The Maston area mountain bike trails have the distinction of being the lowest elevation desert trails in the Central Oregon area, so this area will be a good bet to try in the off season when other trails have too much snow. It does snow enough to be unrideable on occasion. The ride is mostly through nice juniper forest with occasional mountain views and as of 2013 there are a couple of sections of trail that go out to the Deschutes River rim with nice views of the river and canyon.
Even though it is in a semi desert it can still get muddy in the winter and spring when it is ridden more by default. Normally the soil drains very well in Central Oregon except if the ground has frozen and the first few inches on top thaws out. If that is the case it may be better to ride early before things start melting for the day while the ground is still frozen on top.The mud is more like melting ice cream and not the kind that sticks to everything. Even though it is not the worst mud in world it would probably be a good idea to stay off of it until the conditions improve. It can dry or freeze with ruts. All this makes it sound like it is a muddy place but it is not typically. It is in a semi desert.
As an excellent off season alternative to Maston try Horse Butte south of town on National Forest land or Horse Ridge east of Horse Butte on BLM land. Horse Ridge is higher elevation and may have more snow. These two areas do not have trails that follow old irrigation ditches that collect water like Maston but they still do have puddles here and there in wet conditions.
The BLM spent a lot of money fixing up the Maston area in 2012-2013. There is a new high dollar trail head to the east of the old one on Newcomb Road. You can't miss it now as there is a sign out on the highway and at the trail head. They went all out on this trail head and it appears to have been designed by a landscape architect. It is complete with paved ADA paths to picnic tables and a ADA toilet big enough to dress in. The extra sturdy new fencing around the whole area should help with the Buffalo problem. Word has it that the BLM intends to graze the Maston allotment in the future. Please contact the BLM and express your opposition to grazing here. If they tell you that cattle grazing is an important part of healthy range management tell them they are full of BS and you would really rather look at tall bunch grass than trampled stubble and cow pies. Ask them how much they are or will be making with the grazing fees. If you want to see what trails are like when there are a lot of cattle grazing in the area then go ride the Fremont National Recreation Trail west of Summer Lake or the increasingly trashed Gray Butte. The trail head on the Cline Falls Highway is now called Juniper. The Maston trail head also now has a big parking area for horse trailers but thankfully they are creating a whole new trail system for the horses.
In the first few years since it was first promoted Maston bike trails have changed a lot. About half the trails are new and another half have been closed. With the exception of a few rock gardens here and there it used to be technically very easy. Some of the new trails like the fantastic but short new section along the Deschutes River rim are much more technical - but doable for an intermediate rider. The really big change is that a fairly large area in the vicinity of the river now is off limits to bikes to protect raptor nesting habitat. The trails that are no longer available were really not all that great and the new ones are much better with more scenic views of the river. Many of the existing trails appear to be getting rerouted (including hopefully the ones that followed the old irrigation canals which collect water and turn into mud bogs). The length of the longest figure 8 loop using the new trails is about 14 miles.
For many years there were no trail names or signage but as part of the recent attention given to the area by the BLM the trails now have names and the trails and intersections are signed. The BLM has a map available online that includes horse trails but is not meant to be printed at 8.5 x 11. If it was intended to be printed at a smaller size it would be fine but until it is here is a smaller ORMTB map with the new intersection numbers and trail names. Here is an ORMTB low ink version as of spring of 2015.
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The remnants of canals in the area were apparently the result of someone trying to acquire land under the Carey Act by irrigating it. Apparently they never had water or only had it briefly as the promised water from the ill fated Tumalo Reservoirs never did materialize.
In the Maston area unlike Gray Butte there hasn't been any cattle grazing in quite a while and the older Juniper forest is in pretty good shape. Central Oregon is home to one of the world's largest Juniper forests that also happens to be expanding rapidly. Ranchers and land managers claim that the Juniper forests ruin range land suitable for lots of cattle. If you are not a cattleman you can go ahead and enjoy the uniquely beautiful old trees in the area. There is one other reason to possibly despise the Juniper trees and that is that a lot of people develop allergies to them. So if it is windy in the spring or early summer you may have a reaction to the pollen.
There are a couple of small private inholdings with houses near the river. If you are following the trail system that is on the maps you should not encounter those. It is a good thing that Cline Butte is so close and visible because if you are out there without a map this is a key orienteering land mark. The trails are mostly big gradual arcs though nondescript forest and terrain so on a cloudy day it can be difficult to get your bearings.
There is a ride up Cline Butte nearby that has some good views and a the opportunity to do some climbing. If you open the map at the bottom of the page you can see where that starts. The first bit is very new and vague. The main portion of the trail on the butte appears to be an old cattle trail. The BLM emailed to say this trail has not been vetted by them and they are notifying the private land owners of the map. The private land is very clearly shown on the map although at the time the map was made there weren't any no-trespassing signs. For the record then, this is not a mountain bike trail. It is an old cattle trail that you might be able to ride. The BLM has millions of miles of cattle trails awaiting administrative review. Much to the consternation of BLM staff across the west cattle have a bad record when it comes to following the rigorous trail building and maintenance standards of the agency particularly in riparian areas. Unfortunately the agency is virtually powerless against the well organized and well armed cattle rights groups.
The cattle trail up to the first gravel road is easy climbing with very nice scenery. Once you hit the gravel road you can continue on to a gravel pit along a fence line. From there you can ride some of the roads that go to communications towers if you want additional climbing. The other option is to climb up the first gravel road to the top of Cline Butte. There are a couple of connected lesser buttes to the north and west. The climb up the road is steep. From the top there is an extreme free ride trail that heads off the east face. This has to be some of the most difficult riding in the Central Oregon area. It is steep and there are some large man made jumps. Riding up the lower section to the gravel pit is a nice out and back which could be added to the trails at Maston however there is no connector trail to that across the highway. Circumnavigating the Buttes is possible but there is a lot of well fenced private land on the south side in addition to a heavily used ATV area on the southwest side. There are so many trails in the ripped up ATV area that in order to navigate it you just pick one in the general direction you want to go. Here is a quick map on that but it needs more work. As a reminder the views expressed and maps made for this site are not those of the Central Oregon Trail Alliance.Getting to the existing trailheads: The southern parking area is five miles north of Tumalo on the Cline Falls Highway on Newcomb Rd. In Google Maps enter Newcomb Rd @44.210638, -121.307956 as a destination. The Juniper trailhead is north of Newcomb Rd on the highway about three miles. Enter Cline Falls Hwy @44.244908, -121.282308 to get to the Juniper trailhead. The "Earth" tab below does not work in IE9 but works in other browsers like Firefox and Chrome. Hopefully that will get fixed.
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