The Alsea Falls Recreation Site is managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, and it is squarely in the middle of nowhere. The actual Alsea Falls are found along the South Fork Alsea River, and they tumble 30 feet in height underneath a canopy of young Douglas fir and vine maple trees. Across the well-maintained dirt road is the Fall Creek Day Use Trailhead, which is where you’ll find miles of purpose-built mountain bike trails awaiting your enjoyment.
Built along the slopes of the 3,300-foot tall summit of Prairie Mountain, the trails total about 12 miles in length, dropping just under 2,000 vertical feet from the highest point to the trailhead. The trail gnomes at Team Dirt have been hard at work developing an impressive variety of trails, from mellow beginner flow to more natural and technical singletrack, all the way to sizable freeride lines. Riding in this part of the country means that riding in the wet is something you kind of have to accept, a facet many of us who call the east coast home are familiar with. My timing here meant that I would be attempting to thread the needle between seasons, which also meant that I was aware of the possibility of snow in higher elevations and downed trees due to winter storms. As such, some of the trails up high were still blanketed in snow, while some of the clay surface trails lower on the mountain were a bit soft or had typical windfall issues associated with this time of year. I spent my time checking out an 1100 foot descent that involved the combination of two trails: Highballer and Dutchman. Riding these trails begins with a 4-mile long climb up the Falls Creek access road, which takes riders ¾ of the way up the trail network. Highballer is a blue-rated, root-strewn piece of amazing singletrack that starts with a narrow and winding route punctuated by short and punchy climbs before descending in earnest about a ¼ of a mile in. The next mile is greasy, technical, occasionally quite fast, and always quite a fun affair with reliable traction even in the wet, and has a handful of purpose-built features thrown into a mostly natural terrain design. There were no real hard commitments at any point, but the nature of wet roots and a handful of mid-sized jumps might be more challenging to some riders than the blue rating suggests. From the bottom of Highballer, there are a handful of options to continue the descent, and not wanting to damage the clay surface of the flowy trail, Springboard, I opted to take a mile of fire road to the start of Dutchman. Dutchman is similar to Highballer in design but is rated green due to the lack of purpose-built jumps and the less physical nature of the ride. While there were still plenty of off-camber sections and wet roots to play around on, the loamy topsoil was what really sets this trail apart for me. Like Highballer, the green rating may surprise riders not familiar with or comfortable on wet roots and slippery cambers, but also like Highballer, the traction was stellar even in the rain, and the fun of the trail was matched only by the beauty of its surroundings.