If you are new to the area, this trail is a great place to start. The Deschutes River Trail is easy, scenic, and starts just west of town. The ride follows the river as it flows around the lava field that caused it to change its course. This will be one of the first rides to be free of snow in the spring, and the last to get covered with snow in the fall. Mid-October is also a great time to ride the trail to see the many aspen groves turning yellow against the black lava backdrop. This ride will be a little sunnier on cold days than rides in the woods like the Phil's network.
Because of the beauty and proximity to town, the trail is at least as popular with hikers as it is with mountain bikers. As the town grows, there are more of both and there is a possibility that bikers could lose their privileges. Be sure to slow down or stop for hikers. If they step off the trail for you, be sure to say thank you as you slow down anyway. Leave your sponsored looking jersey and race face at home. This is a good ride to mellow out, take breaks and look at the scenery. There are starting to be lots of semi-retired CEO types moving to the area that we don't want focusing their abundant energy and talent on removing bikers from their newly acquired trail.
Less experienced riders will probably enjoy the trail the most by starting at the Lava Island Falls day parking area and riding upstream. If riding to Benham Falls from this starting point is not enough, the ride to Sunriver and/or the Blackrock Trail can be added and are equally easy although a little rockier. There is one steep but short switch back between Aspen Camp, and Dillion Falls that may have to be walked by beginners, but don't give up it gets easy again.
It is possible to get to the Deschutes River Trial via Deshutes River Woods and a public trail head there. It is actually a great ride. For the first couple of miles south of DRW the there is single track along the lava flow. After you cross the tracks there is more single track that follows the east side of an old burn. From there you can make it all the way to Lava Butte and then on to the Black Rock Trail. The lava flow is very beautiful and there are great views of it and the Cascades as you ascend the little butte to the north of Lava Butte on the edge of the old burn. There are some stretches of dirt roads but they are enjoyably smooth and fast. Those roads are hard to access and do not have much of any traffic on them. No vehicles are allowed on the first bit out of DRW. There is a short but rideable cinder section of trail about a hundred yards long before you get to the road that goes up Lava Butte. In the off season when they close Lava Butte (which seems to be pretty frequently now that it is managed by the Federal Government) you can ride up the Butte and pretty much have it to yourself. Also if it is closed you could ride out on the lava flow on the paved interpretive trail. Normally that would be a no no if it was open. At that point some people in your party could continue on the Black Rock Trail and then go back to town on the Deschutes River Trail while others could return to the DRW trail head. Here is a quick 8.5 x 11 map of the ride around the lava flow. This trail might be free of snow latter in the year than the DRT.
Getting to the Unofficial Trail Head:____ In Google Maps copy and paste "SW Century Dr/CR-46 @44.019450, -121.374360" as a destination. Head east on the dirt road toward the Entrada Lodge and you will cross the trail very near the lodge.
Getting to the Lava Island Trail Head:____ In Google Maps copy and paste "NF-4100-800 @43.985100, -121.400610" as a destination.
Getting to the Benham Falls (from 97 for Sunriver folks) Trail Head:____ In Google Maps copy and paste "Benham Falls Rd @43.931260, -121.413340" as a destination.
Getting to the Blackrock Trail Head and the Lavalands Visitor Center:____ In Google Maps copy and paste "Unknown road @43.909480, -121.359170" as a destination.