Winter Gravel Cycling: Routes for Even the Darkest of Days | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Winter Gravel Cycling: Routes for Even the Darkest of Days

Oh, you thought cycling season was over for 2020? Nope. Let these awesome Central Oregon gravel routes ignite your love for gravel riding.

Darker. Colder. Sometimes it’s hard to find that motivation to bike outside in the winter. But with a few extra layers of clothing and some good route selection, you’ll be sneaking in quite a few extra miles. Bend, Redmond and Prineville frequently have winters without much snow in town; the key here is learning to check the elevation to avoid snowy routes.  

click to enlarge Winter Gravel Cycling: Routes for Even the Darkest of Days
Linda English
Higher elevation riding can also lead to some pretty great views.

There are two tricks with elevation: the first is to pay attention to where the snow line is around town or when you drive up to the mountain, and then compare elevations to your routes on RidewithGPS using the elevation profile. (Bend is at 3,600 feet, Redmond 3,077, Sunriver 4,167 and Sisters 3,182).  

The second trick is to use the snow overlay feature in
Gaia (an online and app mapping tool) to see the snow depth in the areas you want to ride. (It’s been really amazing.) This mapping tool sources snow depth levels from NOAA National Weather Service.

As for areas to ride, here are a few ideas to help ease you out the door. Happy trails!   

Smith Rock area: This is known for being warmer, drier and free of snow. We recommend either the Skull Hollow or the Haystack gravel routes. They will loop you on a mix of gravel and paved surfaces with stunning views of Mt Jefferson and Smith Rock.

Horse to Horse route in Bend: We created this gravel route specifically for winter riding. It’s 38 miles and 1,800 of climbing, all on terrain that typically doesn’t hold snow. You’ll enjoy the open sunny views that take you from Horse Butte to Horse Ridge and back on a mix of gravel, paved road and single track.  

Maupin area: Maupin is a tiny town just over an hour and half drive from Bend. With an elevation of only 1,345, we’ve found winter days that were just balmy. White River Loop, Macks Canyon, Dufur and Friend, Tygh My Shoes, and Summit Ridge are all gravel routes that stay low and offer up just amazing rides. It’s hard to choose which route tops out as our favorite, but Macks Canyon is just stunning as you cut through a deep canyon that hugs the Deschutes River.   

Madras area: Donnybrook and Y Madras stay below 4,000 feet, which translates to rideable in the winter (most of the time). These are big, wide farm roads so with a little luck and good sunshine, they will stay rideable most of the winter.  

Other Bend routes: The most popular Bend gravel routes for winter include Twin Bridges Gravel and Alpaca, which take you on tours of Tumalo. In Plain View is a quick trip between Bend and Sisters, with impressive views of the Sisters Mountains. Westside Tour and Eastside Tour keeps you close to Bend with lots of options to bail out in bad weather. And on Townie, heck you never leave Bend; you meander on all sorts of bike paths inside Bend. 

You’ll find more routes like these on Dirty Freehub. With over 7,000 miles of curated routes, all of the routes are free to download and use. Go to   

-Linda English is the co-founder of Dirty Freehub, an online catalogue to great gravel bike routes.  
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