The Ultimate Guide to Mountain Biking at Spence Mountain
Rising above the shores of Upper Klamath Lake, just 15 miles northwest of Klamath Falls, Spence Mountain is a regional icon. The dramatic crag is home to oak and pine woodlands, along with dramatic views of the Klamath Basin and nearby Cascade peaks. And in recent years, local outdoor advocates have been working tirelessly to add to Spence Mountain’s many charms—by building some of Klamath County’s best mountain biking trails.
Today, years of advocacy and trail-building have paid off, as mountain bikers from all over have flocked to Spence Mountain to enjoy its flowing, beginner-friendly trails and tackle its more technical (and frequently thrilling) challenges. So if you’re excited to hop in the saddle and explore the renowned trail system, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to mountain biking at Spence Mountain.
A Short History of Spence Mountain as a Mountain Biking Destination
The story of Spence Mountain begins more than a decade ago—back in 2009, when local mountain bikers and outdoor enthusiasts gathered to start discussions around improving recreation opportunities across Klamath County. Five years later, some of those changemakers formed the Klamath Trails Alliance, a nonprofit that works to develop, maintain, and promote trails for non-motorized use throughout Klamath County.
Soon after forming, the group set their sights on building a massive trail network on Spence Mountain, a parcel of land that was privately owned at the time by a local logging company. The landowner was agreeable with the group’s plans, and the first-quarter mile of trail was built in late 2014.
Less than a decade later, dozens of miles of trails depart from a pair of parking lots on Spence Mountain and crisscross the crag, heading through wide-open meadows, pine forests, and rocky terrain while showcasing views of the Klamath Basin below and Cascade Range peaks in the distance. Not just that, but up to five miles of trail are being added every year to the scenic expanse. “It’s pretty quickly become one of the best mountain biking areas in Oregon,” says Zach Gilmour, owner of Zach’s Bikes in Klamath Falls and an advisory board member of the Klamath Trails Alliance.
In late 2022, the Trust for Public Land purchased the 7,500-acre forest on Spence Mountain and conveyed it to Klamath County—which is already managing the newly public land for recreation and wildlife habitat. (It’s not uncommon to see bald eagles or mule deer in the area.) Today, mountain biking on Spence Mountain is one of the top 10 things to do in Klamath County.
What to Know About Riding at Spence Mountain
If you’re excited to hop in the saddle, you’ll want to know a few things before hitting the trail at Spence Mountain.
Riding season: The trails on Spence Mountain are typically clear of snow in early spring—and remain accessible and free of mud until late fall. That long riding season makes the trail network an ideal destination in March and April (when other areas at higher elevations are still buried under fresh powder) and in mid-October or early November—when snow begins blanketing other mountain bike destinations in the Cascade Range. (Nearby Klamath Falls, also known as “Oregon’s City of Sunshine,” enjoys roughly 300 days of sun each year—so chances are good you’ll enjoy ideal conditions whenever you ride.)
Difficulty: Trails on Spence Mountain were built by mountain bikers, for mountain bikers—and the wide range of trails and technical features reflect that excitement for the sport. As such, you’ll find plenty of beginner-friendly, flowy trails that depart from the Shoalwater Bay Trailhead and offer up-and-down experiences that feel at times like a roller coaster, Gilmour says. And at the Spence Mountain Trailhead along Highway 140, more experienced riders can enjoy trails with volcanic terrain and technical challenges such as drops, berms, jumps, and rock features.
Views: We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the views, which are as dramatic as they are frequent. Spence Mountain juts out onto Upper Klamath Lake, not unlike a peninsula, and offers an occasionally surreal experience where, as Gilmour says, “There are essentially places where you’re surrounded by lake.” Elsewhere on the dozens of miles of trails, keep an eye out for views of the sweeping Klamath Basin below, the nearby Mountain Lakes Wilderness to the west, and numerous Cascade Range peaks—including Mount McLoughlin and Mount Shasta.
Gear: Before getting on the trail, you’ll want to ensure you have a properly fitted bike, plenty of water, and the appropriate gear. If you don’t have all that, or if you have questions about where to get started on Spence Mountain, Zach’s Bikes is in downtown Klamath Falls and offers bike rentals, pickup and delivery services, and even advice for specific trails; the shop’s website offers maps and overviews of several popular Spence Mountain trails, as well.
Want to learn more about riding around the region? Check out our guide to five amazing mountain bike trails around Klamath County.
What to Do After Your Ride in Klamath Falls
When you’re off the trail and want to recap the day’s adventures over a hot meal and cold beer, you’ll find plenty of eateries and pubs around Klamath Falls. Here are a few favorites:
The Falls Taphouse: As one of the newest food-and-drink establishments in town, The Falls Taphouse has become a community gathering spot since opening in 2020. There you’ll find an indoor beer bar serving regional libations, a few food carts, and plenty of outdoor seating all year long—thanks to fire pits and gas heaters. (Pro tip: Catch a scenic sunset from the rooftop seating area.)
Lake of the Woods Restaurant: Just a half-hour west of Spence Mountain, residing at its namesake resort, Lake of the Woods Restaurant dishes slightly upscale takes on comfort food classics such as burgers, sandwiches, salads, ribs, and more. (Also at the resort is Marina Pizza, selling a hearty selection of pies piled high with a variety of fresh toppings.)
Ruddy Duck Restaurant at Running Y Resort: On your way back to Klamath Falls, refuel with farm-fresh cuisine and regional beers at Ruddy Duck Restaurant, the on-site eatery at Running Y Resort. Snag a seat on the restaurant’s patio (and around a fire pit) if you’re hankering for a bit more time outside.
The Growler Guys: Choose among up to 60 taps of regional craft beer, cider, seltzer, soda, and even cocktails at The Growlery Guys in Klamath Falls. The pub opened in 2022 and pairs its extensive tap list with pizzas, sub sandwiches, wings, and light bites (such as tater tots and pretzels).
Still hungry? See where to enjoy farm-to-table dining around Klamath County.