Named the best Mountain Bike Town by Mountain Bike Action magazine, Bend, Oregon will leave you breathless…in a good way. And there’s no better time than the fall to experience Central Oregon’s sandy trails, which harden slightly as temperatures start to drop.
Prepare to return often because you won’t be able to cover the 300-plus Central Oregon trails, even after several explorations. Whatever your level of experience and ability, there’s a trail for you. Kids can enjoy a cross-country ride that’s just right for them and beginners need not be afraid either. There are also dirt-jumping and downhill routes for those who want an extreme thrill.
Phil’s, with its variety of flowy singletrack trails, is definitely the most popular biking area in Central Oregon. The trailhead is just a hop and a skip away from the middle of town and from the parking area. Anyone from beginner to intermediate level will enjoy the 60 miles of sweeping, slow descent trails that you’ll find here.
Best Trails for Beginners
Those who’ve never tried mountain biking can readily find gear to rent in town and get going on easy trails that aren’t daunting at all.
Suttle Tie Trail
Families can follow a series of old single track and double track on the scenic Suttle Tie Trail, which connects the Black Butte Ranch area to Suttle Lake. The loop is 3.6 miles in total and doesn’t get higher than 500 feet at any point. You’ll pass through a few campsites and over a few rocks and stumps. Riding around the entire lake, or part of it, is great for family fun and best of all, your outing can culminate with a drink and a bite to eat at the recently renovated Suttle Lake Lodge.
Black Rock Trail
This trail begins at Lava Lands Visitor Center and meanders next to the lava flow that erupted from Lava Butte approximately 7,000 years ago. Anyone who’s into geology will be amazed by this phenomenon. The rest of the trail follows a gentle descent to the Deschutes River, upstream from Benham Falls. If you want to explore some more, you can pick up the Deschutes River Trail from there.
Peterson Ridge Trail
Formed like a ladder, the Peterson Ridge Trail system near Bend makes a long ride if you want to take it all in, but the ladder structure allows you to save time by cutting across the system, if you prefer. Families who want to practice XC riding will love this trail.
Shevlin Park Loop
Watch out for hikers and dogs on this 4.6-mile loop. The flat terrain is as ideal for them as it is for newbie mountain bikers. It’s a great trail to help anyone get used to the sport. The Shevlin Park Loop Trail is also linked to the popular Mrazek Trail, which is a must-do if you’re confident about your technical skills.
Most Epic Trails
You don’t have to be an expert mountain biker to enjoy these spectacular trails. They’re epic simply because of the awesome natural beauty you’ll be traversing.
McKenzie River Trail
Although this trail is more than an hour and a half drive from Bend, it is worth the drive because it is said to be one of the best mountain biking experiences near Bend for any rider. Experts consider it to be the best single-track MTB trail in North America. It promises an adventurous bike ride among pristine rain forests and rock formations.
Offering diverse terrain, Tiddlywinks is somewhat technical as the tabletop jumps and man-made berms will be intimidating for beginners. However, less experienced mountain bikers will enjoy the flowy downhill, a short climb, and cross-country opportunities.
Famous for its thrilling downhill experience, Whoops is an “A-Line” trail. The Lower Whoops Trail is well-known so expect to share it with other mountain biking enthusiasts at any time of day.
With lots more rock gardens than other trails, Tyler’s Traverse is a well-loved trail. You will find several flowy downhills, but you need to employ more technical skill than you might expect on a classic mountain bike trail, making it a top pick for more experienced riders.
Smith Rock State Park
This picturesque park is popular with bikers and hikers alike and they actually don’t get in each other’s way. The Crooked River and dramatic granite cliffs you’ll encounter along the trail are simply mesmerizing.
Mt. Bachelor Bike Park
About 30 minutes’ drive from downtown Bend is the year-round gem Mt. Bachelor Bike Park, which offers lift-served access, for which you’ll need a lift ticket. Want an easy uphill ride or are you looking for a hair-raising challenge? From machine-built flow trails to a hand-built single track, 13 miles of gravity-served bike trails await every type of mountain biking enthusiast. More than a dozen of these trails are downhill-oriented so there’s ready access to loads of exhilaration.
If you’re new to this chair lift-operated bike park, you’ll start in the Skills area of West Village before moving onto the Little Pine beginners’ lift. From there, if you feel confident enough you can enjoy the rush of Pine Marten. Whichever trail you choose, you’ll wind your way through the scenic volcanic landscape, marked with Ponderosa pine trees.
The newest trail in Mt. Bachelor Bike Park is the Rockfall Trail. It’s steep and boasts lots of rugged rock gardens and drop-offs. Actually, there are three mandatory drops. Loose dirt adds to the adventure, making this a truly “expert” trail that’s not for the faint of heart. Forget soft spots to land if you fall, your body is more likely to connect with sharp shards of lava. This hand-built trail also has a forested section that’s full of steep, fall-line berms. It’s fair to expect a rockier terrain with some exposed roots after the top layer of dust gets worn down.
Wondering why fat biking is all the rage? Find out for yourself in Bend, which is practically its birthplace. The bikes may look weird, with their fat, knobby tires but they’re perfect for negotiating all kinds of terrains. Depending on the season, you can find a soft sand or soft snow surface. Wanoga Sno-Park offers meticulously maintained fat bike trails. The over 250 miles of groomed snowmobile trails can also be used by fat bikers but you must give way to snowmobiles as fat bikes can appear unexpectedly and may be hard to see on the trails.
Important Tips for the Best Mountain Biking in Bend
Our tips for the best mountain biking experience:
- Plan your route in advance
- Take at least one riding buddy
- Have a good supply of water
- Carry a first aid kit
- Prepare for flat tires by packing an extra tube, a patch kit, and a small pump into your backpack.
- Know the rules. Uphill riders have the right of way so anticipate that you’ll need to give way to them if you’re flying down the hill.
- Last but not least, watch out for runners, hikers, and dogs.
In light of the coronavirus, you won’t find as many tourists in Central Oregon as you normally would but the locals are using every opportunity to get outdoors. If you prefer to avoid encountering large numbers of people, it’s best to go riding at off times like early morning, which tends to be cooler.
Open spaces and fresh air are more important now than ever. This fall, riders are expected to descend on Bend’s world-class trails, which are well-maintained by the Central Oregon Trail Alliance. There’s no question, Bend is a mountain biker’s dream destination with lots of fun, high-quality options for everyone.