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Nature Trail Paves Path From Sunriver to Lava Lands

Getting from one of Central Oregon’s premier destination resorts to one of the state’s premier tourist destinations just got a whole lot easier (and more fun.)

The U.S. Forest Service in 2014 officially opened the Sun-Lava Trail, a 5.5-mile paved bike path that connects the Lava Lands Visitor Center with Sunriver Resort and the Benham Falls day use area along the Deschutes River.

Benham Falls area near Sunriver Resort
Benham Falls area

The trail was a long-time coming after efforts of Central Oregon land-use managers to find creative ways to connect communities and landmarks to each other.

Sunriver and Bend have been connected for years by a relatively easy singletrack mountain bike trail, but it wasn’t very accessible for a lot of recreational bike riders. And while this paved trail doesn’t go all the way to Bend, it can be connected to that singletrack for those wanting a little more adventure than the road might offer them.

The gently rolling trail offers the tranquility and scenery of Central Oregon’s world-renowned mountain bike singletrack with the pedaling ease of a bike lane on an uncrowded city street.

In other words, it’s a perfect trail for just about everyone.

Benham Falls Area near Sunriver Resort

From the Lava Lands Visitors Center it is a mostly downhill ride for about 3.5 miles before you come to a railroad crossing. Cross the tracks and veer left for about 2.5 miles to Sunriver, or veer right and cross a little wooden bridge toward the Benham Falls area.

The paved path turns into dirt a short while after that, but it’s rideable for most types of bicycles. There’s some spots along the river to go closer to the water for some amazing photo opportunities.

sunlava trail 5

You can park at Lava Lands year round, although the visitor center there is closed during the winter. There’s really no bad time of year to visit the park and the Trail of Molten Lands, where you can walk among a sea of lava rock left behind by a giant eruption thousands of years ago.

TAYLOR - LAVA LANDS 2
Trail of the Molten Lands, Lava Lands

From Sunriver, you can access the path to Lava Lands via a small parking area off East Cascades Road between Circles 7 and 9. (There’s no Circle 8.) View Map

From that parking area, there is also access to the Deschutes River Trail. The maps you might get from local vacation rental properties indicate that the trail is for “experienced bike riders only.” Yes, there are some rocky sections, but it’s far from advanced, technical riding. I would take my 11-year-old son on the trail in a heartbeat and he’d probably have little trouble navigating the rocks. And while there is some short steep sections that take you up and out of the river canyon, there’s only about 125 feet of elevation gain.  An out and back to Benham Falls on that trail is 7.2 miles.

 

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.