A trail for the little rippers

We mountain bikers love a trail that goes on for miles through lush forests, tests our skills, pushes our boundaries, takes us away from civilization yet is fairly close to home, and has scenic beauty right? I am sure each of us have that perfect trail in the back of our mind that we long to ride again and again. What if though you scaled that trail down in size…for say a 6 or 8 year olds skill and endurance level. What would that trail look like? Where would it be?

Well, my challenge as a father of three little shredders as of late has been just that. How to find a trail that will not only push my 11 year old and his growing abilities, yet also allow the 6 & 8 year old to enjoy the trail and gain confidence on a bike without getting discouraged because it was too difficult.

Well 13.5 miles west of the town of Monroe in a place called Alsea Falls I may have discovered such a place. I have been here many times passing through on the way to the coast. But never really to fully explore the trail system until Sunday.

Upon arrival I noticed a map marked by the BLM. To my surprise there is no equestrian designation anyplace on the map. While there is some hiker only trails, the distance is short and the vast majority of the trail system seems to be biker only or a small section shared with hikers.

This day however I chose not to ride but to hike instead to thoroughly check out this trail and relax in some much needed sunshine that blessed the valley Sunday. I parked my Subaru and started hiking and noticed right away that the ground was in great shape. Having just spent the day before in sloppy trail building conditions on Goodman / Eagles, it was amazing to not even see a hint of mud here.

On this trail that is maintained by the BLM and a voluntary youth core, you will eventually cross two large metal bridges that span the slow flowing Alsea River and five smaller wooden bridges that cross over the smaller tributary streams. There is a hundred or so foot board walk that crosses over a very marshy section, but on the approach and exit is completely dry.

The entire loop that I completed was approximately 3.9 miles and in it I gained a whopping 167’ of elevation. While most of the DOD faithful might find zero joy in that minuscule amount of climbing…if you have little 6 year old legs it is a big deal. Thankfully the trail is mostly flat and rolls up and down five feet here and twenty feet there. It gives the youngest rider the skills to look down the trail and prepare for the upcoming hill climb yet they are small enough that little kids can actually make it up and over and not be discouraged by failing the summit.  

While the trail system is mostly sanitized, it is not a sidewalk. There are occasional small roots to traverse, and the trail does meander through the forest as it ebb's and flows up and around the many trees.

There is plenty to do and see on this short section of trail as well. Most of it runs parallel to the Alsea River so you always have the gentle sound of water flowing in the background. It is my personal experience with young minds that learning the herbology of the forest is fascinating, so pointing out the many plants can be fun on the ride as well. Of the plants that call this trail home, there are ferns (Sword, Licorice, and Bracken), berries (Thimble Berry, Red Huckle Berry, and Oregon Grape), moist forest plants (False Lily of the Valley, Bleeding Heart, False Salomon’s Seal, and my kids favorite Skunk Cabbage), all tucked under the canopy of trees (Douglas Fir, Pacific Yew, Big Leaf Maple, and yes even the Vine Maple) dappling the rays of the sun on this voyage through the woods.

The parking lot for this system is paved and large enough for many users.  It has two double occupancy permanent pit toilets, a multitude of picnic benches and fire rings, as well as at least one spigot for running water. There is of course a small fee to use this area, but for the amenities I find it well worth it with the kiddos.

The waterfall is small falling maybe twenty feet vertical before turning into a slide of sorts that goes on for a hundred feet or so. You have to park your bike to view it, but it is a very short hike to the water’s edge and you can get right up and personal with this waterfall.

All in all I think I may have discovered the perfect mountain bike training trail for beginning youth mountain bikers. Four miles might not be enough for advanced kids, so encourage them to take another lap. But it may just be the right distance for some soon to be shredders waiting to get the confidence in their bike handling ability nailed down. I can’t wait to take my team of three there and spend a day in the forest, on bikes, enjoying a single track trail.

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