Before the ride, I could not find a GPS track online for the complete Middle Fork Trail, from Timpanogas Lake to Sand Prairie Campground. Most rides I read about were from Paddy's Valley down. So, I had to ask for beta on MTBR and was glad to get confirmation that the top section was worth riding and it's better to add an out and back to Indigo Lake before starting down MFT. That's what we did. Dave, a new friend we made yesterday on the shuttle, drove us to the Timpanogas Lake Trailhead.
The ride to and the scenery at Indigo Lake was serene. In the hindsight, it might well be the best part on the long ride. It was a long ride indeed. MFT in its entirety is a long ride by itself. The top section (down to Sacandagas Campground) is full of challenges like loose and steep tight switchbacks, unrideable creekcrossings, and rocky ledges, etc. It was the worst in the segment before Sacandagas Campground because it was really hard to get a flow going. But, it was interesting, in a tough way.
When we arrived at Campers Flat Campground with 20+ miles behind us, there was only about 12 miles ahead of us on MFT. We decided to add the Moon Point loop to the ride, a 20 mile loop. Oh how I regretted on that forest road climb — 9.6 miles of it. If you know me, you know I don't mind climbing. Actually, that 10 mile climb on Downieville Classic XC course was one of my favorite climbs. But this climb? It was so monotonic it was absolutely mind numbing! Was the 7.6 mile descent and the expansive view at Moon Point worth it? Hmmm… let me just say I would not wish this climb upon the worst of my enemies. We both ran out of water on the Moon Point loop, but already late in the day, we started quickening our pace.
We really pushed hard on the lower segments of MFT and were making a good pace, but wow, that section just kept going while the day light kept dimming. By the time we reached the campground where Dave had parked our car next to their camper, we could barely see in the woods where it was the darkest. But, we managed to make it back without having to pull out our lights. We happily chatted with our friends while enjoying their ice cream and cookies before we retreated back to our motel room in town.
The next morning, we received a visit from Shelly and Dave when we helped them resolve a computer issue before we had to check out and head home. So, the MFT+Moon Point ride turned out to be our last ride on this road trip. I was glad that we ended the trip on an epic ride.
View from Moon Point
For my GPS track, click on the Trip Details below.
For people who do not care for hike-a-bikes, I would recommend riding MFT from Sacandagas down toward Sand Prairie Campground. I also have seen people ask online how MFT compares with NUT (North Umpqua Trail) and MRT (McKenzie River Trail). These are three famous river trails in Oregon. We've been riding NUT segments from the western end out and back and have not finished the entire trail yet. We rode the entire McKenzie River Trail (MRT) out and back in one day. And we only rode MFT one way. With these differences in mind, I would say MRT is the easiest in its entirety and NUT is the best. The water falls and emerald pools on MRT are stunning. NUT is most well marked, has interesting and challenging sections on almost every segment we have done so far, and yet, it was mostly rideable offering a good continuous progress on the bike. The upper part of MFT has a lot of hike-a-bikes that sometimes are a bit too much. However, all three are very worthy a visit in each own. Maybe ride them all and see for yourself. Please let us know how you would compare them.