Break down trail at Mountain of the Rogue

The definition of a “rogue” is someone that goes against the cloth. Doing it their own way. Having a wild spirit. While the general definition can have a negative connotation, that isn’t the case for the Mountain of the Rogue trail system. Rather, it perfectly captures the essence of the trail network. It goes against the grain of what you expect for Oregon mountain biking. Instead of pedaling under a forested canopy with tacky berms like Post Canyon, you’ll find a rough and rocky trail system entirely in the open, making it a very unique place in the Oregon biking scene.

 

Where to Start

Trailhead at Mountain of the Rogue
Photo by Jaime Pirozzi – Local Freshies®

Located between Grants Pass and Medford, Mountain of the Rogue is conveniently accessible right off I-5 at exit 48. The main staging area, situated off North River Road, offers a beautiful paved parking lot and even a bathroom. From here, all trails start and end at this trailhead, making navigation a breeze. Be aware that there is no water or trash cans available.

Location of Mountain of the Rogue Trailhead on Google Maps

Note: This parking lot while free, it’s only for day-use.

What to Expect

Taking in the views on Rat Pack – Photo by Jaime Pirozzi – Local Freshies®

Built in 2015, it was southern Oregon’s first purpose-built trail system. It started with only seven miles of singletrack but has gradually grown to over thirteen miles of trails and 1,300 vertical feet of relief. While it isn’t huge, it does punch above its weight in quality and a great pit stop on your way to other destinations such as Ashland or heading south to Lake Tahoe. As mentioned earlier, this trail system is a contrasting experience to what’s mostly available in the state of Oregon. The landscape is characterized by tall grasses and dotted with madrones, rewarding you with miles of views of the Rogue River below and the nearby vineyards.

 

Designed for All Abilities

The trail system is designed similar to a layer cake. The first layer is ideal for beginners and intermediates. A good introduction of the best things mountain biking has to offer such as rollers, tabletops with optional roll-arounds, and large bermed turns. As you ascend, each layer becomes progressively rowdier, steeper, and more technical, with some exposure to spice it up even further.

Local Freshies® tip: Be VERY aware of poison oak. It grows feverishly alongside some of the singletrack.

When to Visit

mountain biker enjoying trails at Mountain of the Rogue in the fall
Mid October the trails are still firing as you can see in this pic – Photo by Jaime Pirozzi – Local Freshies®

Being inland from the coast, low in elevation, and in the rain shadow of the surrounding mountains, you can enjoy the trails pretty much year-round. However, the ideal time to visit is in the fall and spring. The trail network is mostly sun exposed and can get quite warm in the summer months, so it’s best to go early in the day before it warms up. If the thermostat is cresting triple digits, consider hitting up Grants Pass’s other trail system Cathedral Hills for more shaded terrain.

In the winter, while snowfall is rare, most of the area’s precipitation occurs during this season. It’s best to avoid riding if the ground does freeze (a possibility in late December/January). When the top layer thaws, it turns into a slippery, peanut-butter-like surface.

 

MTB Trails We Hit

Mountain of the Rogue Trail System on Trailforks.com

Rat Pack

Rat Pack trail on Trailforks

Rat Pack trail on Mountain of the Rogue
Views from Rat Pack on Mountain of the Rogue trail system – Photo by Local Freshies®

While the descents are fantastic, you can really tell this is a purpose-built trail system when you experience the main climbing trail – Rat Pack. Instead of a soul punishing pedal like many old school climbing trails that were built for hiking, this one has just enough pitch to allow you to climb at a decent cadence and still take in the scenery. As soon as you leave the trailhead, you exit a stand of trees and begin the mellow 2.5-mile ascent through a series of switchbacks to the top.

For beginners, exit at the intersection of Pay Dirt for the easiest trails. The rest can continue climbing.

 

Dark Side

Dark Side trail on Trailforks

Since this was our second trail network of the day and we were running out of daylight, we decided to skip the final 500 vertical feet, which includes another trail called the Dark Side. According to our local guide, this is the most challenging section, featuring some punchy climbs.

Breakdown

Breakdown trail on Trailforks

The smooth, peanut butter-like dirt is filled with chunky pieces of rock that you have to navigate. As you continue your descent, the jumps get bigger and the berms become more pronounced. The highlight is when the trail bends around the mountain to the north, dropping through rocky ledges flanked by small cliff bands on the hillside. Not at all what I expected to find in Oregon.

mountain biker jumping on Freewheel at Mountain of the Rogue in southern Oregon on a sunny fall day
Floating doubles on Freewheel – Photo by Jaime Pirozzi – Local Freshies®

Freewheel

Freewheel trail on Trailforks

After finishing Breakdown, up next was the cherry on top of our ice cream Sundae – Freewheel. This run snakes and pumps its way through table tops, easy doubled rollers (as you can see in the photo), and true kicker-style moon shooters that let you launch into perfect tailwhips. None of it’s mandatory but whoever built this route knew what they were doing, making you gain more confidence the further you descend. Lots of little side hits and hip jumps too!

Pay Dirt

Pay Dirt trail on Trailforks

The further you descend, the more forest intermixes with grassy hillsides, and the dirt takes on a more clay composition. Compared to the upper trails, Pay Dirt is more flowy and features perfectly sculpted rollers and banked berm turns that you crave. These elements ensure that you finish strong with a big grin on your face.

 

Arm Bar

Arm Bar on Trailforks

We didn’t have the opportunity to ride it ourselves, but our friend described it as incredibly technical. It begins with a gradual ascent and swiftly cranks up the heat in technical terrain. One standout feature through the entire trail is exposure. Anticipate tight-rope riding along a hillside and tackling several rocky sections, including a significant armored drop.

No Joke

No Joke trail on Trailforks

If Arm Bar doesn’t satisfy your need for technical challenges, then No Joke is a must-try, accessible via Arm Bar. True to its name, No Joke presents numerous mandatory features, leaving little room for hesitation. Along its nearly mile-long path, expect off-camber slabs, loose rocks, and tight turns demanding your attention as you navigate your way through it.

New Trails in the Forecast

If that wasn’t impressive enough, the city of Grants Pass has secured matching funds exceeding $700,000 to develop over twenty miles of non-motorized trails on Dollar Mountain. While informal trails already exist, this initiative will introduce dedicated singletrack, adding yet another enticing reason to make a pit stop on your journey to or from home. If Mountain of the Rogue is any indication, this development will be extraordinary!

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