This route has quickly become a favorite of mine. The combo of solid hills (2000+ ft in 3 miles), good views, and steep technical singletrack are all mixed together in a great package. The top of McCulloch Peak is the highest point in the McDonald Dunn Forest, and rewards those who make it to the top with views of Marys Peak to the southwest and the Southern Willamette Valley and the Cascades off to the west on clear days. The trails closer to the Oak Creek Trail
can be busy, so keep a sharp eye out for other users. But the further you get from the trailhead, the more remote this feels.
Features: Fall Colors — Views — Wildlife
There is limited cell phone coverage, so don't plan on being able to look up a map or call for help. Download the Trail Run Project mobile app
beforehand to keep on route, especially for your first outing. Also, many of the trails are busy with other users. Do yourself and those around you a favor and ditch the head phones. There is nothing worse than having a mountain biker scream past you because you were rocking out and didn't hear them call out to you. Plus you're on a run, enjoy the nature.... (I'll just step off my soap box now).
This is not a good first run in the Mac-Dunn College Forest. It is technical, steep, and the myriad of trails at the top can be confusing. This is a great adventure run, but plan for the adventure. It would pay to know the area well, carry a map that shows all of the trails (not just the official ones), and/or go with a buddy (all three wouldn't be bad....). The trails at the top were built by the mountain bike community. Because of this, they are steep with lots of features (roots, rocks, loose footing, banked turns) making for some technical running. Trails can be overgrown, so bring some eye protection. Don't let these warnings dissuade you, run this trail and feel like a super hero!
This run has a great ebb and flow to it, building up in intensity and then giving well-timed breaks. With this in mind I think of the run as having six distinct phases; an initial warmup, tough climbing, the first descent, middle recovery, the second descent, and a final cool down.
The Warm Up:
Starting at the Oak Creek Trail
, begin on the Homestead Trail
on the left. Roll on pleasant and wide singletrack over a bridge and through the woods until the trail intersects with a road (6021
). Stay to the right. At about 2/3rds of a mile, Road 770
branches off to the left. This signals the end of the warm up and the beginning of the climb.
Taking Road 770
on the left, climb (steeply at times) for the next ~2 miles through beautiful forest. You'll see several trails that branch off here and there, but just keep heading up the road. After the second switchback, rejoice that you've only got about a half a mile of climbing before your first break. Hitting a saddle, you get a bit of needed downhill; there is a bit of singletrack that parallels the road here, feel free to jump on it if it looks good, just stay to the left of any forks.
At about 2.75 miles you'll see an open south face with a trail going up the gut of it; take this trail (Southridget
). So begins the unofficial trail section. Theses trails are steep and technical, and the area can be confusing. Stay the course on the trail until it tees into a road again at about three miles. There should be a trail that leaves the road on the right that is relatively flat and a bit overgrown. Stay on this keeping an eye out for a steep trail that leaves on the left going straight uphill about a tenth of a mile later. Taking the steep trail on the left will lead you up a hill and connect you into another well-developed (ish) trail. Stay right on to the road (Road 760). Turn left and top out McCulloch Peak. There is a bench here, so sit a moment and enjoy the view; you've earned it.
Once you're ready, turn around and retrace the trail back to the very steep left turn that you took on the ascent. Once you tee into the bench trail (aka Lupine Letdown
) stay left. Shortly, the trail will split; take the right fork downhill as this is the less steep option. Do your best to run this challenging downhill until you finish out the trail as it intersects a road (Road 770
again). Turn left and enjoy some less challenging terrain.
Just like it sounds, follow Road 770
as it winds downhill. You'll tee into Road 700
at about 5 miles and take a right downhill. Shortly, there is a three-road intersection with an island of trees in the middle. On the right is a small trail that can be a touch overgrown. This is the Innuendo Trail
, and it marks the start of the second descent.
Follow the faint trail up a short hill and then begin the steep and technical running. Although more open than the trail earlier, it still will demand your attention. After ~1/2 a mile and a particularly steep, rooty section, the trail comes to a 4-way intersection. Cross Up Route and continue on to Extendo Trail
. The descent continues on this more mellow singletrack. Finish Extendo across a bridge and tee into Rd. 6020
and begin your cool down.
Take a left and then a quick right back onto 6021
. Stay on this until you see the Homestead Trail
branch off to the left. Cruise back to the trailhead. Nice work! You've earned your post run beverage of choice.
Good sample of the college forest: Douglas Firs, ferns, clear-cut views and little woodland critters. Often in the summer and fall there is poison oak to be aware of.
The College Forest is an active research forest, which is cool. So you're likely to see all sorts of flagging and such.