Top Ten Mountain Bike Meccas (Beyond Moab)
With a scenic backdrop of majestic mountains that form the crest of the Cascades, dense evergreen forests, and mountain lakes, Bend, Oregon, is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty. This spectacular scenery, combined with a location at the edge of the Deschutes National Forest, is what makes this city a mecca for mountain bikers.
Miles and miles of sweet singletrack and doubletrack wind through the forest, much of it the legacy of the logging industry. But now, the hikers and bikers have taken over, and area Forest Service Rangers are especially friendly to the needs of the fat-tire community. They've developed well-marked mountain bike routes, maps, and brochures on riding opportunities in the area. These are the things that make riders feel at home.
As you explore the trails, you'll discover the impact that volcanic activity has had on the geography around Bend. The soil is partially comprised of pumice, which behaves somewhat like sand but is lighter. Riding over this thick dust usually doesn't pose a problem early in the season, but when the soils dry out the surface may take a little getting used to. The following are our picks for great trails in this area:
This moderate 10.5-mile loop is a local favoriteâ€”a great after-work workout for riding enthusiasts, and a great weekend ride for recreationists. The scenery is open, younger ponderosa pine forests and the area is very quiet with little foot traffic. To access Phil's/Jim's, take Skyliners Road west of Bend for 2.5 miles. Turn left on FS Road 220 (paved); the trailhead is located at the junction of 220 and FS Road 4606 (the old Brooks-Scanlon logging road). The first part of the trail is a gradual uphill climb with a couple of steep sections. At the top of the trail where it starts to flatten out, Jim's Trail branches off to the right and is an "out-and-back" (turn around at FS Road 300). Phil's Trail continues on down a fun, winding, singletrack that eventually meets up with FS Road 030 and takes you back to FS Road 200 via a quarry.
The Deschutes River Trail
This scenic ride (10.5 moderate miles, one way) can be ridden on singletrack, dirt and gravel roads, or a combination thereof. If you are going to ride the singletrack, be aware that this trail is used heavily by hikers and equestriansâ€”especially on the weekendsâ€”and has become sensitive to erosion as the trail is usually extremely dusty during the summer and fall.
If you want to avoid potential conflicts but still wish to view the Deschutes River, ride on the system of roads closed to vehicles and marked for use primarily by cyclists. These roads access the river at several points including Lava Island Falls, Dillon Falls, and Benham Falls. Because of its popularity, bicycle use of the singletrack portion of this trail has become controversial; your behavior (always yield to horses and hikers) and attitude when riding this trail will determine the ultimate outcome for use.
To access this trail, drive or ride 7.5 miles west of Bend on Cascade Lakes Highway 46 until you reach FS Road 41. Turn left and follow the signs to Lava Island Falls. This is where most hikers and equestrians begin their treks also. From this point, you can either ride the singletrack trail near the river (more difficult) or follow the road signed for bicycle use (easier). Once you reach Dillon Falls, you can turn around and come back or continue on to Benham Falls.
Swede Ridge Loop
This moderate nine-mile loop starts at Swampy Lakes Sno-Park, 16 miles from Bend on Cascade Lakes Highway 46. The trailhead is located at the north end of the parking lot, across from the rest rooms. The ride starts with a slight climb up singletrack, which then drops down through the forest, skirts Swampy Lakes, and runs out to Swede Ridge Shelter. At this point, you can either turn around and return the same way or turn right onto Forest Service roads back to the Sno-Park.
South Fork Trail
Trailheads are located at either end of this challenging 5.5-mile all-uphill or all-downhill trail. Uphillers should park at Tumalo Falls, 12 miles from Bend (10 miles up Skyliners Road, and then 2 miles up Tumalo Falls Road). This trail follows the south fork of Tumalo Creek at a steady, often technical climb for approximately 2.5 miles. The rest of the climb is characterized by switchbacks with long straight stretches in between. At the end of this 3.75-mile climb (Swampy Lakes Shelter), you will ride along a portion of the Swede Ridge Loop to Swampy Lakes Sno-Park. Reverse the directions to return, or take the Swede Ridge or Rockless Ridge Loop. Take care to control your bicycle, as many hikers and other cyclists also enjoy this trail.
More on biking in Deschutes National Forest
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication