BEND, Ore. — Perhaps one of the best things about mountain biking in Central Oregon is that the season is nearly year-round.
Don’t want to pay for a season pass to Bachelor this winter? You can always spend your winter weekends mountain biking instead of skiing or snowboarding.
And most of the time you do not even need a fatbike designed for snow.
Minus the periods of winter when deep snow lingers on the ground, mountain bikers can usually find ridable trails all through late fall and winter on the High Desert.
The Maston area is one of the prime late-autumn and winter mountain biking destinations, and it’s popular with trail runners as well.
Located north of Bend between Tumalo and Eagle Crest Resort, the Maston area is a flat plateau just west of the Deschutes River that includes about 20 miles of singletrack with endless loop options. Most of the trails feature rolling terrain along sagebrush and juniper trees.
The network is an inviting place for beginners or families — or those just looking for a mellow ride — because it has no crushing climbs or heart-pounding descents.
After several days of rain and cold temperatures, the singletrack at Maston was in prime shape on a recent weekend.
I made the 20-minute drive from Bend to meet a friend at the Maston trailhead for a 12.5-mile ride around the outer loop.
The dirt was firm and tacky, with no puddles, making for nearly ideal conditions.
The Bureau of Land Management has designated Maston as a mountain biking area in the Cline Buttes Recreation Area Plan. Maston constitutes about 4,000 acres of the plan’s 32,000 acres, where trails are in the works for mountain bikers, hikers and horseback riders.
Over the last few years, the BLM’s development of Maston as a mountain biking destination has become evident, with trail junction signs and a trailhead with a map kiosk, restrooms and designated parking. On weekends, it can fill up.
I typically ride the outer loop at Maston, and it works well in either direction. We started out riding clockwise on the outer loop, encouraged to find the perfect trail conditions.
At Maston, riders can find a nice rhythm on the desertlike trails, gaining speed on the downhill sections and never getting hindered by grueling uphill sections.