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Scenic Bikeways Showcase Central Oregon’s Backroad Beauty

Oregon’s official scenic bikeways are the first of their kind in the U.S – and Central Oregon is home to 6 of the state’s 11 most beautiful bike routes.

An absolute summer must for road cyclists are riding the best of the best – our scenic bikeways. Every rider can find a ride to suit their style and mood, from family friendly to adventurous.

CROOKED RIVER CANYON SCENIC BIKEWAY

Riders begin the 37 mile out-and-back journey in the historic community of Prineville. The bikeway follows the Crooked River south out of town, giving riders picturesque views of the surrounding llama farms and cattle ranches.

The route leaves the pastures behind as it enters the Crooked River Canyon. The road slips through the canyon’s towering basalt cliffs, gently curving and climbing to a scenic view near Palisades Campground before descending back toward the river. Riders will pedal by Chimney Rock Recreation Site, a popular picnicking spot and fun place to watch local anglers fly fish in the Crooked River.

The final stretch of the Crooked River Scenic Bikeway continues through the canyon and passes by several other day-use sites and campgrounds. Observant riders might spot resident wildlife like deer, great blue herons and golden eagles. The bikeway ends at Big Bend Campground, which has parking, restrooms, water and power.

TWIN BRIDGES SCENIC BIKEWAY

This 36-mile ride begins in Bends downtown Drake Park and follows an engaging, moderately hilly course past the city limits into farm and ranch country, rolling through rimrock canyons with views of snowcapped peaks. Cross the Deschutes River at Twin Bridges Road, and stop in the quaint town of Tumalo. Dip your feet in the cool, clear water, get lunch or sip a latte before powering home. With no extended climbs, it’s a great way to fill your lungs with mountain-fresh air and take in the sublime scenery.

 

SISTERS TO SMITH ROCK SCENIC BIKEWAY

This moderate 37-mile route weaves through Sisters Country to Smith Rock State Park’s impressive rock walls. The Crooked River winds at the base of the volcanic, multicolored formations towering above the valley floor. Watch rock climbers from all over the world tackle thousands of ascent routes. The varied, rolling terrain is generally downhill from Sisters. It is a perfect point-to-point ride if you leave a support vehicle in the public parking areas at each end.

 

MCKENZIE PASS SCENIC BIKEWAY

This challenging 37-mile route winds through deep forests, climbing to a volcanic lava-rock moonscape summit. This is likely the most interesting and beautiful scenery you’ll ever get on a bike ride. Stop at the Dee Wright Observatory, built from lava rock, and take in spectacular views of the Three Sisters mountains. A huge bonus: most of this ride is on Route 242 (on the U.S. Register of Historic Places), and it’s open to bicycles in spring.

 

METOLIUS RIVER LOOPS

These loops vary from short, family-friendly rides of about three miles, to a moderate, 24-mile ride if you connect several of the shorter loops. The loops begin and end at the 90-year-old Camp Sherman Store and Fly Shop. Travel along the wild and scenic waters of the Metolius River to the Wizard Falls fish hatchery where kids can feed the trout, kokanee and Atlantic salmon. Educational signs describe how the headwaters of the Metolius mark the marvelous beginning of the 28-mile river that flows through meadow and forest and careens through canyon walls before it empties into Lake Billy Chinook. Take in all hues of green in the spring and summer, or stunning reds, yellows, and oranges throughout the fall.

MADRAS MOUNTAIN VIEW SCENIC BIKEWAY

This 30-mile loop through high desert and basalt palisades provides sweeping views of the Cascade Mountains and almost no traffic. Begin and end in small, friendly downtown Madras. Pedal to the stunning overlook above Cove Palisades State Park and Lake Billy Chinook to glimpse eagles and other raptors soaring. Wind through the little towns of Culver and Metolius, stopping for refreshments along lightly trafficked roads. This area’s mild winters offer great year-round riding, with sun-drenched days extending throughout winter, spring, and fall.

 

Ted Taylor
Ted Taylor
Ted Taylor manages COVA's digital content, media relations, PR and social media. He's an award-winning reporter and editor who has worked in newspaper and televisions newsrooms in Nebraska, Colorado, Arkansas and Oregon. A former assistant golf professional, Ted still loves to sneak in a quick 9, but you're more likely these days to find him on the mountain bike trails when he's not spending time with his family. He's called Bend home for 17 years.