enduro bits if you climb..
Giggle Rating: ****
Technicality: Moderate, with some tricky bits on roots and/or rocks.
Difficulty: Mostly intermediate with one short difficult crux on the lake loop, and some gnar near the top on Fuji peak.
Epic Scale: Medium to full-blown.
Ideal Bike: Trail bike.
Overview: Every year, when the season is right, TDM and Pinky pack up the rig with a few bikes, a canoe and a couple of beach towels and then charge up to Waldo Lake to enjoy a few weekends with our mutual favorite ride in Oregon. The question is, which of the many loops found in this area are to be our favorite ride today? The Waldo lake trail is, in itself, an absolute classic, but the combination of awesome setting, great camping, and varied trail choices make it something that TDM dreams of for the nine months of waiting it takes to get back to Waldo season each year. To summarize this summary, unless you vehemently hate XC trail riding, this should be on your list of top priority rides within the Beaver state. Just make sure the mosquitos are gone or you will never make it out of the parking lot alive.
Pros: There are a wide variety of trails in this area which link together to form rides as big or as small as your little heart might desire and all of them are good. There are great trails for kids, beginners, and aces alike, mostly in a cross country style, but TDM wants to be clear; the five or six epic descents sprinkled over the larger peaks are each among the best in the state…no doubt. The ride around the lake has great rhythm and reliably fantastic scenery. The swimming holes are good too. Waldo Lake has three great campgrounds, with the trail running through each of them. There is fantastic paddling, hiking and sailing. It’s a great place to camp with family and friends and then sneak out for a loop while others are lounging on the beach…or the other way around if favorable beverages are near.
Cons: The season can be short. The snow is often off by the end of June, but the mosquitoes are absolutely merciless until a couple of good freezes; often in mid to late August. Ask folks in Oakridge how the bugs are before you go. Early season rides will also be hindered by downed trees, so make sure the trail has been cleared. North Waldo campground is reservation only, and is often booked out months ahead of time. The other campgrounds are often full as well, so it pays to arrive a little out of sync with other folks, particularly over long weekends. Camping is a bit expensive. Snow may be in play by November. There are too many things to ride.
Need to Know: In case every other cyclist, paddler and lounger in the state has the same idea, it is worth knowing that there is good camping at a number of other lakes in the area. TDM recommends purchasing adventure maps offerings for either Oakridge or Central Oregon; both maps show the Waldo Lake trail, but each of them cuts off one portion or another in the area around the lake…annoying, but not fatal. If you don’t want to purchase both maps, TDM can recommend the Oakridge map for the best overall coverage, but several nearby rides like Lemish Lake, Cultis Lake and parts of the more rustic Metolious-Windago Trail are only shown on the Central Oregon map. See links below for more info. The best time to be here is September to mid-October.
Other Rides in the area: The Twins, The Maiden, Mt Fuji, Bunchgrass, Charlton and Lemish Lake, Cultis Lake, Oakridge(40 min), Bend (45 min)
Recommended Route Options
- The Simple Loop (Waldo Lake Trail): About 20 miles and 1500 ft of climbing (1.5-4 hours). The lake trail is a great time moving in either direction, and works well starting from any of the campgrounds, or perhaps at the Betty lake trailhead. I’ll spare the fine details, but will mention that TDM finds the trail physically a bit easier going clockwise since it tends to get the hardest climbs out of the way early on, though there is one climb that is damn hard to clean going that direction, and a couple of others that can be a little tricky on their own (all short). That said, I prefer counter clockwise, starting from North Waldo since it is all relatively easy to clean in that direction, has a few fun steep down bits, and ends with a super flowy & fast section. Bottom line….its a great loop, no matter the approach.
- Waldo & The Twinns (Pinky and TDM’s favorite Oregon ride): About 25 miles and 3500 ft of climbing (1.7-5 hours). The twins is a great loop on its own, but gets even better when combined with the majesty of the lake loop. It would be a good time in either direction, but Pinky prefers to rally in the counter-clockwise manner since it maximizes the warp opportunities. It does take a bit of energy though, particularly if the awesome riding on the lake trail causes one to sprint a bit more than intended…a common issue.
- The Triple Crown: 55-75 miles and about 11,500 ft of climbing(6-9 hours). Only have one day, want to do it all, and have legs to spare? Try this, TDM’s other favorite ride in Oregon. The basic idea is to link The Maiden, Mt Fuji, and the Twins into one ride, preferably including a spin around the lake as well. In doing so you will ride several of the best descents in the state, get three great summit views, and cover some good dirt along the way. The easiest way I’ve done this is to park at the Mt Fuji trailhead near Gold Lake, then climb The Maiden (which is the hardest of the three), returning to the car for a food refill before doing the Twinns, then counter-clockwise around the lake, up past betty lake, then up the Pothole Meadow trail to the top of Fuji. The descent off this should heal any wounds you endured along the way.
- Kids Ride! Bobby Lake Out and Back (about 4 miles and 300 ft easy climbing) or shuttle Charlton Lake to N Waldo Campground (1.8 miles and 50 ft of climbing) these are two good routes to do with kids, with the Bobby lake ride having a very wide, easy tread, reasonable kids climbs, some fun micro-descending, and an awesome lake for a lunch break. The Charlton ride is a little more technical, but offers fairly flat grade descents for kids with some basic off-road skills. This ride works as an out and back as well, and Charlton is a really great lunch and swimming spot.
Links, Maps & Media
Mountain Bike Project: http://www.mtbproject.com/trail/3734125/waldo-lake-loop-imba-epic