Photo: IMBA Pacific Northwest Region Director Anna Laxague exploring in the Oregon woods.
If you live in the Pacific Northwest and love mountain biking, you have probably thought about how great it would be to ride your bike on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which runs from California to British Columbia and is currently closed to bikes. Each time I hike a portion of the 2,600-mile National Scenic Trail, I find myself wishing that I could also access the stunning scenery, backcountry setting and phenomenal singetrack on my mountain bike. I also think about what a great resource mountain bikers could be in the efforts to maintain the PCT and other long-distance, remote trails.
The U.S. Forest Service recently indicated that it might consider a process to review the current ban on bicycle access to the PCT. Some bicycle advocates have actively challenged the legal basis for the current bike ban, but IMBA has not joined these efforts. We are instead focusing on communicating with both the Forest Service and other key stakeholders in the recreation community to assess current trail-use issues and identify potential opportunities.
IMBA believes that mountain bike access to long-distance backcountry trails is extremely valuable, though that does not necessitate opening the entire PCT to bikes (we will not pursue bike access in designated Wilderness areas, and some sections might not be conducive to riding). As the discussions evolve, IMBA will provide updates about which trail segments of the PCT are best-suited for bicycle access, and we will advocate for access to those sections.
We know that riding rugged backcountry trails for endless miles is an experience that many in the mountain bike community love and live for. For some, a remote, long-disance ride represents the ultimate adventure. Such a ride is something to dream about for years: those intrepid riders can't wait to have the skills, resources and time to cross such a challenge off their bucket lists. But they also simply enjoy knowing the experience is possible at all, waiting for them when they're ready for it.
When I think of the opportunities that mountain bike access to the PCT would open up near my home in Oregon's Cascade Mountains, I can't help but pull out the maps and begin dreaming of the big rides and beautiful loops that would be possible. I dream, too, of the eager mountain bike advocacy community that would be honored to treat the PCT with great care and respect — the same treatment they give their local trails.
I'm hopeful that IMBA's work with the Forest Service and with recreation community partners will move us a step closer to the rides many of us living near the PCT dream of. Success in gaining bike access to portions of the PCT would undoubtedly bring a larger community out to support and maintain this beautiful and enticing trail.