Mountain Biking at Osborne Mountain - Visit Rainier

Mountain Biking at Osborne Mountain

Area: Ashford
Pass: No Pass Required
Distance: 11.6 miles, out and back, or a 19-mile loop Duration: Difficulty Level: Advanced
Elevation Start: Elevation End: Elevation Gain: 3,750 ft
Prime Season: Late-June – Late-Nov    

Enjoy a thrilling twisting two-thousand foot descent joyride! But, you have to earn it first. It’s a grunt whether you bike this trail out-and-back, one way, or via a loop. But an adventure is guaranteed any way you try.

The Osborne Mountain Trail starts right from the Big Creek Campground on Skate Creek Road just outside of Ashford. This quiet campground’s spacious sites make for a great base before or after your ride. If your intent is a straight out and back ride, you’ll start from the campground with a killer climb. However, most mountain bikers prefer to do this trail as part of an all-day loop, reserving the plummet for the end of the ride.

Several loop options exist. All involve biking a short way on paved FR 52 and then a few miles on graveled forest service roads to a feeder trail to the Osborne Mountain Trail. One of the shorter more manageable routes is to bike FR 52 (Skate Creek Road) .5 mile west to paved FR 85; following this horrible for driving but fine for biking paved and gravel road 5.3 miles to FR 8510. You can then take this no longer maintained (expect blow down and encroaching alders) logging spur road 2.8 miles to the in very good shape Cave Creek Trail .5 mile to the Osborne Mountain Trail. This is the shortest loop option and involves a long and gradual climb of 1,800 feet.

If you want a longer trip, continue 1.1 more miles on FR 84, bearing left onto FR 8410 and biking 6.0 miles up and over Towhead Gap (el. 4,300-ft) to the Big Creek Trail. Follow this trail 1.5 miles to the Teeley Creek Trail to Osborne Mountain. Many bikers consider this route along Sawtooth Ridge an epic ride. You’ll pass stunning views of Mount Rainier, several secluded lakes, giant old growth trees and enough ups and downs to keep your heart racing and legs pumping. However, the western reaches of this route are brushy, slumping, and extremely difficult to ride requiring a few bike-hike sections.

If you’re intent on doing the ridge ride, skip this section and access the ridge either from the FR 8420 (via Cora Lake) or FR 8410 (via Pothole Lake) instead. To do this, bike east 3.0 miles on FR 52 from Big Creek Campground. Then bike graveled FR 84 for 1.5 miles turning right onto FR 8410 and continuing 3.7 rough miles to the Teeley Creek trailhead. Or bike FR 84 for 4.2 miles turning right onto FR 8420 and continuing 1.5 miles to the Big Creek trailhead.

From the trailhead, steeply climb crossing Big Creek twice-difficult during wet periods and requiring bike-hiking across. Then pass beautiful Cora Lake set in a forested cirque beneath precipitous High Rock and begin climbing reaching a junction at 1.3 miles. Left is the unrecommended section of trail back to FR 8440.

Continue right on a rolling route cresting a 4,300-foot ridge; then dropping slightly and cresting another 4,300-foot ridge. On generally good tread drop into a 3,950-foot high basin and splash across several small tributaries of Mesatchee Creek. Then negotiate a brushy avalanche chute and climb another ridge (el. 4,400 feet) before enjoying a nice descent to Granite Lake (el. 4, 175-feet) reaching its outlet, Teeley Creek at 4.4 miles from the trailhead. The gem of the Sawtooth Ridge, Granite Lake with its sandy shores invites lounging and dust cleansing. There is a nice view of Mount Rainier too from the outlet creek.

Continue west on good tread over a small rise coming to Bertha May Lake (el. 4,055-feet) at 5.0 miles. Then descend reaching a junction with the Osborne Mountain Trail (el. 3,900-ft) at 5.4 miles. The Teeley Creek Trail continues right .8 mile to its trailhead on FR 8410 passing little Pothole Lake en route. This is the shorter access option for doing the entire Osborne Mountain Trail.

Now finally on the Osborne Mountain Trail, the going gets rough before it gets fun. The trail brutally climbs straight up an eroded gravelly cat track along an old clear cut edge. You’ll be hiking-your-bike along this stretch, but it’ll give you time to concentrate on the views east to the Tatoosh Range.

Brush up against FR 8410 and then crash through a brushy section of trail before once again reaching FR 8410 at 6.4 miles. Turn left here and bike the road .2 mile coming to a ridge crest (el. 4,600 feet) with good views west over the Catt Creek valley. The trail then resumes left-but feel free to bike the road if you’d like as it climbs higher skirting Osborne’s 5,051-foot summit and providing some good views south.

With all climbing and rough spots now behind you, it’s time to finally enjoy the Osborne Mountain Trail. The way traverses an old cut contouring along the mountain. Enjoy views out to the Mount Tahoma Trails Association’s High Hut and Griffin Mountain and to Mount St Helens as well.

Back in mature forest reach a junction with the Cave Creek Trail (el. 3,900 feet) at 7.4 miles. This good trail heads south gradually descending to reach abandoned FR 8510 (el. 3,650 feet) in .5 mile. This is part of the short loop option.

The Osborne Mountain Trail heads north rounding a ridge and rapidly descending; switchbacking through a uniform forest of hemlock and fir. It’s a fast and furious ride downward on good hard packed tread. Skirt a spring and splash across its outflow. Enter an old cut with good views north to Mount Beljica, Mount Wow and the top of Mount Rainier. The descent steepens (if you are doing this in reverse it’s a tough climb and hot with no shade) until you reach a maple and alder flat. The trail then mellows leveling out and ending at the Big Creek Campground (el. 1,900 feet) at 10.2 miles. Relax now and have a cold drink-you’ve earned it!

Directions to Trailhead:
From Elbe, follow SR 706 east (passing through Ashford) for 10.1 miles. Turn right (south) onto Skate Creek Road (FR 52) and follow it for 1.9 miles. Turn right into Big Creek Campground and locate trailhead near campsite number 28.

Miscellaneous information:
This ride is 11.6 miles out and back to Granite Lake, or a 19.0-mile loop combined with FR 84 and FR 8420. The Osborne Mountain Trail (and connecting trails) is also open to horses and motorcycles, but use is light. As of autumn 2012, the trail was in good shape with smooth hard packed tread and a few brushy spots. FR 84 and FR 8420 were re-graded in 2012. FR 8410 to Teeley Creek Trailhead is rough for vehicles but fine for bikes. Green Trails Map Randle, WA no. 301 shows this trail and connecting trails. Contact Cowlitz Valley Ranger Station (Randle), Gifford Pinchot National Forest for updated information on this trail and access roads; (360) 497-1100.

Craig Romano, Hiking guidebook author of nine books


Starting Point: 46.73433,-121.97028  

Notable Waypoints:

Trailhead at Big Creek Campground: N 46° 44.060′, W 121° 58.217′
Junction with Cave Creek Trail: N 46° 43.118′, W 121° 58.961′
Granite Lake: N 46° 41.895′, W 121° 55.536′
Big Creek Trailhead (FR 8420): N 46° 41.713′, W 121° 53.192′

Q: How far is Osborne Mountain from Cora Lake and Bertha May Lake? 

A: It’s approximately 7 miles fro Osborne Mountain to Cora Lake and it’s about 3 miles from Osborne Mountain Trail to Bertha May Lake.