The Elkhorn Crest Trail has been our bucket list for quite some time. In the almost three years that we have been traveling fulltime and checking off places to go, things to see, trails to hike and ride, and life to live, this one is especially sweet because it’s in Oregon where we lived for so long. Most people do this as a shuttle but we didn’t want to spend the extra money so we rode it as an out and back. Our ride was 28.8 miles with 2638′ of climbing up to a brilliant 8408′. It’s a full day adventure because of the ooohing and ahhhing over all the scenery. Our ride time was 4 hours but we were gone 5 hours 42 minutes!
We started at Marble Pass which is the southern end of the trail. The drive to the trailhead is tough to get to and high clearance 4wd is necessary. It took us around 45 minutes from where we boondocked to drive about 12 miles going slow up narrow, rough gravel roads. The trailhead was empty and in fact, we would only see 3 hikers all day. I saw more mountain goats than that!
Elkhorn Crest Trail is the highest trail in the Blue Mountains and tightropes along the Elkhorn Mountain ridgeline. It is rated double black diamond for mountain biking for the exposure. I think one black diamond is probably more appropriate. Overall, the views along this ride are hands down some of the best and we’ve ridden A LOT of trails.
The trail climbs gently until the junction with Twin Lakes at about mile 4, and while the trail is narrow, it isn’t overly technical until this point. From mile 4 until mile 6.5ish it gets a little hairy with some very technical rocky sections along an extremely narrow ribbon of trail cut into the cliff. The exposure is not for the feint of heart and really bothered Derek in some spots. I found that heading east to west was harder since you are climbing these sections and going slower. On our way back I was able to ride everything although I couldn’t look anywhere off to the sides because it was a bit treacherous.
We stopped a lot to take pictures and then to have our sandwiches at the phone. (you can see it in our pictures below). The trail blasts across hillsides, struggles through rocky scree fields, enters timbered forests, skirts amazing viewpoints, and descends at the other end towards Anthony Lakes. We turned around at the junction with Summit Lake Trail and headed all the way back to the start to cap off an AMAZING DAY!