Summer is making an early appearance this year. Thanks, global warming! This week, I took advantage of the sunny weather and visited Jacksonville's popular Forest Park for some great downhill.
The park is the closest excursion for Medford mountain bikers aside from Roxy Ann Peak, and a worthwhile one. The turnoff is just a mile west of Jacksonville on Highway 238, and the park itself is another mile down a dirt road.
There are several parking spots to choose from, but why drive to your trail when you can bike there? I always choose to park at the first lot, at the park entrance. While you're there, get familiar with the map and pick up a paper copy if one's available.
While the lower portion of the park is best left to hikers, the upper part boasts some thrilling bike-friendly trails, the best being the Granite Trail.
There are several ways to approach this trail. You can ride up the road all the way, going right at the intersection, or you can go left and have your choice of access trails: Ridge View Trail, Naversen Family Trail, Canyon Vista. My favorite is the latter. Take a right onto an unmaintained dirt road to reach it. It's a rolling, winding trail that will take you through mazes of manzanita and madrone, while giving you great views of the valley below. Who says bikers can't stop and smell the roses?
Later on, the madrone leaves pile up, killing traction as you climb farther up for the Granite downhill. When you get there, though, prepare for a fun ride. The trail will eventually split into two sections, one for bikers and one for hikers. There are two nefariously steep runs on the bike trail, one shortly after the other. If you're riding it for the first time, you may want to stop at the top and visualize your lines, as I did. Then, make sure to lean far back, crouch low and just go for it.
The trail itself is well-crafted. There are no major features too technical for the intermediate rider, it flows nicely, and is much less bumpy than the trails above Ashland, making it good for hardtail riding.
Much of the surface is decomposed granite, which provides less grip than dirt. I probably left some generous skid marks as I pumped my rear brakes to scrub off speed.
The trail ends all too soon. Luckily, the road that runs parallel to the trail provides a convenient option to ride back up and tackle it again.
The Granite Trail and some surrounding trails are maintained by the Rogue Valley Mountain Bike Association. If you want to give something back to the trails you ride and aren't a member, join at rvmba.org.
Good trail stewardship is vital and helps give us access to places like Forest Park — thanks to the city of Jacksonville — and the exhilarating Granite Trail.
Mail Tribune copy editor Forrest Roth can be reached at email@example.com.