BEND, Ore. — Mountain biking season never really ends in Central Oregon — riders just find different areas to go.
So as the snow starts to fall and cover the well-known trails west of Bend on the edge of the Cascade Range, mountain bikers can venture east or north of town to often find more suitable trail conditions.
Smith Rock State Park, just north of Redmond in Terrebonne, is more known as a rock-climbing hotspot, but the area is home to many miles of trails for hikers and mountain bikers.
One way to avoid some of the crowds but still enjoy the park’s dramatic scenery is to bring a bike, which can get folks more quickly to some of the more remote areas surrounding the park, such as Burma Road, the Gray Butte Trail, and the Summit Trail.
These trails, combined with the Wolf Tree Trail and the River Trail, provide a thrilling 13-mile loop/out-and-back ride that includes all the things that most mountain bikers love: tacky singletrack, punishing climbs and amazing vistas.
While ascending Burma is a challenge on a mountain bike, once at the top, riders have access to some unique trails, including the Gray Butte Trail. The memorable hillside singletrack that leads to Gray Butte offers sprawling views of the Crooked River National Grassland and the Cascade Range.
From the top of Burma Road, bikers can connect to the Gray Butte Trail leading toward the butte. Several options exist, including completing the Cole Loop to the east or the Burma Loop to the north.
Both rides skirt the summit of Gray Butte. Some mountain bikers also shuttle to start from near the top of Gray Butte and ride (mostly downhill) all the way back to Smith Rock.
The Gray Butte Trail cuts along the hillside and is fast, flowing and fun. Keeping both eyes on the trail is a must because it runs along a precipitous drop-off to the northwest, and veering off the narrow singletrack could lead to disaster.
If bikers want to take in the view — which is hard to ignore — it is best to stop first.
Where the hillside section ends, bikers can connect to the Cole Loop Trail or continue along the Gray Butte Trail.
At the junction of the Gray Butte Trail and Burma Road is the Summit Trail, a path of switchbacks that connects to the River Trail on the west side of the park. The River Trail takes bikers into the main rock-climbing area of Smith Rock State Park along the Crooked River. Bikers should ride with caution there, as the trail is often crowded with hikers and climbers.
Here are some other mountain biking options as winter approaches in Central Oregon:
Off Cline Falls Highway between Tumalo and Eagle Crest Resort, Maston offers some of the best late fall and winter mountain biking in Central Oregon. The area is mostly flat, making the singletrack trails ideal for all skill levels.
One trail skirts the edge of the Deschutes River canyon, offering nice views of the river far below. Two trailheads for Maston are accessible from Cline Falls Highway, including the south trailhead off Newcomb Road and the north trailhead, called Juniper.
Minutes from downtown Redmond, but seemingly in the middle of the desert, the Radlands offer mountain bikers easy access to some intriguing and challenging trails.
The trail network is known for its rocky and technically difficult terrain and is close to home for mountain bikers who live in Redmond. It is also well worth the trip a few times each fall and winter for those who live in Bend or elsewhere in Central Oregon.
Consisting of about 12 to 15 miles of looped singletrack trails in northeast Redmond, the Radlands provide a sort of urban mountain biking, but the trails never really lose their wildness. Lava rock is incorporated creatively into much of the singletrack, designed by volunteers with the Central Oregon Trail Alliance.
Wide-open vistas, Cascade Mountain views, long climbs and thrilling descents can all be found on the nearly 30 miles of singletrack on Horse Ridge.
Located about 15 miles southeast of Bend off U.S. Highway 20 in a seemingly desolate area where the terrain offers a stark contrast to the trails west of Bend, Horse Ridge is a favorite of local mountain bikers in the fall and winter.
Sometimes, the trails remain ridable all through the winter. The trails are fairly technically challenging, with loads of lava rock on certain stretches.