Sunriver, Bend and Central Oregon are a mecca for bike riding. We have a chosen a few of our favorite rides to share. Whether you are a bicycle enthusiast coming to Sunriver for our world-class singletrack and miles of open mountain roads, or you are an active family looking for scenic and relaxing ride on Sunriver’s 35 miles of paved paths, we have the gear and knowledge you need to make the best of your stay. Hop on the Wild and Scenic Deschutes River Trail and head for Benham Falls, ride the epic Cascade Lakes Loop on a road bike, or take a 1-hour jaunt on the gorgeous Sunriver Deschutes River loop.
Skiing and Snowshoeing in Bend and Sunriver
If there is snow on the ground, there is no need to get in the car to go skiing or snowshoeing, you can start skiing a stones throw from our door. Both the Meadows and Woodland golf courses are open to skiers and snowshoers. The bike paths near the airport, marina, and stables also remain unplowed and are a great destination if you want to get close to the Deschutes River. For the more adventurous, the Deschutes River trail can be access from Circle 7 for a nice ski or snowshoe into Benham Falls (~5 miles round trip). The Cardinal landing bridge, near Circle 5, is another jumping point for adventures in the Deschutes National Forest, directly to our west.
Central Oregon Sno Parks
Edison Sno Park
Although Edison Sno Park is a popular staging area for snowmobiles, the nordic and snowshoeing trails are well separated and you, most likely, will not see or hear any motorized recreation once you leave the parking lot. Edison is home to beautiful old growth Ponderosa Pine forest. The contrast between the long green needles and huge red trunks of these giants and a freshly fallen snow is a truly beautiful sight. There are several warming shelters with wood stoves and seating that make great lunch destinations on your ski or snowshoe outing. Edison is one of the few dog friendly Sno Parks in the area, so this is an great choice if you have a pouche. There is no grooming at Edison but all trails are well marker and we have both free basic trail maps and in depth Central Oregon topo maps available at the shop.
Swampy Lakes Sno Park
Swampy Lakes is one of the most popular ski and snowshoe destinations in the area and for good reason. There are many loops for all ability levels in this picturesque meadow filled area. Warming shelters can be found at the midpoint of the major loops for a little rest and relaxation before returning to the trailhead . The intermediate Swede Ridge Loop offers stunning views of Broken Top, Mt. Bachelor and the Tumalo Creek Canyon below. The relatively easy Swampy Lakes Loop follows an old road through a lodgepole pine forest to a ridge overlooking Swampy Lakes with excellent views of the mountains in the high country. The easy Nordeen loop descends through sparse woodlands to the Nordeen shelter located atop a southeast facing ridge from where Newberry Crater and the eastern plains can be easily seen. Like the Edison Sno Park, the Swampy lakes trails are not groomed but the groomed Tangent Loop of the adjacent Meissner Sno Park extends to and connects with the Swampy Lakes Snowpark Trails at various points.
Meissner Sno Park
The Meissner Sno Park is Bend’s Community Nordic ski recreation area maintained by volunteers and features 40 kilometers of exceptional track, stunning views and a variety of terrain, for skating and classic skiing techniques. The park is routinely maintained with trail grooming occurring four days a week (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday) throughout the season. Various snowshoe trails intertwine with the groomed skiing trails and lead to the new Meissner Shelter with spectacular views of Bend and the surrounding mountains and plains. Meissner Sno Park is a great place for non-skiers alike as located at the trailhead is Jane’s Hut, a 30 ft. diameter heated Yurt with wi-fi, picnic tables, and bench seating. Adjacent to the yurt is Skinny Skis Café, catering trailer serving hot beverages, soup, sandwiches and baked goods. Meissner even has its own Android App featuring current weather and trail conditions and trail maps: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tumalolanglauf.meissnerSnowPark&hl=en
Mountain Bike Rides in Bend & Sunriver
Stretching ~15 miles between Sunriver and Bend, the Deschutes River Trail descends 500′ ft and make a great one way trip to the breweries in Bend (taxi service available back to Sunriver) or an out and back ride. The trail is designated as a Wild and Scenic trail and follows the banks of the Deschutes closely the entire way. You will pass Benham Falls, Dilon Falls, Big Eddy rapids, and Lava Island on the way. The trail is great for all ability levels close to Sunriver and gets slightly more challenging as you approach Bend. Challenges for skilled riders can be found sprinkled throughout the trail but they are easily avoided by less experienced riders. Starting at the Village Bike and Ski Shop, the fastest riders can make it into Downtown Bend in 1.5 hours. If you are not familiar with the trail and planning on stopping some of the numerous view points, plan on 2.5-4 hours for the ride. A map, which is helpful but not a absolute necessity, can be found here at the Village Bike and Ski Shop.
One of the newest trails in the Bend/Sunriver area’s is Tyler’s Traverse. The trail was almost entirely machine built and is chock full of berms and rollers as it descend nearly 1500 ft from Kiwa Butte to the Benham Falls access road. It is one of the longest and most consistent downhills in the area and the lower section is designated as a downhill only trail. Some challenges exist on the upper portion of the trail but for the most part this trail is enjoyable for all ability levels. In coming years, a single track connection will be built but for now, the climb from Sunriver is on fire roads. You will start at Cardinal Landing bridge on the west side of Sunriver and grind your way up USFS 280, 4130 and 4133 passing Kiwa Springs, where you can start your descent early or continue to the top. Tyler’s traverse ends at Road 41 from there you have several options to return to Sunriver, including a portion of the Deschutes River Trail. A map is a necessity for those who have not done this ride before. Come see us at the Village Bike and Ski Shop before you set out so we can get you pointed in the right direction.
Wanoga Complex Trails
The Wanoga Complex is the newest riding area in the Bend/Sunriver area. These trails feature modern design with great flow and a playful feel. You will find a mix of high speed flowing single track and rocky technical riding. Jumps, berms, drops are all common on the trails here but the trails are designed for a wide range of ability so you will not find any mandatory air here. At high speed, the trails become more advanced. The Wanoga Complex is the home of the Oregon Enduro race courses and most of the trails here are designed to maximize downhill enjoyment but, with the exception of Tyler’s Traverse, can be ridden in either direction. Funner, Tiddlywinks, Larsen’s Trail, Tyler’s Traverse, Dinah-Moe-Humm and Storm King are some of the trails in the area. There are many loop options and access points. Stop by the shop and we can point you to the best access and trails to hit for the wants, needs and ability of your group. The signage is good in this area but a map is helpful because there are lots of intersections and some trail are not finished and require short connections on fire roads.
Edison to Sunriver Shuttle (Lava Lake to Sunriver option)
This ride is more of a point to point than a true shuttle. You will do quite a bit of pedaling and a lot of descending on this ~17 mile ride that starts at Edison Butte Sno-Park and ends at your door (or on a stool at the Sunriver Brewing Company). You will ride Dinah-Moe-Humm, Kiwa Butte trail, Tyler’s Traverse and the Deschutes River Trail on your way back to Sunriver. Great views, low traffic and incredible single track is what you can expect on this ride. Some grinding climbs, hundreds of fast swooping corners and even some air to be had if you choose, make this ride one of the shop favorites. If you don’t mind punishment, you can extend this ride to start at Lava Lake on the Cascade Lakes Highway. This will add ~10 miles and ~1300ft of wonderfully rocky and technical climbing and descending to your trip. Map is highly recommended for this ride and can be found here at the Village Bike and Ski shop.
Edison-Lava Lake out and back
This is a variation of the previous ride. You will start at Edison Butte Sno-Park and ride up and over the saddle between Kwolh Butte and Sheridan Mountain. On the other side you will rumble down one of the most rough and rocky descents in the area. The descent is continuous and an absolute blast for experienced riders. Full suspension is recommended if you like to ride fast and want to keep your fillings. You will end up at the Lava Lake resort where you can grab a refreshment and a quick swim before you do it all backwards. Both directions are tons of fun. Out and back, this ride is about 20 miles with a good bit of climbing. This trail does see a lot of down tree blockages each winter so check with us before you head out. The only thing that can stop you from having a good time on this ride is 50 down lodgepole pines. This ride is pretty straight forward and can be done without a map but carrying one never hurts.
One can make tons of fun loops starting at Swampy Lakes. Come grab a map and design your own ride. The riding here has some challenge but is fun for most everyone. You can connect to dozens of trails from here and could even ride on single track from here to Sisters or Oakridge. Come by the shop and we can recommend a good loop for the interest, ability and endurance of your group. The Flagline loop described below is the crown jewel of the area. It is long, incredibly scenic and all on pristine singletrack.
Flagline Loop- (Only possible after August 13th)
Start out on a gentle climb out to Swampy Shelter, a couple miles from the trailhead. From there you will descent the blistering fast South Fork trail. The steep gradient of this 3 mile descent makes it a local favorite. When the blur of tree trunks wizzing buy subsides at the bottom of the Tumalo Creek Canyon, you will find yourself at Tumalo Falls. Many make the drive out just to see this monster waterfall but you are going to ride up stream and see 10 more falls as you grind up, in my opinion, the most enjoyable climb in the area. The trail is relatively steep but very ridable and stays in the canyon close to the icy waters of Tumalo creek keeping it cool on even the hottest days. You will soon reach Happy Valley, and idyllic meadow full of wildflowers and songbirds, complete with a picturesque creek running through the middle of it all. From there the climb continues on the Metolius-Windigo trail through ancient fir, spruce and hemlock forest until it reaches the alpine meadows below Broken Tops jagged peaks. Traverse these meadows and one more short climb brings you to the top of one of the choice pieces of single track in the land. The Flagline descent is the stuff dreams are made of. A 4 mile ripping descent brings you back to the Swampy shelter and an easy pedal back out to the car. This ride is nearly 25 miles and has lots of climbing. It takes many groups as much as 6 hrs so bring food and lots of water. This loop as described includes the Flagline trail which is closed until August 13th to protect elk calving habitat. Much of the ride can be done before this short section opens. If you visit before mid August, come by the shop and we can show you how to make enjoyable loops in the area while respecting trail closures. Bringing a map is pretty much mandatory for this one as there are many turns.
Newberry Crater Rim
This is another Central Oregon classic for those with the fitness to do it. Over 20 miles and lots of climbing. The reward is sweeping views of the 1000 ft deep Newberry Crater National Monument, Paulina and East Lakes and the Cascade volcanoes beyond. Not to mention the high quality and nearly empty singletrack you will find. Newberry Caldera is Oregon’s youngest volcano and the area is full of points of geological interest, hot springs, great camping, world class fishing and is worth a visit for anyone. As a mountain biker, you get to see it all from >1000ft above. Take a map with you on this one. The trail crosses many fire roads and joins some briefly and it is easy to get turned around.
Road Bike Rides in Bend and Sunriver
Sunriver – High Lakes – Bachelor loop.
This is an incredibly scenic 60 mile loop that starts and finishes in Sunriver. Mostly flat to low angle climbs and descents highlight this ride, along with very low traffic, and of course, amazing views of the Three Sisters, Mt. Bachelor, and Broken Top, as well as series of alpine lakes It is a clockwise loop out to Cascade Lakes Highway, past Craine Prairie Reservoir, north along the Deschutes River past Elk, Devils, and Sparks Lakes. Once there, you tackle a tough 900 foot climb (the lower grades are 78%) up to Mt. Bachelor ski resort, and then a fairly quick 20 mile descent back to Sunriver, losing 2100 feet along the way. Ride it clockwise; the views are much more impressive, and the climb is shorter but more rewarding. Approximately 2700 feet of total climbing.
Notes: the only reliable water along this ride is at the Elk Lake Resort, approximately 33 miles in. You can also fill up at the ski area main lodge on occasion, but it is not always available. There isn’t much shade on this ride, so riding it in direct sun on a hot day can be a chore. On the other hand, you are in the mountains, topping out at 6300 feet, so if it is bad weather down in town, expect it to be 15 degrees cooler up top, and much wetter. Snow is fairly common in May, and also happens occasionally in June. Thunderstorms are possible year round: be prepared, as there is little or no cell service on much of this ride. Weekend traffic with boats can be somewhat consistent: on weekdays, especially in the fall, this road is deserted. The road opens after snow melt in late spring, and stays open till winter snows fill in and close the road.
Directions from Sunriver:
Leave Sunriver, heading west toward Mt. Bachelor.
Approximately 4 miles in, make a left turn onto National Forest Road 40. The road is a 2-lane paved road heading west.
Follow NF40 for around 15 miles, eventually T-ing into Cascade Lakes Highway. Make a right hand turn toward Elk and Lava Lakes. Stay on this road (unless you deviate to take a dip in one of the lakes) for approximately 25 miles. You will see the top of the ski area at around 22 miles.
On the descent past the ski area, you will come to an intersection after 25 miles, the Sunriver cutoff. Take a right (there will likely be a sign saying “Sunriver 16 miles”). Follow the road back down to Sunriver to complete the loop.
Sunriver to East Lake:
Another must-do road ride for stronger riders when staying inSunriver. 54 miles round trip, approximately 2500 feet of total climbing. The climb up to Newberry Crater, where both Paulina and East Lake have been created in the caldera, is a great cycling climb: lots of curves, nice shoulder, reasonable gradient from 4-6%, with around 2300 feet of total climbing over 6 miles. The views on the climb stretch from Mt.Hood in the north, all the way down to Mt. Shasta on a clear day. Once in the caldera, the steep chutes of Paulina Peak loom just overhead, and heavily forested slopes end along the shores of 2 cold, snowfed lakes that are lightly traveled.
- Notes: water available Paulina Lake campground. The top of this climb is 6500 feet, and the caldera stays fairly cool year round. Bring a vest or armwarmers for the descent if it is cold or even in the 60’s down low; it could be 40’s up top. The road to East Lake typically opens around mid May. Before that time, you can ride up to the snow level.
Leave Sunriver heading west toward Mt. Bachelor; around 200 meters after passing through the stoplight at the Business Park, turn right onto South Century Drive (it may not be marked as such, but it is an obvious intersection. If you have passed over the Deschutes at Harper’s Bridge, you have gone too far.
Once on S. Century, stay on that road for approximately 8 miles. It eventually becomes Huntingon (don’t bear right at 4 miles into the ride; keep going south).
You will stay on Huntington, crossing over State Rec. Road, and approximately ¾ of a mile later, eventually see a left hand turn which immediately crosses train tracks. Turn here, then crossing Hwy 97. You will then be on the road to Newberry Crater (there will be a major sign at the intersection noting the turn).
Stay on this road for around 19 miles, until you hit the end of the road at East Lake! Turn around and trace your route back.
Sunriver to Lava Butte summit:
Looking for a quick, challenging ride out of Sunriver? This one is the ticket. You net approximately 950 feet of climbing heading to the top, over 8 miles, with a solid 500 foot, 10% wall in the last mile. Amazing views await you at the summit; you can look right across to the Cascades, unencumbered by the low hills that block views down below. Take care on the descent: you can hit 50mph coasting, which is way too fast for this curving narrow road with basically a blind corner the entire way down. There will be lots of pedestrians on the road at peak times, to take care not to be a jerk. It is a good Strava testpiece, too! KOM is 4:52 from the start of the real climb to the top. Extra credit for doing multiple laps.
Leave Sunriver via Circle 10: Cottonwood Road. This road heads east toward Hwy 97. It will pass under Hwy 97; stay on the road, and it will take you right to Lava Lands (approximately 6 miles).
Once in Lava Lands, take a right to the lava field, pass through the fence, and head for the top. Enjoy the view on top, and turn it around to head home. Alternately, you can get back to Sunriver by staying on the road to Benham Falls, and catching the new paved multi-use path back to Circle 7.
Rides outside of Sunriver, but world-class and definitely rides you will always remember. These 3, IMO, are 3 of the 4 best rides in Central Oregon; the other being the Cascade Lakes Loop out of Sunriver.
Sisters-Mckenzie Bridge out and back:
82 miles, 6500 feet of climbing. This ride is a stout ride, best for strong riders. Weaker or time-challenged riders can ride out of Sisters, up the McKenzie scenic highway 242, to the summit of McKenzie Pass and the overlook, for 34 miles round trip and 2300 feet of climbing. If you are up for it, I recommend the whole ride though.
Directions: Park in Sisters (elevation 3150 feet). I like to park at the West Portal, just on the west side of town; there are restrooms there and ample parking. Head west out of town on Highway 242, the McKenzie Pass scenic route. It is a very lightly traveled road, open for cars from July 4th through the first big snow in late fall, and open for cyclists usually in late April to mid-May until the end of fall. This is an out and back ride. Head West on 242; the climb starts out gradually as a false flat for the first 8 miles, then kicks up to 5-8% in grade. Once you hit the lava fields at 4800 feet elevation. The route becomes rolling, gradually up toward the summit and lava rock moonscape at 5400 feet, approximately 17 miles into the ride.
If you are up for the entire ride, keep heading west over the pass, toward the town of McKenzie Bridge. 22 miles of epic descending awaits. Great pavement, minimal traffic, hairpin turns for several miles; it is a treat. You ride through a beautiful old growth and 2nd growth forest in a deep canyon, following the beautiful Lost Creek. Once you hit that 22 miles, you will intersect with highway 126. Turn left (West) and ride another 5 or so miles to the small town of McKenzie Bridge. There you can get coffee and treats at the coffee shop, or snacks and water just across the street at the grocery store. This is the only water and food on the entire ride. You will have completed 50% of the ride’s distance by this point, but only around 30% of the difficulty, so don’t pass up the opportunity to refuel. It can be much warmer on this side of the mountains in the morning: alternately, it can be cooler and cloudy. Come prepared: only in the heat of summer will I forgo a vest and arm warmers for the long descent.
Turn it around, and re-trace your route. This is an extremely enjoyable climb; a huge canopy of forest, a deep 1500 foot canyon to ride through, and great pavement, with virtually no traffic. It is a tough climb though: the first 800 or so feet of elevation gain from McKenzie Bridge is mostly false flat, but then things kick up fairly steeply for a sustained period. From 2200 feet to 4800 feet, it is a solid 5.5% grade, with steeper sections in the 7-9% range. Not the hardest climb you will ever see, but definitely strenuous and sustained. The upper part is especially scenic, with the road wrapping around the side of the canyon toward the end, and views of the Three Sisters. Want to test yourself against the pro peloton, which raced this in the Cascade Classic in recent years? In 2010, we did the climb from the 2000 feet level to 4720 feet (10.0 miles distance) in 37:05 for the lead group: that is around 16.1 mph average for the entire climb. Once you hit the 4750 feet elevation level, the climb becomes stair-step, with false flats and short 9% sections bringing you the last few miles through the lava fields up to the observatory. This is followed by a bombing descent down to Sisters for the final 17 miles. Strong racers will do this ride solo in around 4:15, but it could easily be 6+ hours for more casual riders. It is worth it; one of the top 10 road rides in America, perhaps.
Notes: Bring a camera: the views at the summit are epic. Weather can be unpredictable in late afternoons; best to start this ride early. Only water and food available is at the turnaround in McKenzie Bridge. If you turn around early, make sure you are supported with enough water and fuel. The descent can be slick in the fall due to foilage on the road. Bring appropriate clothing for the descent: it is a long way and can be quite cool. Most importantly; bring good legs: there really isn’t a bail out point on this ride; if you can’t make it back up the climb, your best bet is to grab a ride from a passing motorist.
Mitchell-Twickenham-Service Creek Loop:
69 miles, 6900 feet of climbing, or 84 miles/8200 feet of climbing with the extra credit Keys Creek Summit climb. This is a hard ride! Surely one of the toughest in Oregon. Also one of the best; it is perhaps my favorite ride in the state. It is remote: one water stop, little shade, so if you ride it in the summer, start early. It is a good ride to do in the fall/winter/spring, as the road is rarely snowed in, and it is typically dry out here. Weather can be raging 15 miles west, and all you have to account for out here is a stiff wind. The Ochoco mountains to the West and South tend to hold moisture at bay.
If you ask me, this is arguably the best ride in Oregon. Epic high-desert mountain scenery, nearly deserted roads, very challenging route, with medium length and steep climbing. Starting in Mitchell (around 90 minutes NE of Bend, on HWY 26, east of Prineville), this one is worth doing for any strong rider. You can park anywhere in Mitchell; it is a super small town of a couple hundred. I usually park at the Post Office.
Start by heading north out of town, on Hwy 207. This is a fairly gentle, rolling start.
At 10.5 miles, turn left onto a primitive paved road to the left: S. Twickenham Rd. You will drop 1600 feet down to the John Day river on this road: there is no centerline and the pavement is not in great shape, so take care on the descent. The descent is approximately 7.3 miles, through a high-desert and steppe canyon. Once you cross the John Day, stay on the paved road (I don’t believe there are any other paved options). You will stay on this road for another 15.3 miles: it becomes Rowe Creek Rd. at this point. As you have probably assumed by now; crossing a river means climbing out of the canyon on the other side; this is the first real climb of the day, although it is the easiest. Mostly passing by small farms and logging operations: eventually it climbs into a typical Western pine forest. Very scenic and quiet up here; you might see a couple of cars the entire climb. Topping out at 3800 feet, for a solid 2400 feet of climbing, but the majority of the first half is rolling to false flat. It really only kicks up toward the end, for an average of 5.6% over the last 3K of climbing or so. The entire climb averages under 4%. It is easy to go too hard and pay for your efforts later in the ride, so don’t blow yourself up early.
At this point, the ride hits Hwy 19. Head right and start the long, fast, straight descent to Service Creek. The store at Service Creek offers the only food and water along the ride. It is open 5 days a week during the off-season (used to be closed Mon-Tuesday, check for current hours), and typically open 7 days a week during the warm months, as they serve rafters along the John Day. I think they have a well or hose out front for water, if they are closed: best to check though before assuming you can get water here. Drinking out of the John Day River is not recommended: there are plenty of farms and cow pastures up-river.
At Service Creek, take the obvious right-hand turn onto Hwy 207 once again, for the ride back to Mitchell. It is around 23 miles back to town This is easily the toughest 1/3 of the ride, and where the fun begins if you enjoy climbs. Total elevation gain on this section is a tough 3600 feet. The climb in front of you is only 3.5 miles at 6.5%, 1200 feet of climbing, but that is deceptive: the middle 800 feet of climbing is at 7.6%, with sections over 10%. It is also a gorgeous climb, with the road hugging the cliff-side and the canyon below. Once over the top, pasture-like western scenes dominate, with old farm houses and ranches dotting the hillsides. A quick descent, by yet another climb, is up; this one rising around 1000 feet in 3.2 miles, for an average grade of 5.9%. It doesn’t have the steep ramps of the prior climb though, so it features a higher average speed, but you will definitely be feeling the climbing in your legs by this point. Cresting this final climb leaves you with around 12 miles of rolling terrain back to Mitchell. Total ride was 69 miles and 6900 feet of climbing! That is a tough day.
At this point, you have ridden 69 miles. If your legs are up for it, hit the final climb of the day, east up HWY 26 to Keys Creek Summit. It is a less pleasant climb than than the others; the road pitches straight up, and you can see the summit for most of the climb, giving the rider an “are we there yet?” playback loop feel. 5.2 miles of nearly 1500 feet of climbing, an average grade of 5.2%, but the top is sustained 6.5 to 7.5%. Luckily, there usually a nice tailwind blowing. Great views of the Ochoco mountains to the west and south from the summit. If you summited, you are looking at 81 miles and 8400 feet of climbing on the day.
Notes: this is the hardest ride described here. Steep climbs peppered throughout: the profile looks like a shark’s mouth. Be prepared and fit. Weather can be variable out here: I have been on days when the temps are easily 100+ in the canyons, with little to no breeze, and other days when it has been whipping wind in the high 30’s. Yet another time, we encountered a rainstorm in March, with temps hovering around 40 degrees. Ride time on the 69 mile loop can range from 3:45 for a VERY strong rider to who knows how long for an out of shape rider. With the Keys Creek Summit throw in, my best time is around 4:28; that is at 3.3 w/kg average power, for those of you with power meters, and 3.97 w/kg normalized. We did the ride with some Cat 3 and 4 racers once, they were rolling in at around 4:05 to 4:20 for the 69 mile loop. With that said, take your time, pace yourself, and you should be fine. The few motorists on the road are typical local and very friendly: be sure and wave. You can probably grab a ride in the back of their pickup if you are really blown too.
Trout Creek Valley-Fossil Ride.
Another rugged High-Desert ride. This one is a big ride: 95 miles, 7700 feet of climbing, mostly through desert country. No shade. There is water at the John Day Fossil Beds, which lie just east of the John Day river, which is approximately 30 miles into the ride, and at Fossil, where there is a small store (I believe it is closed Sundays). Highlights are seeing perhaps 5 cars an hour, steep climbing, big canyons, pine forests up in the hills, and just being out in nature, in a beautiful, sparsely populated area.
This is basically an out and back, with one intersection in Antelope. To start, travel around 17 miles north of Madras on Hwy 97: find the HWY 293/Antelope Highway intersection on the right, and park at one of the pull outs near the creek. Hop on the bike, and head east on the canyon road. This is a low-angle, false flat climb up to Antelope (a town that was taken over and re-named in the mid 1980’s by the Rajneeshee group that settled nearby). I don’t know that there are any services there. Keep heading east (road becomes HWY 218 at this point) till you get to Fossil, another 33 miles further on. The climb out of Antelope is the easiest on the route: 1100 feet at around 4%. Once up top, a screaming descent down to the John Day River and Clarno await. Once you have crossed the river and moved through the John Day Canyon, start a gradual climb toward Fossil, passing the fossil beds (and a water/bathroom stop) along the way. This climb really doesn’t kick up in the beginning: the grade is fairly casual, but the last 3 miles average a stout 7.3%. Fortunately, it is a scenic climb, along the canyon-side, with no traffic, only cows to keep you company. Once up top, take in a fast, winding, classic 1000 foot descent down into Fossil, for water and refreshments if necessary. I would turn around at the top if you are feeling less than 100% at this point; that climb back out of Fossil can really add some sting to your legs, and you will want to be fresh for the big climb back out of the John Day River valley. Strong riders and those still feeling good; head into Fossil.
At this point, flip it around. The climb out of Fossil is not too bad, right at 1000 feet at 4.2%, with nice hairpins. A long descent back to the John Day River awaits; maybe a good idea to get some water at the Fossil Beds while you are there. Next up: by far the hardest climb of the day. It is fairly unrelenting; only 5.8%, but for 8 miles, with a total elevation gain of 2400 feet, and no real rest. Add in a PM headwind, and you will be on this climb for at least 45 minutes. It has nice corners and great pavement though, definitely a test piece. Once over the climb, it is all downhill back to the car for another 19 miles. Enjoy it; you earned it!
Notes: hard climb, it goes without saying, but you can choose to ride part or all of it, as it is out and back. There should be water available at the Fossil Beds outside of Clarno during the warmer months: they probably shut off the taps during the winter. Fossil has services, but they are likely to close mid-afternoon on Saturday. Bring lots of water and food: no shade on this ride! Watch out for Rattlesnakes: I nearly hit one on a descent the last time I was out here. You won’t see many people on this ride, cyclists or otherwise. That is more due to location than anything else. It is a good 70 minutes from Bend to the start of the ride.