The Jedi trail is perfect for mountain-biking Padawans
Tucked in a remote valley and marbled with streams, Briggs Valley is a hidden gem, with miles of trails for mountain bikers.
Far west of Merlin, just past Indian Mary Park, a left turn on a well-marked road will take you deep into the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, to a verdant area that was once the site of a mining boom town.
It's a bit of a drive from Medford — about 11/2; hours — but the valley's campgrounds make it ideal for an overnight stay. And if you want to bike for two or more full days, you won't find opportunity lacking. From the hub at Sam Brown Campground, Silver Creek Trail, Taylor Creek Trail, Briggs Creek Trail, Onion Way Trail and more add up to dozens of miles of singletrack.
When you get there, however, the best trail to start with is the one that has made this area renowned to mountain bikers: The legendary Return of the Jedi trail.
The Jedi trail is really just a portion of the Taylor Creek Trail. Its name pays homage to the Star Wars speeder race through the redwoods, and the old-growth Douglas fir- and moss-lined path here provides a thrilling quality imitation.
Unless you want to shuttle, I suggest starting from the bottom, directly across from the Sam Brown entrance, and climbing the entirety of the four-mile Jedi to Lone Tree Pass. Then, turn around and get ready for a fun downhill.
There's no reason to be intimidated by the Jedi. You don't have to be a Zen master to ride this trail's swooping curves. In fact, it's the perfect trail for mountain biking Padawans — that means beginner, for the non-Star Wars fluent. It's smooth and mostly free of roots, rocks and challenging features. There are no steep inclines, but it's easy to build up speed on the flowing downhill. The net elevation change is a modest 500 feet, mostly over a 11/2 mile stretch.
Once you return to Sam Brown, there's no need to stop there. Take an immediate left after you leave the trail for an excursion on Onion Way. Or cross over to find the Briggs Creek and Silver Creek trails, which head for miles west of the campground.
The creeks that run through this area make it stand out especially during hot days. The waters keep the trails cool, and taking a frigid dip is the perfect way to cap off a long ride. Even in May, you'll want to; believe me.
Now is the time to visit this beautiful place. New spring undergrowth gives the Jedi trail an emerald lining, and the breathtaking meadows around Sam Brown still look alive.
Crowds are sure to arrive at Sam Brown on Memorial Day weekend, including a cadre of local mountain bikers who will be working on trails and riding. Choose to join them or avoid them (there are other campgrounds nearby), but the Briggs Valley area is definitely worth a trip.
Forrest Roth can be reached at email@example.com