Central Oregon is considered to be one of the capitals of mountain biking in the US and for good reason. To grasp the amount of trails available there are at least 272 miles of continuously linked single track trails that can be accessed from the west side of Bend. There is at least another 222 plus miles in less than an hour and a half drive from town. New trails are being added at a feverish pace. About ten miles of new trails were added in 2010 in the Kiwa Butte Area. Most of the trails in the area are smooth and fast on pumice soils. Riders from out of state frequently comment in amazement on how smooth the trails are. Lots of towns claim extensive mountain bike trail mileage that in reality contains a lot of dirt roads or atv trails. Some of the trails elsewhere in Oregon like in Oakridge or on the North Umpqua are on steep hillsides with blind corners where going off the trail at full speed is going to involve some air time and big trees. For most of the trails in Central Oregon, your speed is only limited by your cornering ability. Although the majority of the trails are technically very easy and not too strenuous, they are far from boring if you ride them fast enough.
If you are considering a vacation to Bend to mountain bike, do not worry that you will show up only to find that you or your equipment are not good enough. Also do not be intimidated by all the riders in sponsored jerseys, as only a small percentage of them actually are. The two wheeled billboard look, even in the forest, is such an unassailable part of bike culture it will probably not be changing anytime soon.That said Bend has a very healthy race scene with lots of serious riders and events happening almost every weekend in the summer.
The risk averse or those in the DWI (dads without insurance) category will be glad to know that the few rocky technical sections are generally short and easy to walk. For those who are looking for technical challenges, there are increasing numbers of optional man made features popping up. If you are planning a vacation and are really into man made features head to Post Canyon in Hood River. There are reportedly some trails with major man made features at an area west of Falls City called Black Rock . Yet another new area with significant man made features is outside of Sandy called Sandy Ridge. Locally, although there are some mostly natural technical rock features here and there with some trails having more than others, Central Oregon does not have anything like southwest "slick rock". By the way the term Central Oregon is a widely used local term for Bend and a few surrounding local towns like Redmond and Sisters. Geographically is roughly about a forty five mile radius from Bend.
There are a couple of other things that make Central Oregon riding great compared to say, a lot of five star trails in the Rocky Mountains. The trails here are not part of any cattle range except for Gray Butte, so you don't need fenders to keep the crap off your Italian shoes or ride trampled mud that has dried. There are horses on a small portion of the trails but except for some of the Sisters area rides the horse traffic is pretty light. Also, these trails are not shared with ATVs like so many in the Rockies are. ATVs have a separate trail system here. If you are planing a vacation here you should be able to do most of the popular rides without a guide, no problem. With the exception of some of the trails on BLM land, the trails are well signed and correspond to the maps on this site in addition to the maps available in the bike shops. If you have a bad track record reading maps, do not have very good internal compass, or just like riding with guides, they are available. Regular shuttle services are available if you are trying to minimize your uphill peddling. If you are in halfway decent shape you can skip the expense of shuttle rides as most of the climbing is easy compared to many other areas where mountain biking, like the name implies, involves riding up then down some mountain. Except for the Willamette Pass Ski Area about 70 miles away there is no lift assist trail riding.
Most of the trails are pumice soils. Except for the very early season, where the ground is thawing on top and frozen underneath, there is generally no mud and if it rains the trails become firmer. Later in the year, on heavily used trails, the pumice can get ground into a fine powdery dust that hangs in the air. For group rides this can be an issue. Thankfully this same dust seasons beautifully over the winter and becomes firm and fast again in the spring. For the most part, the trails are maintained and, in many cases built by the Central Oregon Trail Alliance (COTA). The Forest Service does clear some trees on some trails but thanks to the legacy of elected right wing politicians and a wrecked economy they have less and less funds every year, and rely heavily on COTA. In an ideal world maybe our federal government would wise up and turn our public lands over to Walt Disney, Ted Turner and Weyerhaeuser.
GEAR: Cross country full suspension mountain bikes are more than adequate. The trails are easily smooth enough for hard tails. Due to the nature of the trails, single speed and cyclo-cross bikes are becoming increasingly popular. For the vast majority of trails you can leave you downhill body armor in the car. There are a few places where a beefy bike and armor would be appropriate like the hundred yard long freeride pump track just west of the Phil's Trail parking area, the jumps on the whoops trail and the small Lair freeride park.The light duty gear option does not apply to all areas in the state especially Post Canyon in Hood River.
CAMPING: Despite the amount of public land that surrounds Bend, there are pathetically few campgrounds close to town other than Tumalo State Park. (There must be some type of conspiracy with the abundant local hotels.) Tumalo State Park is however a very nice park right on a beautiful stretch of the Deschutes River with a half a dozen yurts, solar showers and a short but beautiful hiking trail along the river. Many of the early Forest Service campgrounds along the Deschutes River near Bend were shut down when Bend got "discovered" and there were few apartments to be had. There are campgrounds near most of the high lakes west of Mount Bachelor but they are at least half an hour from most of the local trails, and town. There is some great riding up near the high lakes it just depends on what you want to do in the area when you are not riding. Many of those higher elevation trails are not free of snow or cleared of downed trees until at least mid summer. There has been a tremendous amount of beetle killed Lodge Pole pine in recent years in some areas. In some years if you get to them before any maintenance has been done the number of downed trees may take some serious attitude adjustment to enjoy. You can stay anywhere in the National Forest for two weeks, unless otherwise signed. The vast majority of trails are on Forest Service land and this land starts close to town. If you do camp outside of a campground, pack your garbage out and keep the area clean. Public showers can be had at the Juniper Fitness and Aquatic Center which also has a coed sauna, hot tub and steam room on on of the pool decks.
WEATHER and GEOGRAPHY: Central Oregon is frequently referred to as the high desert. Most of the Bend area is in a rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains and is, consequently, pretty dry and sunny. However, being in the transition zone from the temperate rain forest of the western part of the state, and the deserts of the east, there is a great deal of variety in the climatic zones of the rides within relatively short distances.
Most of the rides, especially at the higher western elevations will be in snow until pretty late in the spring or even as far as mid summer depending on the snow the previous winter. There are some rides in the desert which can be ridden practically all year if you're so inclined. It does snow in the desert on occasion so there is no guarantee on that.
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* Some trail mileage that is not in the total listed is LaPine State Rec, Cline Butte, anything in the Ochocos, and trails south of town in the China Hat road area.If you added those in the actual totals would be a bit higher. The totals listed at the top of the page are not estimates and are calculated from GIS\GPS data by the perpetrator of this web site.