If the McKenzie River Trail is the poster child for Oregon riverside mountain bike trails, the North Umpqua Trail (NUT) would be it's older sibling: bigger, tougher, more intimidating, and a heck of a lot more fun. With 70 miles of singletrack that stretches from the high Cascades to the lower reaches of the North Umpqua River, this IMBA Epic Trail provides a much greater variety of terrain and difficulty levels than the state's most well-known river trail, and it is much less crowded.
The Dread and Terror section of the NUT is named after the precipitous, rocky ridgeline that parallels the trail to the south. This is the most remote and technically difficult section of the NUT, and it is usually ridden as a shuttled ride. The trail is rarely right along the river; instead, it relentlessly climbs and descends as it traverses the area's rugged terrain. Although there are a few fast and smooth sections, much of the trail is rocky and technical. When the narrow singletrack does approach the river, there are often sheer drop-offs on one side and rocky cliffs on the other. A careless mistake in one of these sections would result in serious injury at the very least. Don't let the toughness of this ride scare you off, though, as the scenery along this segment and the reward of conquering such a remote and technically demanding trail are worth the effort.
Shortly after dropping down from the trailhead just below Lemelo Lake, the trail passes Lemelo Falls, the tallest waterfall on the North Umpqua at 165 feet. There are a number of good vantage points just off the trail for viewing this majestic natural feature.
The hydropower canal that is visible at the trailhead feeds a generating station that is located near the halfway point, and it is odd to hear the whine of the turbines in the middle of such an obviously remote and wild area. Another canal leads downstream from the power station and is visible intermittently on the opposite side of the river. These installations are part of PacificCorp's extensive North Umpqua River hydropower project, which generates 194 megawatts of electricity from eight separate hydroelectric developments on the North Umpqua and two of it's main tributaries, the Clearwater River and Fish Creek.
The Dread and Terror segment ends at the parking area for the North Umpqua Hot Springs, which can provide a welcome post ride soak. Unfortunately, this gem of a hot springs has seen a recent increase in popularity, and it can be crowded with some pretty unsavory characters in the summer and on weekends.