Flowing fun on the whiskey run


Located in the South Coast region of Oregon, Coos Bay, according to Visit Oregon Coast’s website, is the largest deep-draft port between San Fransisco, California, and Puget Sound, Washington. It is the ancestral home of several native tribes, whose language the name “Coos” (which translates to “lake” or “place of pines”) comes from.

The primary export of this region is wood, which is evident as you cross the McCullough Memorial Bridge, along the coastal Highway 101 where you can see ships docked and ready to take on their loads beside large piles of wood chips or tree trunks. But, as fascinating as all of that is, we’re not here to tell you about the trades and industry of Oregon’s Bay Area. Our goal is to tell you why you should consider grabbing your bike and making the trip to this beautiful region to ride.



Our visit to the Whiskey Run aligned with the Ride the Dirt Wave event, which included an enduro race, so we were compelled to participate. We were led on our first ride by local shredder and master trail builder Eddie Kessler of Ptarmigan Ptrails. We couldn’t have chosen a better person to guide us through the trails if we tried, as he’d built most of them himself, of course, with the help of those he hired to do so. His insight on the trails and the thought processes that went into designing and building them were fantastic, and it was clear by the way he talked that he truly loves his job.

As expected, we started with a climb. The pace was high right out of the gate, but we couldn’t help but look around in awe as we zigzagged our way through the trees where the sunlight trickled in through bright patches, setting the foliage around us ablaze in bright green. It was dark in the forest, and as Eddie led us up the trail, he told us to look to our right to catch glimpses of a feature-heavy trail called Down the Hatch, which we unfortunately didn’t get to ride that weekend.

From there, Eddie led us on an 8.5-mile journey through the beautiful, lush forests and winding singletrack that makes up the Whiskey Run Trail System. Aside from a few climbing sections, we never did the same trail twice, and still, we barely scratched the surface of what is available to ride in this area. There are 37 miles of trails total in the Whiskey Run system, ranging in difficulty from easy green loops to feature-heavy double-black-diamond trails. Our ride mainly consisted of trails rated black or blue on the descents and green on the climbs. Each trail we encountered had a funny, creative name like Gnome Wrecker, Speakeasy, Bam-Ba-Lam, Boot Scoot, N’ Boogie and many more.

Optional drops and side-hits are in abundance on the Whiskey Run Trails – this one off Speakeasy was the biggest we hit all weekend.
Photo by Chris Hornbecker


We had a great time on all the trails Eddie took us on, but we definitely had our favorites. Here are our top five favorite trails:
1. Hangover: This black-rated trail was built by a young shredder by the name of Raleigh Kraynik. It’s the most PNW-like trail we rode on the whole trip, with steep loam, tight technical corners, a steep climb in the middle, and a fun log jump at the end. It positions you well to be able to climb up and hit it again.

2. Bam-Ba-Lam: This black-rated trail was named after the popular song “Black Betty” by Ram Jam with a rhythm that matches the song very well. It’s a fast-paced trail with several drop features and tight, bermed corners that keep you on your toes. It’s not a very long trail, but it’s a lot of fun.

3. Speakeasy: This black-rated trail was one of the longer ones we rode and was packed with optional features, jumps and side hits as it takes you from a wide-open viewpoint into the dark forest at Mach speed. There was an awesome side hit that consisted of an 8-foot drop into a technical double that fed back into the bottom part of the trail. You’d better believe we hit the drop!4. Gnome Wrecker: Another black-rated trail that we would rate closer to a blue for its mellow fall line and lack of technical features. This is an easy trail to carry as much or as little speed as you want, and we had fun connecting all the little natural doubles and hitting the optional drops. This is the trail we would be racing the next day.

The smile on JJ’s face represents the feeling of riding the Whiskey Run trails perfectly—pure ecstasy.
Photo by Chris Hornbecker

5. Loam Wrecker. Though we didn’t get the chance to ride this trail, everyone we talked to who had ridden it rated it as their favorite trail in the Whiskey Run, including some locals. It’s a black-rated trail they described as being steeper and much faster than Gnome Wrecker, which runs alongside it.

Now, we realize all the trails we just listed are black-rated trails, but that’s because the Whiskey Run doesn’t have many blue-rated downhill trails. Don’t let that intimidate you into not paying this place a visit, because, in our opinion, aside from a couple of features present on each trail, that rating is harder than it should be.

Most of them ride like classic blue trails at most bike parks, and our group consisted of riders of all skill levels with even the most inexperienced of us having a great time on every trail we rode. That said, Hangover is a true, black-rated trail and should be respected as such with its higher level of exposure and technicality than every other trail we listed. We recommend you still ride with caution on your first run of any trail—pre-ride, re-ride, freeride.

7 Devil’s Brewery’s event celebrating the Whiskey Run trails and their seasonal Gnome Wrecker IPA was a huge hit. Photo by Chris Hornbecker



It’s been a while since we’ve thrown on a number plate and gone racing. It’s usually a very stressful experience mingled with fear and an anxious anticipation we don’t enjoy. This race was different; we had no expectations for ourselves, and our only goals were to have fun and do the best we could.
The format was simple; each racer gets two laps down the same course with the fastest time taken as your final time, throwing out the other time. This meant you could use the first run as a sight lap as we did, and put all your remaining effort into the second run to get the best time you can to try to take the win.

Though we’d ridden the track a couple of times, neither of them was at speed, so we had no gauge for how the trail rode at speed. On our first run, we ran a 2:58.2, but it was riddled with mistakes, a couple of which almost had us tasting dirt. Our second run felt much better with fewer mistakes and a noticeably better flow throughout the course, aside from one crucial corner before a flat section. The effort we put into improving our time the second time through did not go unrewarded, as we managed to drop 4.4 seconds from our first run’s time with a 2:54.0.

This was enough to place us 12th overall and second in our age group; we even got the trophy to prove it. The winning time was 2:40.4 pulled by an 18-year-old local kid by the name of Jacob Randle—that’s nearly 14 seconds faster than our time. The whole race was a super-fun experience, and it was easy to get a grasp on the community that worked so hard to put it together.

Enjoying the coastal views of Southern Oregon before dropping into the feature-heavy Speakeasy trail.
Photo by Chris Hornbecker



Accommodations: Visit Oregon Coast had us staying at Bay Point Landing, which is positioned right on the bay off Cape Arago Highway 540. They have open RV parking, family-sized cabins and a host of Airstreams in which we were housed. You can expect to pay between $70 and $200 per night depending on what you choose to stay in. Aside from Bay Point Landing, there aren’t really any camping areas nearby, so you may have better luck in a motel. If staying in a hotel or motel is your speed, there isn’t a lack of them between Bandon, North Bend, and Charleston, ranging from beach or bay-side boutique hotels to your typical side-of-the-road motel. There were also several Airbnb postings in the area at around $125 per night.

Food: Our experience with food was excellent, thanks to 7 Devils Brewery, who catered our first night and brought us to their North Bend location on the following night. They also brewed Gnome Wrecker IPA as a seasonal beer to celebrate the Whiskey Run trails; our favorite item on the menu was the pretzel and cheese.

There are plenty of other options that we didn’t get to explore, both in Bandon and North Bend, that we’re sure would be delicious options. For breakfast on Sunday morning before the race, we stopped at Cape Arago Café & Espresso for the most excellent homemade corned beef and egg hash we’ve ever had. It’s a hole-in-the-wall place with little space inside, but the food is incredible. There are also grocery stores and markets sprinkled throughout the area, so you’ll be able to save some money and cook for yourself if you’d like.

Bay Point Landing’s Airstream suites were super comfortable and a great place to relax after an epic day on the trails.
Photo by Chris Hornbecker


Bike service: If you need your bike serviced or just need to grab a spare tube while you’re in town, you’ll have a few options. Moe’s Bike Shop is located on the north side of North Bend, about 30 minutes from the Whiskey Run trailhead. Blue Sky Bike Shop is on the south side of North Bend right off the 101. In Bandon, South Coast Bicycles is the go-to. We talked to Jeff Botelho, the owner of South Coast Bicycles, for a long time after the event and can recommend him as an excellent guy who cares a lot about the local riding community. It was that shop that Intense went through to demo bikes at the event.

If you happen to forget your bike at home, Whiskey Run Rentals  has just what you need with a small fleet of bikes ready to rent for between $50 and $300 depending on how long you need them.

Off-bike fun: This place is more than just a good MTB destination, it’s also a great place to take your family. Between Whiskey Run Beach, which you can drive on, and the Coos Bay Boardwalk, your family will never run out of things to do while you’re happily tearing up the trails. South Coast Tours offers all kinds of outdoor tours in the Bay Area, including kayaking, whale watching, fishing and more.

Our off-bike activity was painting with watercolors at Shore Acres State Park where we spent a few hours wandering the enclosed beach, painting, and exploring the caves and tide pools scattered around the place. Chris McNally was our watercolor teacher and was the one who painted the trail map for the Whiskey Run trails.

South Coast Tours offers all kinds of guided activities including Kayaking; an activity we, unfortunately, arrived too late to participate in.
Photo by Chris Hornbecker



This area is connected to the rest of the world by coastal Highway 101, which runs right through North Bend and Bandon. The Whiskey Run MTB trails are also a very short distance off Highway 101 with a 15-minute drive time from Bandon to the south, a 20-minute drive from Charleston to the north and a 30-minute drive from North Bend to the northeast. If you’re planning a trip from San Francisco, California, you can expect to drive for 8.5 hours or just over 13 hours from Los Angeles. Portland is just over four hours away, and Seattle is about seven hours away.

Our original plan had us flying directly from the Burbank Airport to the North Bend Airport, which operates once a day and takes just under 4.5 hours. But, due to complications, we ended up flying into San Francisco and then on to Eugene, Oregon, which is then a beautiful 2.5-hour drive from the Whiskey Run Trail System. Between those two airports, it’s easy to find a connecting flight to the area from all over the country, so that should make it easy for anyone who decides to make the trip.

Oregon’s coastline is a treasure trove of caves, tidepools, and epic rock formations just waiting to be discovered by a brave explorer.
Photo by Chris Hornbecker


If we were to visit this place on our own terms, we might visit at a different time of the year. After talking to some of the locals about their favorite time to ride in the area, spring and fall seemed to be the most popular answer, followed by summer, then winter. It wasn’t bad for midsummer, even if it was hotter than we’d anticipated, but the trails were much drier than we’d expected them to be. Many of the locals were saying the trails aren’t too negatively affected by excess moisture, so even the winter riding isn’t bad if you’re okay with being a little cold and wet. They were saying the dirt is perfect in the spring after the winter rain, and that many of the trails that were sketchy when we were there really come into their own when wet.

Another thing we might do is include the Whiskey Run as a stop on a much larger trip. As many trails as there are in the system, with more being built all the time, it’s still hardly enough to satisfy us on a true MTB trip. As it’s so close to Northern California, any trip up the West Coast would have you pass by Coos Bay on your way to other riding destinations in Oregon, Washington or even Canada. We see it as an excellent place to stop for a day or two to warm up the riding legs for the shredding ahead. That’s what a random rider we ran into in a bike shop in Cedar City, Utah, did on his last trip to the PNW. We spent a good amount of time talking about how good the trails were and how his next trip up north is sure to include it as a stop. Our future plans up the Pacific coastline are sure to have us stopping for a rip through the Whiskey Run Trail System, and we think yours should, too.

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