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November 14, 2018 Slideshows » Outside

Top 10 Gravel Rides in Central Oregon 

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Water and Lava – Bend.   The best entry-level gravel ride in the area is absolutely beautiful and includes riding along the Deschutes River, a visit to Benham Falls, a trip through lava fields and a climb to the top of Lava Butte.  Loop: 30 miles/1,400 feet elevation gain Mixed route: About 65 percent gravel, single track and bike path Difficulty: Easier Rideable: Early spring to late fall. This route rides good almost all the time
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The Pyramids - 35 min west of Sisters. This ride takes you to see the Three Pyramids Mountains on logging roads that are bordered by wildflowers, with big views. The 1-mile singletrack is a hiking trail that slices deep into a lush forest. Loop: 22 miles/2,200 feet elevation gain Gravel route: About 90 percent gravel with 1 mile of single track Difficulty: Advanced Rideable: Early summer through fall
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Big Red  - near La Pine. Big Red is the name of Oregon's largest ponderosa pine tree. He's an old guy, at more than 500 years old—which means he was alive when the first Europeans started coming to this continent. Also on this ride: the lovely Fall River Falls (yes, that's really the name), and gently rolling singletrack trails along the Deschutes and Fall Rivers. If you want to turn this into a much longer ride from Bend, at 59 miles of fun, check out BIG, Big Red.   Loop: 17 miles/500 ft elevation gain (or 59 miles of Big, Big Red) Mixed route: About 65 percent gravel road/double-track/single-track sector Difficulty: Easier+ Rideable: Spring through fall. Rides great all three seasons
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Bonanza - near Brothers. Tumbleweeds, cattle ranches, rolling hills and bold vistas, this ride is 100 percent gravel with very little traffic. Expect big, wide roads that have excellent gravel. Loop: 51 miles/3,200 feet elevation gain Gravel route: 100 percent gravel Difficulty: Intermediate Rideable: Late spring through fall—can be hot and dry in the summer
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Ghost of Ashwood – near Madras. Ever been to a ghost town on your bike? Time to head out to Ashwood. Besides visiting the historic Ashwood post office, you'll have 44 miles of amazing views and an incredible canyon, tossed in with very little traffic. I've done the entire 44 miles, only seeing two to four cars. Loop: 44 miles/4,300 feet elevation gain Mixed route: About 55 percent gravel Difficulty: Intermediate Rideable: Late spring (after mud season) through late fall
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Priest Hole – near Mitchell. Heading out to see the famous Painted Hills is always just an amazing experience. On this ride you can toss in 42 miles for a loop on a mixture of gravel and road to make the day even more spectacular. The contrast between the harsh landscape against the river is stunning. Loop: 42 miles/3,500 feet elevation gain Mixed route: About 50 percent gravel Difficulty: Intermediate Rideable: Spring through late fall—summer is hot!
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Sherman's March - Camp Sherman. Camp Sherman area is one of the most diverse and scenic areas to ride in Central Oregon. This ride includes mountain views, the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery, Metolius River, the Head of the Metolius and Round Lake.  Loop: 52 miles/4,000 feet elevation gain (Several shorter options available, too.) Mixed route: About 60 percent gravel, with two single-track sectors of 5 miles total Difficulty: Intermediate Rideable: Spring through fall—spring and late fall are best
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Path of Totality - near Madras. You might drive through and never think much about Madras—yet this ride has some of the best views of Central Oregon. The road along Lake Simtustus and climb up through Willow Creek canyon and the rim along Lake Billy Chinook are all unbelieveable. There's also the challenging 20 percent climb up M hill in Madras on a bike path and the scenic climb over Round Butte. Loop: 41 miles/3,000 feet elevation gain Mixed route: About 25 percent gravel/double track Difficulty: Intermediate Rideable: Early spring to late fall—sometimes winter
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Big Summit Prairie Loop (short) – about 30 min. east of Prineville. A classic wild west ride, the route circumnavigates the Big Summit Prairie, a beautiful prairie deep within the Ochoco National Forest. Loop: 48 miles/3,800 feet of elevation gain Mixed route: About 45 percent gravel Difficulty: Intermediate Rideable: Late spring through fall. Spring is spectacular!
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Billy's Playground - Sisters. Imagine quiet roads, a mixture of road and gravel and a mixture of terrain, from woods to grasslands. The route even includes a stop at the ghost town cemetery of Grandview. It's a big ride; an all-day adventure. Loop: 67 miles/3,800 feet elevation gain Mixed route: About 55 percent gravel Difficulty: Intermediate Rideable: Spring through fall—summer can be scorching!
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Submitted
Water and Lava – Bend.   The best entry-level gravel ride in the area is absolutely beautiful and includes riding along the Deschutes River, a visit to Benham Falls, a trip through lava fields and a climb to the top of Lava Butte.  Loop: 30 miles/1,400 feet elevation gain Mixed route: About 65 percent gravel, single track and bike path Difficulty: Easier Rideable: Early spring to late fall. This route rides good almost all the time
There's lots of buzz in the cycling community about gravel riding. With new bikes that are a mashup between mountain bikes and road bikes, this is a new type of cycling for a lot of riders, with routes that are both challenging and scenic. And with the forecast offering plenty of sunny days and highs in the 50s, there's still time in the season to check these out—or to save them for your bucket list in the spring.

Don't have a gravel bike? At least two local shops, Sunnyside Sports, and Webcyclery, rent them. Or, hop on your mountain bike and just give it a go!

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