The Ochoco National Forest is proposing more miles of mountain bike trails on and around Lookout Mountain east of Prineville, part of parallel efforts to make Crook County a magnet to cyclists.
Under the plan, the forest would create a 75.2-mile network of trails, using existing trails, converting roads to trails and blazing new trail. About 25 percent of the network would be new trail. Most of that would be along U.S. Forest Service roads 22 and 42. Currently there is a 54.9-mile network at Lookout Mountain of trails and closed or decommissioned roads.
The bigger trail network would be a mountain biking destination, drawing riders to Crook County to spend more time on the trails and stay overnight, said Seth Crawford, a county commissioner.
“Currently, it is an afternoon ride,” he said.
Along with the expansion of the Lookout Mountain Trail network, Crawford said there are efforts in Crook County to put in a bike park with obstacles to ride over next to Ochoco Creek Park, add multipurpose trails open to bikes near Meadow Lakes Golf Course and improve road biking options.
The current Lookout Mountain Trail network probably sees a few thousand mountain bikers a year, said Kent Koeller, a recreation planner. The numbers are a fraction of the amount of riders annually visiting Central Oregon’s premiere destinations — Phil’s Trail near Bend and Peterson Ridge near Sisters.
“What we are lacking (are) the loop opportunities,” Koeller said.
The trails, about an hour’s drive from Bend, offer a change-up from other Central Oregon mountain bike trails. The soils, terrain and forest found in the trail system aren’t like those near Bend and Sisters, said Kate Klein, supervisor of the Ochoco National Forest.
“So it provides some different options for riding,” she said.
The Central Oregon Trail Alliance, a Bend-based mountain bike advocacy group with a Crook County chapter, worked with the national forest in the planning of the proposed trail changes at Lookout Mountain.
The trails will be more accessible earlier in the spring than those west of Bend, because of the terrain and elevation , wrote Darlene Henderson, Crook County chapter representative for COTA.
“In addition, they will be less crowded and offer more solitude,” she wrote. “I expect that this will attract trail users from all over Central Oregon, including Prineville and Crook County, as well as tourist(s) traveling to the area to vacation and recreate.”
The trails would be open to other nonmotorized use, such as hikers and horseback riders, but the emphasis is mountain biking.
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