1-Day Mountain Biking Trip: The McKenzie River Trail Revisited

The Map

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

The Ride

My friend’s dad, Leon Heyerly, texted me a week or so ago about joining him on a ride down the McKenzie River Trail. He said he was going with his brother-in-law, Eric Martin, and a guy from his church, John Moyer, the weekend of the 18th, and just thought he’d check to see if I was available. Of course I never turn down a mountain biking invitation, but this particular invitation was noteworthy because Leon is 58 and Eric 61, no spring chickens as far as mountain biking goes. And the McKenzie River Trail is no joke, with a lot of technical riding and dangerous ridges. After he texted me I knew I had to witness first-hand how this little adventure would pan out for these two. So Saturday morning we left Salem around 7:45am and arrived at the Clear Lake Trailhead close to 9:15am, which is the start of the ride.

It only took about a ½ mile to get to our first fork in the road, where I went one way and the other guys took a different route. My choice proved… challenging. I ended up doing some hike-a-bikes because the riding simply took more courage than I could muster. We met on the other side of the lake and carried on.

Rather than sharing all the details of the rest of our journey, I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking. You’ll see that Leon and Eric are true mountain biking warriors, especially when one considers that they are new to mountain biking, only having ridden a handful of times before this ride. They admitted retrospectively that they may have skipped a couple steps by riding the McKenzie River Trail this early in their mountain biking career, but they lived through the ordeal and even had smiles on their faces at the end. I’ve separated the pictures into some subsections rather than chronologically. I think it shows some of the major themes of our ride: crashes, trails, bridges, and water. Enjoy!


Crashes happened on this trip… a lot.


While this is the only photo documentation of a crash, it was by no means the only one. Eric (shown) had two other crashes, one minor low-speed tip-over, and another more serious crash like this one. With a hip replacement in the works, the crashes proved to wear on him throughout the course of the day. Leon fared worse than Eric. He had four crashes, two over the handlebars, one side fall, and the other fall through his head right into the ground, and managed to push his helmet back so that the ground him him right in the forehead. He said it felt like someone punched him in the head. No good. Finally, less severe but still scary, John had two over-the handlebar crashes. He didn’t end up hurting himself and both were at relatively slow speeds.


Sometimes the trails were flowy and smooth.

002 (2)

028 (2)





003 (2)

Checking out the pictures while waiting for the others to arrive at a bridge.


While other times, the trail was just plain nasty.




The McKenzie River Trail has lots of really cool bridges, and all of us chose different ways to wheel our bikes across.

016 (2)



029 (2)

031 (2)

032 (2)


041 (2)

014 (2)

And he wonders why he crashes so much.


There are a number of water falls, lakes, and streams along the McKenzie River Trail.


Clear Lake, which is at the very start of the ride.







018 (2)

The blue pool, which also happened to be our lunch spot.

020 (2)

017 (2)

030 (2)

037 (2)

Overall, it was a great experience mountain biking with two guys that are about 60.  While it took a little longer to get to the bottom, I felt lucky to get to be a part of the experience with them.  Plus, after doing the McKenzie River Trail, every other trail in Oregon will be a piece of cake!

blue hole


The finish line, and everyone’s still smiling.


Victory meal.


Categories: Oregon Bikepacking, Pedals and Packs

Tagged as: , , ,

4 replies »

  1. Ben Thx for telling our story so well with words and pix. We needed u along for many reasons- your experience, caution, encouragement, patience, friendship and documentation! It’s always great being with u on outdoor adventures. Thx for helping us finish the ride without breaking ourselves (mostly)😀 -Eric

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Glad I could be with you guys Eric. It was a great trip, and I had a lot of fun experiencing such a scenic and challenging ride with you. Hope everything begins working properly again in a couple days!

  2. It was a great experience! So glad you went along Ben and thanks for your great herding qualities, making sure we did not get too far behind or lose too much hope. I have recovered enough in one day to start planning another outing. This MTB could become a bit addictive.

    • Don’t fight the addiction Leon, it’s hopeless! We’ll find a bit tamer trails next time, but it’s good to hear that trail didn’t turn you away from the sport. And I had fun jumping back and forth between our groups; it gave me a great workout!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: