2-Day Bikepacking Trip in Government Camp, OR: Pioneer Bridle Trail to Trillium Lake Campground

The Map

Want the GPX version of the map or just more detail?  Click here.

The Ride

Want to plan a weekend mountain bike trip in 30 minutes? Here’s what you need:

  1. A mountain bike
  2. A map with mountain bike trails
  3. A midway point that you can bike to and camp
  4. A phone for reserving a campsite (details in point 3)
  5. Five is a good number for rules, so this is just filler

Seriously, that’s all it takes. Okay, I’ll admit that I’ve had other touring experience, and of course there are a plethora of essentials needed for such a ride, but once the investments have been made, planning a weekend trip is that easy.

I did a ride this past weekend with my friend Joseph Penner, and our planning was minimal at best. In fact, it wasn’t until the night before that I started packing up my things, a preparation faux pas that I’d never dream of doing if I were me a couple months ago. However, with teaching in full swing and a Master program also filling precious free time, I have to sacrifice my normally meticulous planning time in order to adequately fulfill my duties both as a student and to my students.

Nevertheless, when Saturday rolled around, I was out my door and knocking on Joseph’s at around 6am. We arrived at Pioneer Bridle Trailhead around 7:45am, and were biking towards our destination a little after 8am.


The bikes all loaded up and ready. It took me about a 1/2 mile to realize my sleeping pad was not going to work in its current position. Change pending in the photos following…


Joseph and I went with very different set-ups. I decided to put everything in bags on my bike, while Joseph kept the weight off his bike and stored everything in his BOB trailer.

The mid-way point of our ride was a lake about 12 miles east of Pioneer Bridle Trailhead called Trillium Lake. I assumed it was a somewhat secluded lake where Joseph and I could get in touch with nature, but instead we were greeted with the sounds of dogs incessantly barking, kids excessively wailing, and domesticated wildlife that had lost all inhibitions around humans. I guess a little research would have been good here, but the lake was still beautiful.






One problem with a trailer is that obstacles like downed trees  in the path meant detaching the trailer from the rest of the bike so that both could be lifted over.


More ideal place for the sleeping pad.

Our ride on Saturday consisted of biking to Trillium Lake, setting up camp, and then going out and riding some of the trails around Government Camp, most notably the Crosstown Trail (Trail 755), which we enjoyed so much we did twice. In total, our first day totaled a little over 32 miles, with over 5,000 feet of elevation gain.


Trail 780 – Still Creek Trail.


On the gravel road that would take us all the way to Trillium Lake.


Made it to our campsite. Mission number one: make fire.


Joseph triumphantly celebrating his fire.


Slimmed down bikes.


On our way towards the trails just north of Government Camp.


Some derailleur issues.


Once unloaded of all the gear and riding on singletrack, Joseph and I switched bikes a few times to compare the feel of a traditional mountain bike (Joseph’s hardtail Rockhopper) versus a fatbike (my Surly Krampus).


We decided the comparison could be best understood through a vehicle analogy: Joseph’s bike is to a Miyata as my bike is to a Cadillac.




Cadillac. Although on the downhills I felt more like a monster truck, crushing any obstacles that dared cross my path.

That evening we met a girl named Anna who invited us to her 30th birthday party. Although both of us had planned for a quiet evening at the campsite, we decided to take her up on the offer and meandered on over to see if the invite was genuine. When we arrived, Anna warmly greeted us, and it turned out we actually had a lot in common with her and her Portland friends, so the rest of our night was a blur of meeting new people and enjoying their excellent company.


Mount Hood had befriended a wandering, lonely cloud our first day.


Likewise, we befriended a far-too-comfortable-around-us duck.



Getting ready for an evening of fun.


Joseph’s BOB trailer doubles as a vessel for delivering coffee through his coffee-delivery service via bike. Unfortunately, some of the more aggressive singletrack knocked one of his signs off the BOB, so he set it up next to his campsite as a shameless plug for some good coffee.

The next morning I headed out on a solo ride towards some singletrack at the top of a 3 ½ mile gravel climb. The trail – Dry Fir Trail (Trail 674) – was a complete thrill. Three miles of windy, forested singletrack complete with some exciting cliff exposure and abrupt switchbacks. What a rush!


Morning shot of the mountain.


The road heading towards Dry Fir Trail.



The trail was full of fall colors and completely secluded. I didn’t see one person the entire descent.


Arrived safely at the bottom.

When I got back, Joseph and I ate a quick lunch, packed up, and rode the 12 mile downhill excursion to the car.


Joseph took some pictures while I packed up the last of my stuff.


One last shot.


Part of an 8 1/2 miles gravel descent.




This quick weekend trip was a total blast, partly because the impulsive and somewhat poorly planned route worked out without a hitch. I hope to get one more 2-dayer in before the weather turns for the worst, but if I don’t, this ride should sustain me through the dark days of mountain bike hibernation caused by the dreary Oregon winter.


Categories: Oregon Bikepacking, Pedals and Packs

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2 replies »

    • Thanks Logan! The trip was beautiful. If you’re ever in the northwest, check out the Mt. Hood Wilderness for some beautiful and relatively secluded riding. And yes, the Krampus fork with bottle bosses is definitely a worthwhile investment for multi-day riding, as I’m sure you’re aware.

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