Dedicated to Dirt: Dirt Biking in the Rogue Valley
The vast Oregon landscape is full of unpaved, uninhabited terrain and one of the most exciting ways to see it is on the back of a motorcycle. Riders can venture into the mountains to rip up forested single track or they can head east for high desert and wide open spaces. And there’s that huge swath of windswept sand on the coast, that dirt biker’s mecca stretching from Coos Bay to Florence: the Oregon Dunes National Recreation area.
An ideal combination of accessible public land and breathtaking scenery makes Oregon one of the best places in the nation to ride a dirt bike, and the southern part of the state is prime. Although the dunes lie a solid three-hour drive to the northwest, there are plenty of Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) areas and trail systems closer to home, as well as a few local motorcycle clubs.
The Medford-based Motorcycle Riders Association is one of the most active clubs in the Pacific Northwest. According to Forest Bohall, Treasurer of the MRA, “We’re the only club in the state of Oregon that owns property.” The motorcycle club hosts four events a year and the proceeds go toward trail maintenance and land acquisition.
The MRA, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, currently owns around 700 acres in Jackson county and has easements on even more land in the region. All of this acreage is open to the public for recreational purposes—and that means more than just riding motorcycles. “Our property is open to anybody that wants to come up and recreate,” Bohall says. “You can horseback ride, hike, camp for free…anything you want to do.”
According to Bohall, the organization has concentrated most of its effort on acquiring property in recent years. Their “Dedicated to Dirt” fund was created in response to the disturbing rumors concerning federal land closures that have been circulating throughout the West. Although nobody can foresee what federal agencies may or may not do with public lands, Bohall has noticed one thing for certain: “It’s getting harder and harder to just go out in the woods and ride anymore.”
One of MRA’s properties, called Lily Prarie, is located off Reservoir Rd. 4.5 miles northwest of Jacksonville. There is a large parking area with restrooms and a network of OHV trails encompassing roughly 570 acres. All that space helps dirt bikers stay out of each other’s way and it gives everyone else—hikers, bikers and dog-walkers, horseback riders, flower-pickers and bird-watchers—a great place to play outside for free.
On the weekend of April 16 and 17 the MRA hosts its annual Timber Mountain Hare Scramble at Lily Prairie. The event brings in motorcycle riders from all over the state, many who are looking for a unique experience. “It’s a lot of single-track, through-the-woods type riding that is unlike the open-country, more high-speed desert riding around Bend,” says Bohall. “A lot of people like coming down here because the terrain is so much different.” The race is open to all levels of riders, with different classes for amateurs and experts.
Other local trail-riding options include the nearby Timber Mountain OHV Area as well as Elliott Ridge on the shores of Applegate Lake. Or you can head toward Crater Lake, where opportunities abound in the Prospect OHV Area.
New to the sport? Stop by OMA KTM in Phoenix to chat with local motorcycle experts or visit Absolute Motorsport in Grants Pass to pick up some essential gear. An interactive map showing OHV Areas across the state of Oregon can be found at RideATVOregon.org.