When it comes to ATV recreation in Oregon, it’s hard to decide where to start, since the state boasts 24 separate OHV areas that allow ATV use. But you won’t go wrong with the Johns Peak/Timber Mountain OHV area, located on the outskirts of Medford, Oregon’s third-largest metropolitan area.
One of the best reasons to choose this area is 600 miles of trails, some very well maintained, winding through 14,000 acres. Worried about getting lost? It can happen, but problems for the directionaly challenged are minimized because many of the trails and roads eventually form a loop. If you’re reasonably competent at navigating in the woods, there is always a trail or road to lead you back to where you started.
You will enjoy the discovery of coming across hidden log cabins, abandoned mines, ditches built by Chinese laborers to supply miners with water, and old lumber mill sites. You can’t beat the view from the top of the John’s Peak ridges that allows you to see all the way to California. If you take your time and keep your eyes open, you will surely see some of the abundant wildlife. Deer and coyotes are common, with the occasional cougar or bear thrown in the mix for excitement. The view in any direction into any one of the many canyons is sure to provide many photo opportunities.
A trailhead is located on Motorcycle Riders Association property. “Do I have to be an MRA member?” you ask? No, not at all. But if you want to join MRA after enjoying the area on your ATV, visit their website.
The MRA realized years ago that the Bureau of Land Management was not going to actively develop trails or staging areas for OHV recreation. So club members had the vision to purchase 220 acres of property smack in the middle of the area for enthusiasts to use!
To get to the MRA property take State Highway 238 West from Medford, through Jacksonville to Jacksonville Reservoir Road. On Jacksonville Reservoir Road, travel about a quarter mile past the reservoir and you will come to an area with parking on either side of the road. This is 40 acres of MRA property. The club’s other 180 acres — complete with the trailheads and parking lots — is just two miles further up the road (bear right at any forks in the road).
The trails are open year-round, except when closed by fire restrictions, generally late August to early October. Primitive camping is allowed, so bring everything you will need, but remember to pack it in and pack it out. The closest campground is the Covered Wagon Trailer Park in Jacksonville, (541) 899-1022, where there are campsites but no hookups.
While there is a good day’s worth of riding on MRA property alone, venturing onto the adjoining BLM property (for information, call Fred Tomlins at (541) 618-2200), will provide you with a “must” ride.
Oregon has a few ATV rules and regulations, like most public riding areas. All ATVs must have a U.S. Forest Service approved spark arrested muffler. If you are under 18, helmet use is required. All riders must have either a valid drivers license or a special ATV Operators Permit. The minimum age to ride is 7, and riders from 7 to 12 must have an ATV Operators Permit and be accompanied by someone of at least 18 who also possesses a drivers license or ATV Operators Permit.
To obtain the special ATV Operators Permit, riders must have successfully completed an ATV safety course. You can contact the ATV Safety Institute at (800) 887-2887 for classes in your town.
Oregon ATV permits are required, and they are a bargain at $10 for two years from most local ATV shops. Oregon will also recognize valid ATV permits from adjoining states.
There’s one unusual regulation that got our attention: If your ATV has a windshield, you are required to have a windshield wiper. Don’t ask us who makes wipers for ATVs, this is a first for us!
The Medford area has all the motels, restaurants and businesses you are likely to need, so whether you stay a day or a week, you should be in good shape at John’s Peak/Timber Mountain.