The Walla Walla Valley is famous for its road cycling and justifiably so.
With countless miles of wide open roads and little traffic, life is wonderful on a road bike. But we have a secret. The mountain biking here is nothing short of mind-blowing.
We have a wide variety of trails to pick from to suite any ability level.
Bennington Lake, just east of town is a short ride from down town. Nestled up against the Blues, the views from the trails are stunning. The trails are mostly beginner to intermediate skill level so if you are a new rider this is a great place to start. About 20 miles of trails twist, turn and roll through 600 acres of a nature preserve featuring owls, ospreys, beavers, deer and other animals.
The Bennington Lake trails are home to the Onionman Triathlon, the Walla Walla Dirty Duathlon, and the Allegro Cyclery Cyclocross races, but you don’t have to be a competitive athlete to enjoy riding these trails. Bennington Lake is a the perfect place to experiment with your stamina and improve your skill level. You are out in nature but not far from home. As with all sports, challenge yourself as you take to the trails. Some sections will require a sustained effort as your power your way up a hill. But relax — it’s not a race. It’s you on your mountain bike taking in some lovely views while getting some great exercise.
Just south of town, about a 30-minute drive, is Harris Park. This park is the gateway to the Umatilla National forest and features hundreds of miles of jeep and single track trails. Because of the remoteness and climbing, these trails are for intermediate to advanced riders. The main trail follows the South Fork of the Walla Walla River and climbs into the Blues for about 20 miles. Off the main trail are several spurs that can be ridden out and back; or, if you are looking for big miles, you can do big loops well up into the Blues. Bear Creek trail will take you up to Cub Saddle and down to the North Fork or up to Yellow Jacket trail. The Target Meadows trail will climb up to, well, Target Meadows, not far from Tollgate.
This is classic Blues country and should be taken seriously. Know your limits. Plan your trip well so you don’t run out of daylight before you are safely back down. An accident here could be bad news, so be careful and be prepared. From Target Meadows and Yellow Jacket views abound. Truly magnificent country awaits a curious mountain biker willing to tackle the rough roads of paradise.
Just past Spout Springs ski hill is the Umatilla Rim trail. The kickoff point for this trail is Andies Prairie snow park, about an hour’s drive from Walla Walla. This is a 14-mile loop that features about four miles of road out to Nine Mile Ridge trail head where nirvana begins. This is an intermediate to advanced level trail. For your hard work you will be rewarded with some of the best views in the country. Big canyons, Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier can be seen from this trail. Some amazing meadows with wild flowers abound. This trail will finish just across the highway from Andies Prairie snow park and your car.
Just west of Pendleton in the small town of Echo there is a great network of privately owned trails just outside of town and the property owner is fine with mountain bikers using the trails. The 1-hour, 20-minute drive from Walla Walla is well worth it. These trails are best in the winter as they are in a lower elevation and drier than anything else around. There is a race, Echo Red2Red, held here on the first weekend of March every year. Go to www.echored2red.com for trail guide information.
There are many resources for learning more about mountain biking in our community. There are maps and guidebooks for purchase at the Umatilla National Forest Walla Walla Ranger District office on Rose Avenue. Maps for Bennington Lake can be obtained at the bicycle shops in town and at the Bennington Lake kiosk by the ranger station. Plus, there are mountain bikers in the community frequently going up into the foothills and riding locally at Bennington Lake. Visit www.wheatlandwheelers.com for information and to ask members about any rides (or to offer to lead one!). And you can call or visit Allegro Cyclery and the Bicycle Barn for ride information.
Excellent mountain biking trails here abound so get those tires dirty and enjoy!
Justin Bannerman is manager of Allegro Cyclery’s service area and serves as mechanic, chaperone and advisor for the Whitman College cycling team. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.