2nd Gen Toyota 4Runner with Mt Hood in the background holding two mountain bikes near 44 Trails

When talking about mountain biking in Hood River, the most prominent trail network that comes to mind is Post Canyon. And rightly so. It’s like a giant amusement park for mountain bikers. However, if you’re one that loves to wander and yearns for a bit of adventure, there’s another trail system that many visitors overlook: the 44 Trails mountain bike trail network.

Where Is It?

Located on the flanks of Mt. Hood, but more specifically on the east side of the Mt. Hood National Forest. The trails are primarily accessed from Forest Service Road 44 (their namesake) and the Highway 35 corridor near Parkdale, Oregon (also known as the Hood River Fruit Loop). From downtown Hood River, it can take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes to drive to one of the trailheads.

 

Before You Arrive At The Trailhead

Download Trailforks

Similar to Post Canyon, it’s a good idea to pull down the latest information on Trailforks before you head out. Even more so since cell coverage is almost non-existent. While the front country segments of the trail networks are well marked, there are certain sections that are a bit of a challenge. Having Trailforks navigation on helped make sure we were going the right way on certain segments.

Where to Start

mountain biker taking off bike at 44 Trails trailhead off of a 4Runner
Taking off the bikes at the Trailhead – Photo by Jaime Pirozzi – Local Freshies®

Compared to Post Canyon where it felt as if every quarter mile was another intersection, 44 Trails is spread out across a huge area. It can be miles before you’re at another intersection. For the first-time visitor, I recommend starting at either the Knebel Springs/8 Mile TH or Surveyor’s Ridge as your jumping off point. The Knebel Springs/8 Mile TH is in a central location to pick and choose from a variety of tours such as the 8 Mile Loop and Knebel Springs Loop.

Location of Knebel Springs/8 Mile Loop staging area on Google Maps

Location of Surveyor’s Ridge staging area on Google Maps

Can You Shuttle 44 Trails?

Based on what we saw exploring, there are a myriad of options to choose from if you want to shuttle with a friend. In fact, one of the iconic trails in 44 Trails is perfectly suited for shuttling – Surveyor’s Ridge. More details on that below.

What to Expect

44 Trails intersection with A LOT of signs
Photo by Jaime Pirozzi – Local Freshies®

As we said above, 44 Trails is the wilderness yin to Post Canyon’s amusement park yang. Instead of perfectly sculpted berms and booters, you’ll find a wilderness to explore. Nearly 150 miles of trails and over 4,000 vertical feet of XC touring relief. That’s more than double what Post Canyon offers. It’s you against the mountain. The climbs are punchier. The routes are wilder. But most of all, that hard work rewards you with stunning views of Mt. Hood and the surrounding area in the region. If you’ve ever wondered where those photos of mountain bikers with Mt. Hood in the distance were taken, it’s probably here on Surveyor’s Ridge.

 

Follow The Scout’s Mantra

This is a true backcountry mountain biking experience that means you NEED to be prepared if something goes wrong. Be sure that your carrying all the mtb essentials you need to fix anything on you or your bike. In six hours of riding, we didn’t see another soul!

When To Visit

Looking Mt Hood in the fall from 44 Trails
Mt Hood in early October before the 1st major winter storms roll in – Photo by Jaime Pirozzi – Local Freshies®

Due to its high elevation, the best time to visit 44 Trails depends on when the snow melts. Cascade winter storms are particularly ferocious. With much of the area situated in a dense forest, many a pine succumb to tree falls. A good time to visit is mid-summer, typically from mid to late June. Fall is also an ideal time to ride, but be sure to keep a keen eye on storms. You can check conditions by visiting the 44 Trails homepage.

Mountain Bike Trails

44 Trails mountain biking in Hood River Oregon
Enjoying the descent on Cooks Meadow – Photo by Jaime Pirozzi – Local Freshies®

Our experiences at Post Canyon had our egos swollen a bit. We thought that if we could climb 2,300 feet of vertical over 14 miles, a tour through 44 Trails should be easy, right? Wrong. Maybe it was because we don’t usually do two long rides back-to-back, or maybe I didn’t get enough sleep. The result was that we got our butts kicked. This trail system was far bigger and tougher than Post Canyon from a pedaling perspective. It was heckuva lot of fun, but it felt like we missed a lot of the trails (and views) because we had to exit early. The trails listed below are merely recommendations so mix them up in various ways for your own adventure.

Eight Mile Loop

Eightmile Loop Trail #496 on Trailforks.com

At just over 6 miles and a little more than 1,000 vertical feet, this trail is a good option for first-timers or those who are short on time. If doing it as a loop, consider starting at the Eight Mile campground to end with a descent. From the campground, you’ll follow the creek of the same name, with most of the climbing at the beginning through huge old-growth pine forests.

 

As you take a quick jog onto Knebel Springs and ascend to the ridgeline, the forest will give way to vistas offering glimpses of Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood. Near Fivemile Butte, be sure to check out the lookout tower. Of all the lookouts in Oregon, three are in Mount Hood National Forest and available for rent, with Fivemile Butte being the only one available year-round. From there, you get 360-degree views of the giant volcanic peaks of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Hood.

Knebel Springs Loop

Trailforks.com

The Knebel Springs loop is the ideal trail to give you a small taste of what 44 Trails has to offer. It features a decent amount of climbing and a generous helping of wild backcountry experience. Deep in the tall pine forests, this trail will challenge beginners while providing enough variety to keep even experts entertained. Most of the trail is smooth singletrack, but it does contain a few natural features, such as roots and short rocky sections to navigate.

Cooks Meadow

Cooks Meadow Trail #639 on Trailforks.com

This trail is perfect for a shuttle outing, but we pedaled it up and down and found it to be an absolute blast. Though the continuous climb is challenging, your hard work is rewarded with a few meadows offering glimpses of Mt. Hood in the distance. The real treat, however, is when you finally turn around. The sustained descent allows you to start “cooking” (pun intended) downhill at a descent clip, if you will, but the twists and turns, along with roots and rocky sections, ensure that you stay focused on the task at hand.

mountain biker looking at Mt Hood in the distance on Cook's Meadow
Views near the top of Cooks Meadow trail – Photo by Jaime Pirozzi – Local Freshies®

Surveyor’s Ridge

The crowning jewel of the 44 Trails system. As its name suggests, this trail follows a ridgeline, offering riders breathtaking views of Mt. Hood in all its splendor. But don’t lose focus. Throughout its journey, you’ll encounter plenty of technical rock sections to navigate. Short punchy climbs that’ll keep you on your toes. And in between the obstacles, you’ll also encounter alpine meadows featuring wildflowers in the spring and early summer. It’s no wonder this has been awarded the IMBA Epic designation.

How to Ride It

Depending on how much effort you want to put in, you can ride this trail as a shuttle, a gravel grind climb, or a beefy loop. Each option starts at the same location, but the approach to the ascent on the other side varies.

Fifteen Mile Classic

Out of the entire 44 Trails network, HRATS’ president Tim Mixon’s favorite one is Fifteen Mile. The combination of views, challenge (lots of climbing) and descents can’t be beat. If you’re ok finishing with a climb, you can take off a few miles and start at the beginning of Lookout Mountain TH.

Where To Eat, Stay, And More

44 Trails is but one of three major mountain bike trail networks near Hood River. For insights into the other trail systems, top dining spots, and more, check out our article: “All You Need To Know About Hood River Mountain Biking.”

And when it comes to lodging, there’s no shortage of fantastic accommodations. Consider options like the Hood River Hotel or Adventure Lodge in town. You can read about our firsthand experience at Adventure Lodge Hood River in our article: “Adventure Lodge Hood River – An Ideal Basecamp For Outdoor Fun.” And whatever you do, don’t forget to mention that Local Freshies® sent ya!

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