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Tiger Mountain Trail System - A review after Race Cascadia Stop #2 - 2023

We are always excited when our race schedule collides with Tiger Mountain. Perhaps my favorite trail System in Washington.  Bradley and I headed out on Thursday to get some “Dad Bod Assisted” laps on the e-bike.  Unfortunately, after our ride the rain set in, and didn't let up for 48 hours.  This cut our Friday Pre-ride from the equation and also ensured that our practice laps were good to help us see the trail’s … but none of the sessioning or lines we took would be practical or safe now that everything was covered in Liquid sun.  Oh well, we all race the same course!

Nestled in the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest, Tiger Mountain in Issaquah, Washington, is a mountain bike enthusiast's dream come true. With its diverse network of trails, breathtaking scenery, and challenging terrain, Tiger Mountain offers an exhilarating experience for riders of all skill levels, but to be honest, MOST of the trail system is for riders who love to push themselves on natural, rooty AMAZING PNW trails.

The system is well-marked and easily accessible, with 1 main parking lot.  Please keep in mind that if you want to use the lot, you will need to take your car up a gravel road riddled with potholes for about half a mile.  I did this in my Prius, so any car can make it … you're just probably not going to be racing a rally car up that road any time soon.  Also, you will need a parking permit to use the upper lot.  Most people who live in Washington and ride have an annual discovery pass, but if you're just visiting for the day, a day pass can be purchased online for just $5.  (https://store.discoverpass.wa.gov/)

To start, Tiger mountain is probably my 3rd favorite trail system to climb.  The climb Trail “Master Link” is scenic, mellow and has enough little technical features to keep you on your toes.  The Only trail networks i've ridden which have better climbing trails are perhaps Post Canyons Main Climb Trails (Seven Streams and El Dorado) and Raging River (Upward Mobility)  But at the end of the day, Tiger is a trail system where I found myself indifferent about the climb .. vs dreading the climb which is my traditional outlook when it comes to earning my turns.  For me, that’s a huge win. ANNOLOG BIKE APPROVED FOR THIS DAD BOD.

So now that you survived the climb, and perhaps even with energy to point the bike downhill, how are the fun trails?  Simply put, they are amazing.  Some of the most natural, rooty and technical trails I have ever ridden.  Advanced riders will find themselves in mountain biking paradise as they navigate the demanding terrain.  For this week, we focused on 3 trails which were in my son's race, but having ridden most of the trails at Tiger, I can tell you that most of them “Feel” like they are built with the intention of nature, not nurture.  What you get is trails that utilize the mountain's natural slope, tons of roots, fast drops and good drainage.  

While there are some green rated 2 way trails, I would say that Tiger mountain is geared more toward the Intermediate - advanced Riders. We spent most of our time on Atlas, NOTG and Side hustle which is interesting because they are each very different. Below I'll describe each of these trails and slot the other trails from tiger mountain into one of these three categories.  Natural/Steep, Technical Flow and Full on Flow/Jump.  

Atlas: Natural and Steep “Spicy Blue” trail (Natural And Steep) 

For those seeking a perfect balance of flow and technicality, Atlas Trail delivers in spades. Intermediate riders will revel in its playful features and natural terrain. The trail's flow and occasional technical challenges, such as root gardens and small drops, keep the excitement levels high.  The trail is maintained very loosely.  They claim that this trail is one they want to adjust and take shape naturally over time, which means that very few shovels were used to fix it after it was first built.  I find this trail to be fun, but in some parts, pretty technically nervous for me, especially at race speed. During the race it was basically muddy peanut butter consistency which can always add another layer of spicy to any trail.  Most of the trails on this South Eastern side are very similar.  Short, natural and technical.

Other trails like this one include Eastbound and Down (Black) and Joyride (Blue).   Both of these trails are accessible through the same connector trail named Inside Passage. 

NOTG: A taste of North Shore in the US (Technical Flow)

NOTG is what I would call, “Classic Tiger” track, It is full of Charm, Versatility and occasional WTF moments. Ride NOTG, also known as Northwest Timber, and you'll discover a captivating blend of natural beauty and man-made features. This intermediate-level trail caters to riders seeking a well-rounded experience, but is a somewhat technical trail. This fairley short trail (About 1 Mile) packs a real punch and includes high speed chatter and technical sections that run up against the end of my technical comfort level.   Watch out for rock and root gardens that you'll need to navigate with precision.  Aim to hit them with momentum and not brake too hard before entering or exiting them.   Finally, keep an eye out for some really fun doubles which the kids apparently can clear, but I didn't even know existed until I followed them through on our second lap.  It is amazing to me how they see trails and features. I looked at those rollers and an opportunity to pump, they wanted to jump them, so they did.  When iIt's raining, this trail in my opinion turns from a solid black to a sketchy black trail, so be careful, but also enjoy because this i s how many of the local riders prefer it.  On our way up to the race stage Sunday, we passed a  group of Jr Expert 15 year olds and they were all hooting and yelling about how perfect NOTG was running.  Well it was wet, slick and crazy to run at speed … apparently this is how it's meant to be ridden and locals know and appreciate the challenge of it.  Our boys did not, to them it was very “Sketchy” in the wet. In the Dry .. they loved it.  All in all, I would say NOTG is my second favorite trail on the mountain, just being edged out by OTG, NOTG’s older more mild mannered brother.   The video above is from my Sons POV camera in his first ride down the trail.

Other trails like this one include OTG (Less aggressive same style Black trail) , East Tiger Summit (Management, easy Blue made for speed and fun)  Preditor - (Like NOTG, but twice as long with 4 or 5 bigger features, Close Encounters - (Rated Double Black, but feels like a Spicy Black) 

Side Hustle: Where Adrenaline Reigns (Flow/Jump)

If you crave heart-stopping speed and long jumps, Side Hustle is your jam.  This trail is a playground for riders seeking an adrenaline rush. As you navigate its twists and turns, prepare for a fast trail speed to be the right speed to clear these 10-20 foot double and table tops.  This is probably Tigers MOST flow focused and well maintained trail.  To me, this is the most dangerous trail on the mountain, but only for people who are sending it.  While other trails like NOTG and predator are WAY more technically challenging, they also restrict the total amount of speed you can collect.  There are no such restrictions on Side hustle.  This is a trail where speed is easy to gather and as a result, I found myself riding sections of this trail at over 30 mph.  A crash at that speed is going to hurt .. As my son found out, crashing 3/4ths of the way through his final stage, spraining his foot and putting an end to his race day.  I find that oftentimes the biggest injuries happen when we let our guard down and focus is not 100% there.  Still, VERY fun trail.  I would describe this trail as the closest thing I've ridden to a roller coaster on a mountain bike .. Giggle all the way, but remember to pre-ride before you go nuts. 

DadBod Rating: 

Climbing Trials - 10/10

Challenging Trails - 10/10

Variety of Trails - 8/10 - Flow, Trail Jump, root tech. Just missing any sort of Freeride or Gap jump trail features. Def more of a Technical Riders dream system

Maintenance - 9/10 - 

Family Friendly - 6/10 - Perfectly friendly if your kiddos like to shred the knar …

EMTB - 10/10 - There are adequate fire roads to the top if you are towing and the main climb trail is good even without an EMTB, with one I would imagine is a very nice start to the day.

Trip Worthy -8/10 - Perfect spot for a 1 or 2 day weekend.  We certainly have made the drive from Portland for a day trip, which would be 4 hours each way … But if your going to have more then 2 riding days, you will want to pop over to Raging River,  or Duthie Hill which are both a 10 minute drive away.  

Surrounding area - 8/10 - Issaquah is fine and does have a very fun little bike park called Duthie hill, but if you're staying for a long period of time, try to grab an AIR BNB in North Bend.  Very Cute old town with fun dining, a high walk score and Breathtaking views. 

My Favorite Trail: NOTG

Michael Neef

Co-Founder & Editor

Dad, Mountain Biker, chauffeur and N+1 enthusiast.

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