The Central Oregon Adventure 6-Pack

Bill Breneman

6 Adventures…1 Day….A  Lifetime of Memories

“You should do it,” they said.

“Think about how cool it’d be,” they told me.

“You get to do it during the work day, ya know,” they reminded me.

So I said yes.

I agreed to embark upon what, for me, would be the ultimate one-day Central Oregon adventure. An adventure to showcase all that is glorius each spring in Central Oregon.

The Central Oregon Adventure 6-Pack. (OK, so that’s the best we could come up with..but hey, it’s got a beer theme, right?)

  1. Sunrise hike at Smith Rock
  2. Cinder Cone run at Mt. Bachelor
  3. 9 Holes at Widgi Creek
  4. Mountain bike ride at Phil’s Trail
  5. Kayak on the Deschutes River
  6. Complete the ENTIRE Bend Ale Trail.

Giddyup.

Smith Rock at Sunrise/Clint Melsha

Sunrise at Smith Rock

A 5 a.m. alarm comes pretty early when you’re the father of an 8-week old who demands to sleep on your chest from 4 a.m. on. It’s also tempting to hit the snooze button a thousand times knowing you’re waking up to a hike called “Misery Ridge.”

But I rolled my little girl on to the bed and hit the shower on what I knew was going to be one of the best days of my life.

We arrived at Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne just before 6 a.m. fueled with coffee, Cheerios and adrenaline. The day would be a marathon, and any thoughts we had of turning the opening hike into a sprint were quickly erased. Misery Ridge sounds a little more daunting than it is, but it’s still a leg burner no matter what time of day you hit the trail.

We opted for the four-mile loop, which includes about 1,400 feet of elevation gain. But the reward at the top is most certainly worth any bit of pain you experienced on the way up. Smith Rock, one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon, is a breathtakingly unique part of our state with sheer rock cliffs rising abruptly from the banks of the Crooked River below.

As we were heading back down the trail, the parking lot was beginning to bustle with climbers eager to get an early start.

Elena Pressprich

The Cone Run

More coffee and a sense of “maybe the worst is behind us” pushed us back to Bend and up the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway to Mt. Bachelor. We arrived just as the chairs started running, but our goal was to bypass the motorized lift to the top and hike the “cone” and for me to take a run that’s a rite of passage for Bendites.

The cinder cone is adjacent to the ski area and a favorite of skiers wanting to “earn their turns” and get fresh tracks on powder days. The cone is open all day every day and it’s free to ride the 715 feet of vertical drop. Assuming of course, you’re willing to hike the 715 of vertical ascent.

It didn’t sound all that bad considering we’d just hiked up twice that at Smith Rock. But it was a little different taking a hike in fresh snow, wearing too-small snowboard boots and carrying your board on a backpack.

After several “hey, let’s stop and take in the view/desperately gasping for my breath” breaks we made it to the top. Once again, the reward was worth the effort. (I’m sensing a theme here.) I sat down on the top of the cone to take it all in. I had been to the mountain dozens of times over the years and always looked up to the cone as something beyond my level of expertise.

“Mission accomplished” I thought as I strapped in and carved my way down the mountain toward some more fun thinking “why in the world hadn’t I done this before?”

Welcome to “The Widg”

After we loaded up the car in the Bachelor parking lot and grabbed a world famous burrito from the ski area’s Nordic center we headed back into town to Widgi Creek Golf Club, which we passed on the road up to the mountain earlier.

This, I wasn’t worried about. I served as the assistant golf professional here from 2005 to 2010 and looked forward to the nice little walk that the front 9 offers. By now, the sun was up and it was starting to feel a little more like spring and there were just a few people on the golf course. That was probably a good thing with the pace we were walking (not fast) and the number of strokes my buddy was taking each hole (many.)

But even as he was having me write down his double bogey on the scorecard, he couldn’t get over how good the course looked so early in the season. And, even more surprisingly, we played in right at 2 hours. I’ve played nearly every course in Central Oregon (we have 30)  and people always ask me “what’s your favorite golf course?” That’s impossible to answer, but if I could only play one course every  single day, I’d probably tee it up at “The Widg.”

Phil? Phil? PHIL!?!

By now our legs were good and warmed up. And tired. And maybe not ready to pedal our bikes for a little more than 7 miles at Phil’s Trail.

But, we thought, at least there’d be some downhill sections so we’d get to rest albeit briefly for a few minutes at a time. We rolled through the parking area up the slight climb of Ben’s Trail to MTB before veering up Kent’s, over to KGB (here’s the ride) back down to the Flaming Chicken and down Phil’s Trail back to the trail along the road to Skyliners and back to our car. Normally this ride takes me about 40 minutes – when it’s the only thing I’ve done all day. Today…well, let’s just say I took in the scenery a little more than usual and we got back to the care in about an hour.

Floating the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon

A River Runs Through It

As comfortable as I am on a golf course I am twice as uncomfortable on water. But that was part of the challenge – get out on a kayak on the Deschutes. I wasn’t going far and I knew I could probably touch the river bottom if I happened to fall out.

Still, my heart was beating a little more quickly with this one. Luckily I had set up a little informal lesson with Laurel from Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe. She put me at ease and stayed with us as we paddled upstream to the Healy Bridge, which was very hard for me by the way, and back to the shop, which sits right on the bank of the river.

I’m not saying I’m planning to go out and buy a kayak now, but I can say I wouldn’t be opposed to renting one for a relaxing float on one of the high lakes come summer. And for me, that’s a huge step.

Down the Hatch, Again and again and (hiccup!)

My first steps out of the kayak must have looked like the first steps of a newborn horse. A little wobbly to say the least. But, I took some confident steps toward the car knowing the “exercise” portion of the day was complete. It was, as they say, all over but the drinking.

Next up was a hike of a different sort – a hike along the Bend Ale Trail. Sixteen breweries!! stretching from Bend to Sisters with the help of the John Flannery and the Bend Tour Company. (No way we were going to ruin this epic day by drinking and driving.)

And we wouldn’t be doing all that much drinking. Yes, we planned to hit all the pubs on the trail, but no, we didn’t plan on having a full beer at each one. A taster (and appetizer) at each would suffice for crossing this final adventure off our 6-pack list.

We did, though, start off toasting our day with a well-deserved full pint of Bachelor Bitter and a burger at Deschutes Brewery. We hit up Bend Brewing Company next, McMenamins, Silver Moon, 10 Barrel, Cascade Lakes Brewing, Worthy….etc. until we had just one stamp left to get.

We ended the day with a  beer, our final stamp and a high five at the Crux Fermentation Project. My wife and daughter came by just in time to see  the kind of sunset Central Oregon is known for. Sunsets that for many of us from time to time, are the perfect exclamation point on the perfectly fun-filled day.

I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, with my head spinning – not because of the beer, but from thinking of all the reasons I love living in Central Oregon.

That alarm – in the form of my daughter – came early again the next morning.

(editors note: This adventure is an extreme example of what awaits you in Central Oregon. And while you could, of course, actually do all these things in one day in the spring, the author actually did not.)

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Sisters Weekend Getaway: Romance, Bike Rides & More

A visit to Sisters, Oregon is both a step back in time and a visit to the lap of luxury. Downtown, experience a bit of the old west through vintage storefronts welcoming visitors to a variety of shops, restaurants, and galleries. Venture down the road a bit and you’ll find an upscale, modern mini-resort in FivePine Lodge. And right outside the back door of your cozy cabin is a world of adventure waiting for you on the Peterson Ridge Trail System.

Rustic Elegance

FivePine Lodge features eight suites in a beautiful main lodge modeled after a historic forestry station and 36 craftsman-style cabins. The campus also offers a spa, Mexican restaurant, movie house, and Three Creeks Brewing Co. With the personal touch of a bed and breakfast, the privacy of romantic, cozy cabins and all the amenities of a resort, FivePine is the ultimate romantic getaway.

Shibui Spa is on site and offers a variety of packages, including a three-hour “Day of Indulgence” that features a massage, facial and pedicure.

Giddyup

Saddle up a two-wheeled horse during your stay with a mountain bike rental from Blazing Saddles. Sisters’ only bike shop is a full-service, one-stop shop for everything bike. And with demo and rentals from brands like BMC, Giant and Felt, you’re sure to get a great ride to experience our amazing trails.

According to our partners, Bend Trails, the Peterson Ridge Trails in Sisters were originally constructed in 1989 as a mountain bike trail network consisting of a combination of single-track and old forest service roads. In 2008, a major expansion of the network increased the amount of single track to over 20 miles and included signage and trail markers to aid riders in navigation.

The trails are fairly level and mostly free of technical obstacles (although some lines do have rocks and roots to negotiate).  The trail network is popular with Sisters’ residents and you can expect to encounter lots of walkers, runners, and dogs on the trails. There are also several Horse trails that interconnect into this system.

Dinner and a Show – Sisters Style

A visit to Sisters wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Three Creeks Brewing on the FivePine Lodge campus. Sisters’ only brewpub is a regional favorite that draws visitors and locals alike thanks to their delicious beers and hearty menu. Their Knotty Blonde and Hoodoo Voodoo IPA are always a good choice, as is the Chicken, Bacon, Tater sandwich featuring a chicken breast, thick cut bacon and fries smothered in a chipotle ranch and wrapped in a warm pita like a taco.

After dinner, walk about 10 steps to the lovely little Sisters Movie House where you can catch a first-run film, grab another beer and settle into the quaint theater for a couple of hours of entertainment.

Looking for some down-home comfort food? The Cottonwood Cafe is a relative newcomer to the Sisters dining scene after a complete transformation from Jen’s Garden – which served upscale French cuisine. The new restaurant has a new look, new menu and new vibe that’s been a hit.

13 Images That Will Make You Quit Your Job, Buy a Van & Drive to Central Oregon

Step one: Quit your job. Step two: Sit in these chairs at Suttle Lodge and contemplate your new future.

There are worse ways to start the morning than paddle boarding Sparks Lake. (Literally, every other way would be a worse way.)

FLY FISHING CENTRAL OREGON

This guy used to have a job like yours now he’s fly fishing on a Tuesday morning and he’s not even wearing a watch. You could be this guy.

Please don’t break your cubicle wall after seeing this picture from Smith Rock.

Don’t forget to have your mail forwarded. New address: Paradise.

It won’t take long to adjust to the local cuisine. We call this “the usual.”

Before you make any rash decisions though, you should know we do have a lot of board meetings here.

Floating the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon

And just look at this traffic jam. Gross.

Yeeeeah, we’re going to need you to come in on Saturday.

Bend’s Les Schwab Amphitheater

Then again, we throw killer parties with folks like Dave Matthews, Michael Franti, Paul Simon and some guys named Phish.

Sunriver Brewing Co. Galveston Pub

And you’ll probably make some new friends and have a chuckle around the fire. So much chuckling.

Steelhead Falls on the Deschutes River in Central Oregon

So yeah, let’s stick with the original plan because you’ll need to see Steelhead Falls.

And this mountain bike trail on Round Mountain isn’t going to ride itself.

Safe travels.

Central Oregon Shines in Back-To-Back Outside Magazine Pieces

Seeing an Outside Magazine on the end table of a home in Bend is like seeing a Patagonia puffy jacket in the closet: Not surprising.

The award-winning adventure, sport, lifestyle and travel magazine reaches some 16 million people each month and focuses on everything we love about living in beautiful Central Oregon. But it still came as something of a surprise that two Central Oregon cities were so prominently featured in back to back issues of the magazine in 2017.

In July, Bend power couple and Picky Bars founders Lauren Fleshman and Jesse Thomas were featured on the cover of Outside’s annual “Best Towns” issue while inside the city was lauded as the “Best Multi-Sport Town.”

But beyond the mountain biking, rafting, rock climbing, golf and other activities available here, the story touched on the apres-adventure lifestyle.

“There’s a booming tech industry, an exploding food-cart scene, and a growing number of concerts—this year’s include Paul Simon and Ween. In short, Bend is the kind of place where you can do the nine-to-five job thing—and actually earn a living—then do the five-to-nine fun thing, no problem.”

Just one month later, nearly 10 pages of the August issue was devoted to the surging recreation and industry profile of Prineville, a former timber town-turned-technology hub that houses huge data centers for Apple and Facebook.

“From here one can, within a 30-minute drive, catch trout on the blue-ribbon Crooked River, climb at Smith Rock, mountain bike or backcountry ski in the Ochocos, or cycle buttery roads through High-Desert juniper.

The story, “How Big Data Saved the Mountain Town, dives into the conflicting perspective from the town’s locals – those who balk at the idea of the rural community turning into something it isn’t versus those who hope for the kind of growth that begets a thriving community and economy.

The secret of Prineville is quickly getting out thanks to stories like this and a new commitment to bicycle tourism spearheaded by the team at Visit Prineville and James Good, owner of Good Bike Co.

Good’s bike shop is an oasis for bikepackers pedaling the TransAmerica Bike Trail and for cyclists who flock to Prineville’s stellar mountain bike singletrack and scenic road rides.

9 Adrenaline Pumping Adventures in Central Oregon

Sure, you could just sit around by the pool, ski, play some golf or take a leisurely hike along the river trail during a visit to Central Oregon. That right there is a fab vacation.

But why not do something that really gets the heart pumping? Something that will have you equally scared and excited. Something that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

Central Oregon has a bunch of high-octane adventures ready to help you take your vacation to the next level. Here’s our list of 9 Central Oregon adventures that will send your ticker into overdrive!

Fly Cascades Winter Wonderland Heli Tour

1. Helicopter Tours

Your heart starts beating more rapidly as soon as you step on the tarmac and make your way to the chopper. From there, your BPM likely will hover in the 110s as the helicopter gains altitude and starts flying over some of Central Oregon’s most iconic mountain peaks. See Smith Rock, the Deschutes River, Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top and South Sister like you’ve never seen before as the wind whips through the open doors of your aerial chariot. Big Mountain Heli Tours offers a variety of customizable tours.

2. Backcountry ATV Tours

Buckle up for the ultimate all-terrain adventure as you set out for a half-day tour of Central Oregon’s lava fields, forests, and high desert. Outriders NW offers you the opportunity to pilot the car or just ride along. With over 3,000 square miles of sparkling lakes, spectacular mountains, and wide-open deserts, safely access the rugged forest and high desert to explore and experience the unseen natural beauty, that most people never see in a lifetime.

3. Aerobatic Adventure Flights

For the person who wants to experience the thrills and joys of aerobatic flight without taking the controls. At Advanced Flight Dynamics, you come to their squadron, get your briefing, strap into the airplane, and set off for up to 20 minutes of extreme fun in their Xtreme Decathlon airplane while our pilot does all the flying. The pilots will fly as gentle or extreme as you like. When you return you can watch the video of your flight so all can watch and take it home with you.

4. Downhill Mountain Biking

As an extension to the 300+ miles of mountain bike singletrack offered here in Central Oregon, The Mt. Bachelor Bike Park offers lift-served access to an additional 13 miles of downhill oriented trails. The ski area’s beginner lift, Sunshine Accelerator serves as a great introduction to the bike park for all ability levels. From there, riders can progress to Pine Marten Express where a combination of machine built and single track trails provide a thrill for any adventurous spirit – from intermediate runs to advance double black diamond trails.

Chockstone

5. Rock Climbing at Smith Rock

Smith Rock is the birthplace of American sport climbing and on any given day you’ll see expert climbers scaling the sandstone spires that rise to the sky from the banks of the Crooked River. But here’s the thing: Even expert climbers had to start somewhere. Chockstone Climbing Guides has a variety of guided adventures and courses to let you experience the white-knuckle thrills of rock climbing. No experience necessary – and they provide all the gear.

6. Whitewater Rafting

What good is having a wild and scenic river if you can’t experience the “wild” part every now and then? Central Oregon has a handful of whitewater guides who can help you get up close and personal to one of the region’s most exciting playgrounds. Sun Country Tours runs the hugely popular Big Eddy Thrill Ride daily during the summer – sometimes with a local beer tasting event thrown in for good measure! Other options include Ouzel Outfitters and Imperial River Co. 

7. Bungee Jumping

I’m not sure there’s anything that will get your heart beating more rapidly than literally jumping off of a bridge. Just typing that sentence sent my heart racing. Central Oregon Bungee Adventures gives you the ability to experience the closest thing to actually flying by letting you throw yourself off a bridge at Peter Skene Ogden State Park, into the Crooked River Canyon.

Hot air balloon floating near Bend, Oregon

8. Hot Air Balloon Rides

Experience “The Art of Flight” with Big Sky Balloon Company. Hour long scenic hot air balloon flights provide a one of a kind experience in Central Oregon. Big Sky flies once a day, early in the morning and the flights are very weather dependent. Typically they’re airborne within an hour of sunrise.

Not interested in flying in a balloon? You can just enjoy the scenery at the annual Balloons Over Bend event in late June.

9. Zip Lining

Crater Lake is just 90 minutes south of Bend, making it a perfect day trip for one of the true “must see” natural wonders of the world. Drive about a half hour further and you can experience Oregon’s largest zipline. You’ll experience Oregon at its finest on your 3-hour tour with Crater Lake ZipLine. With magnificent views of Upper Klamath Lake, Cascade Mountain peaks and surrounding National Forest, you’ll be thrilled by the beauty and the adventure.

Looking for some more exciting adventures?

Take your group into the woods for an hour of paintball action with Paintball Paradise. Test your investigative skills with the Bend Escape Room – a physical adventure game where participants are placed into a room and have to use teamwork along with elements of the room to solve a series of puzzles, find clues, and escape the room within a set time limit. Each room is themed and has a unique storyline that engages the players through their environment.

Central Oregon Vacation Tip: Leave Your Cycling Gear, Rent Some Here

Riding the Ochocos in Prineville/Travis Holman

While planning a vacation to Hawaii a few years ago, I did some research on renting a road bike for my stay. Figuring cycling was a big deal there, I thought I’d have plenty of shops and plenty of bikes to choose from. Nope. The selection was thin at best and I ended up with a rickety ride that put a damper on my trip.

Well, cycling is a HUGE deal in Central Oregon. That’s why Bend area bike shops carry huge fleets of top of the line bikes to rent. So leave your gear at home and visit, feeling confident you’re going to get in a great ride during your stay. Prices will vary depending on the type of bike you want and the length of time you want it – typically, the longer you keep it, the cheaper it gets.

Helmets and bike locks are usually included as well. (You can also visit and know you won’t have to ride alone. Most of the shop have weekly group rides that are perfect for visitors.) And be sure to ask about kids’ specific bikes, Burley trailers, tandems and other riding options for you and your family.

Here’s a few of the options available to you at some of the various rental shops in town. Just click on the links to see more about their fleets of amazing bikes.

Needs some ideas on trails? Click here.

The Hub Cyclery – Downtown Bend
Mountain Bikes: Felt
Cruiser Bikes: Civia

Hutch’s Bicycles – Bend and Redmond
Mountain Bikes: Specialized, Giant and Liv (Women’s)
Road Bikes: Specialized

Pine Mountain Sports – Bend
Mountain Bikes: Santa Cruz, Trek

Cog Wild Mountain Bike Tours and Shuttles
Mountain Bikes: Santa Cruz

4 Seasons Recreational Outfitters – Sunriver
Mountain Bikes: Santa Cruz, Marin, Orbea, GT and Diamondback
They also carry cruiser and ellipticgo rentals.

Good Bike Co. – Prineville
Mountain Bikes: Trek, Surly
Road/Gravel Bikes: Cannondale, Surly
Cruisers: Electra Townies

Blazin Saddles – Sisters
Mountain Bikes: BMC, Devinci, Felt, Giant
Road Bikes: BMC

Blazin Saddles in Sisters

Sunriver Sports – Sunriver
Mountain Bikes: Trek, Specialized
Road Bikes:

Village Bike & Ski – Sunriver
Mountain Bikes: Trek, Cannondale
Road Bikes: Trek, Cannondale

MWS Sports – Bend
Mountain Bikes: Intense, KHS

10 Things Not to Miss in Central Oregon

Time and time again guests come into our Central Oregon Visitor Information Center in Sunriver and say, “We’re here for a few days. What should we do?”

And it’s always the toughest question we get.

With so much to do and see and experience in Central Oregon, it’s difficult to layout the perfect weekend itinerary for folks. But after we ask a few questions of them to get a better idea of what kind of things they like to do, we’re able to send them out the door with a smile and sense of adventure.

Here’s our list of the Top 10 things not to miss in Central Oregon.

Courtesy Elena Pressprich

1. Smith Rock State Park, Terrebonne

One of the 7 Wonders of Oregon, Smith Rock is the birthplace of American sport climbing and a feast for the eyes. Take a hike along the Crooked River and marvel at the spires that rise from the canyon floor or trek up Misery Ridge for expansive views of the High Desert and Monkey Face.

Courtesy Elena Pressprich

2. Tumalo Falls

Just 10 miles from downtown Bend, Tumalo Falls is a majestic, nearly 100-foot waterfall that cascades into the tranquil Tumalo Creek below. Take a hike along the creek and up to the top of the falls for a cool view from above. The trail continues for four miles up Happy Valley; perfect for hikers of any age.

Crux Fermentation Project
Crux Fermentation Project, Bend

3. Grab a Beer

Bend is known for exceptionally clean water – and it’s perfect for making exceptionally good beer. Enjoy a pint at any of our nearly 30 brewpubs across the region or take a tour of Deschutes Brewery, the one that started the movement here. Want to learn to brew your own? Check out Immersion Brewing where you can create your own beer in about two hours.

Broken Top Club Golf Course Sunset

4. Play a Round

Central Oregon is home to nearly 30 golf courses including three in Golf Digest’s Top 100 Courses in America and half of Oregon’s Top 10 according to Golfweek. From the forest-lined fairways of Widgi Creek to the Scottish-links berms and knolls of Tetherow, you’ll find a hugely diverse selection of challenges courses to choose from.

Big Eddy Thriller

5. Get Wet

You can’t visit Central Oregon without playing in our wild and scenic Deschutes River. The options are plentiful including a leisurely float through Bend’s Old Mill District, a surf sesh at the Bend whitewater park, a kayak adventure at Sparks Lake or an adrenaline-pumping whitewater thrill ride with Sun County Tours on the Bid Eddy. Bring a swimsuit and have some fun.

No Name Lake at the base of Broken Top/Adam McKibben

6. High Mountain Hikes

Hundreds of miles of tranquil and scenic hiking trails are waiting for you to explore. Go up into the mountains along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway and walk among the giant snow-capped peaks. Take a short hike with the kids around Todd Lake or venture higher up to the peak of majestic Broken Top. Or, closer to Bend and Sunriver, trek along the gently-rolling and beautiful Deschutes River Trail. For whatever adventure you’re looking for, there’s a trail for you.

7. Take a Ride

More than 400-miles of epic mountain bike singletrack can be found in Central Oregon, perfect for cyclists of all abilities and so close to town that you can ride to them straight from the shop you rented your bike from. Road cyclists can enjoy a handful of beautiful, well-marked scenic bikeways that showcase sights like McKenzie Pass and Smith Rock State Park.

8. Mt. Bachelor – Year Round Fun at 8,000 Feet

The 5th largest ski area in the U.S. is a year-round destination for fun and amazing views. Snow lovers can enjoy stellar skiing conditions from November through May – among the longest ski seasons in the country. Once the snow melts a little, Mt. Bachelor transforms into a downhill mountain bike Mecca with miles of adrenaline-pumping trails. Summer also means sunset dinners at nearly 9,000 feet – where the meals and views are equally as spectacular.

 

9. Explore a Lava Flow

Located on the north flank of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, what is now Lava Lands was created about 7,000 years ago after a volcanic explosion of Lava Butte. A miles-wide sea of jagged lava rock was left behind creating a unique geological landscape that served as that training ground for moon-bound astronauts.

Porcupine at a museum near Bend, Oregon

10. High Desert Museum

The High Desert Museum has been inspiring families since 1982 and is consistently rated as a top Central Oregon attraction by Trip Advisor. With 135 acres and more than 100,000 square feet of exhibit space, it’s a “must see” for anyone traveling through the area.

Get a close-up of native wildlife, such as an otter, bobcat, porcupine, and badger. Talk with historic characters who share the tales of early Oregon explorers and settlers. Visit an authentic homestead and sawmill from 1904. Experience a close flying encounter with owls, falcons, hawks and even a vulture. Learn about Native American culture and history and delight your children with one of many fun, hands-on programs that bring history and science to life.

Cycling Snow Play: Ride Central Oregon’s Groomed Fat Bike Trails

Think about the experiences in your life that had you smiling from start to finish. The kind of smile that’s equal “I can’t believe I’m doing this” and “this is so cool.” I can only think of a a few – and it includes fat biking Central Oregon’s new groomed fat bike trail system.

I should have expected as much. The Hub Cyclery owner TJ Jordan did a fat biking blog post for us here last year saying just that – that it was impossible to fat bike without smiling. And while I expected the adventure to be fun. I didn’t expect it to be this fun. 

Central Oregon is a destination for mountain bikers with more than 300 miles of world-class singletrack from Sisters to Prineville, Sunriver to Bend to Redmond. Even during the winter, many places are warm and dry enough for cyclists to take advantage of the trails. (In fact, some of the riding – like Smith Rock State Park – is much better during the winter months.)

But when the snow flies at higher elevations, most people want to get out and play in it. And for years, cyclists have been forced to hang up the bike and step into their skis for a little fun in the powder. Not any longer. Fat biking has become the newest – and maybe most fun – way to experience Central Oregon in the winter.

TJ FAT BIKING

TJ and I headed out to the Wanoga Sno-Park on a sunny and mild Monday morning and were greeted by just a few cars in the parking lot and some Nordic skiers getting ready to head out. With a huge warming hut, toilets and a massive sledding hill, Wanoga is a really great place to visit in the winter. It’s located just a few miles outside of Bend on the road up to Mt. Bachelor.

The fat bike trails begin on the Nordic trails and quickly merge with the snowshoe trails for a bit before heading into an opening where the fat bike loops begin. There’s a short, 3-mile loop and a longer loop of about 5 miles. The two begin and end at the same spot so they can be combined for a very fun 8-mile loop with about 310 feet of elevation gain.

Fat Biking Wanoga Sno-Park near Bend, Oregon

I pictured fat biking on the wide Nordic trails and having more of a beach cruise type of ride. Fun, but meandering and not a replacement for a nice mountain bike ride. The groomed fat bike trails threw that picture out the window. The trail is groomed 24″ wide and is as singletrack as it can be for fat bikes – wider tires need a wider track and you need to be able to pedal with hitting the snow on each stroke. Once we headed out on the trail, it definitely had a mountain bike vibe to it as we veered in and out of the trees.

Why Fat Bike?
* If you can ride a bike, you can fat bike.
* Snow is softer than rocks, so crashing isn’t all that bad.
* It’s faster than snowshoeing or Nordic skiing so you can still get that nice adrenaline rush you’d expect from mountain biking.
* Rentals are the same price or even cheaper than nordic ski rentals.
* More tips on fat biking in Central Oregon from our friends at BendTrails.org.

The short loop is mostly flat with a couple of spots where you can really pick up some speed. In some spots, I couldn’t help but think this is what it must be like to be in a bobsled or luge. We passed a couple of riders at the beginning of the trail and saw three others at the loop intersection.

TJ and I did the two loops in about 70 minutes and we stopped several times to take pictures and video. You could easily do the two loops in under an hour.

IMG_3275

“It’s been a great to see our fat bike community grow even more this year with the addition of the Wanoga fat bike Trails,” TJ said. “The trails are easy enough for the first timer but can also be enjoyed by the experts. And lately I’ve been seeing equally men and women using the trails. Also, the trails have gained so much popularity, folks from out of town have been visiting Bend just to ride the fat bike trails.”

Where to Rent:

The Hub Cyclery
Hutch’s Bicycles
Pine Mountain Sports
Sunriver Sports

For now, the new groomed trails at Wanoga are temporary as the Forest Service assesses the trail use by fat bikers and the relationship with other sno-park users. Fat biking is definitely here to stay, whether it’s on fat-bike specific groomers or on the massive Nordic and snowshoe trail system around the region. Here’s hoping the trail becomes (the beginning of) a permanent fixture in the Central Oregon sno-park scene.

If you’re looking for a guided experience, Cog Wild Mountain Bike Tours and Shuttles offers a cool 3-hour tour up into the mountains. 

Ride Description (courtesy BendTrails.Org)

Please Follow These Wanoga Fat Bike Trail Guidelines:

  • Weekends and Holidays – park in the upper Wanoga snowmobile parking lot and ride down to the lower Sno-Play area. For now ride the road, between the upper and lower parking lots, we will soon be putting in a trail.
  • We share the ski and snowshoe trailhead on the north side of parking lot.
  • Please fill out the trail registrar. We want to show the Forest Service that this something we would like to keep doing and expand.
  • Take the snowshoe loop. PLEASE stay off the ski loops.
  • Important: TIRE PRESSURE – based on current conditions use 4 PSI. Your sidewalls should wrinkle like a funny-car tire.
  • If your leaving ruts its too soft to ride.

After about 1/2 mile after you leave Wanoga Sno-Park, when you reach the tree with the two signs, this is where the long and short loops split. This is the same place where Tiddlywinks crosses NF-4614.

For more on the Wanoga Trail System and mountain biking in Central Oregon, be sure to visit bendtrails.org. It’s a comprehensive database of maps, blogs and more showcasing the amazing Central Oregon mountain biking scene.

 

Favorite Year-Round Mountain Bike Spots

When winter comes and the snow falls, some of Central Oregon’s popular mountain biking trails become a little too muddy to ride – which means some of the unheralded spots in the region get a little more love. Places like Smith Rock can get scorching hot (and quite crowded) in the summer making it a great spot to head come winter. Want some good locals tips on where to ride? Ask the folks at Hutch’s Bicycles, Pine Mountain Sports or The Hub Cyclery for the 4-1-1, or set up a tour with Cog Wild Mountain Bike Tours and Shuttles. 

Smith Rock State Park
Smith Rock State Park

Smith Rock/Gray Butte

22 Miles from Bend in Terrebonne | Technically Intermediate/aerobically strenuous | Distances vary but expect about 12 miles

This might be one of the more scenic rides in Central Oregon and it’s best ridden in the fall when temps are much cooler and the dirt is a little tackier. You’ll need a $5 Oregon State Parks pass to park in Smith Rock’s lots. You can do this ride in both directions, but it’s best to do the Burma Trail Loop at Smith Rock counterclockwise. For more loops in the area and and to read a full trail report read this story from The Bulletin. 

You can also read more on mountain biking Smith Rock and see what the views look like in this video.

Horse Butte

9 miles SE of Bend | Technically intermediate/moderately aerobic | 12 to 30-mile loops

This is a very popular go-to ride for locals during the winter due to its proximity to town and perfect dirt conditions. It’s roughy 9 miles from the center of town to the trailhead but once you’re out on the trail you will feel a world away. Expansive views of the area dominate this trail that runs through sagebrush and lava rocks. Don’t forget to stop and check out the Arnold Ice Cave during your ride! To see a video and read a full trail report, read this story from The Bulletin. 

Horse Ridge

15 miles east of Bend off HWY 20 | Technically advanced/moderately aerobic | 10 to 15 mile-loops and out and backs

Another go-to spot for winter riding in the winter, Horse Ridge is for riders with a little more experience on rocky terrain. The lava rocks here can be unforgiving, but the singletrack is well worth the adventure. Expect more expansive views of the area from Horse Ridge. To read a full trail report, read this story from The Bulletin.

The Radlands

Redmond |Technically intermediate to advanced/aerobically easy to moderate | 10 miles of trails (more being built each season)

This is another somewhat rugged network of trails, but it’s a great place to ride in the winter because it rarely sees snow. Riders laud the variety of the trails out here – you’ll experience smooth singletrack and jagged lava rock outcroppings. Go prepared – it’s always better to think you’re going to flat than to flat and not have the tools to fix it. For a full trail report, read this story from The Bulletin.
You can read more on year-round trails in this story from The Bulletin.

The Hub – Redmond

Centrally located in the High Desert, Redmond is a community rejuvenated with upscale restaurants, a growing brewpub scene, ample lodging, vibrant parks and a bustling downtown district.

Through its music events, parades, farmers’ markets, fairs and festivals, Redmond offers visitors a true slice of Americana.

Nestled in Redmond’s backyard, Smith Rock State Park’s sheer, umber-colored cliffs is top destination to the north, attracting the worlds best rock climbers in addition to sight seers, mountain bikers and hikers.

Juniper Golf Club is one of  the premier courses in Oregon, with panoramic views of Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, the Three Sisters, Mt. Washington and more. A true championship course designed by esteemed golf course architect John Harbottle, Juniper has repeatedly been a U.S. Amateur qualifying site as well as frequent host of the prestigious Oregon Open.

Strategically located at the hub of the tri-county area (hence the town’s moniker of The Hub) the Deschutes Fair & Expo Center plays host to a wide range of events, including concerts, sporting events, auto shows, trade shows, weddings, rodeos and more. The venue offers spectacular panoramic views of the Cascades, meticulously manicured grounds and more than 100 acres of parking.

Redmond is also home to Roberts Field, our regional airport that features direct flights to several hubs: Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Denver.

Welcome to Redmond, Oregon Sign

Must see: The Deschutes County Fair & Rodeo or the display of hundreds of flags in Flag City, USA.

Must do: Walk Redmond’s downtown antique district and relax with a brew at 7th Street Brew House. In the winter, enjoy outdoor ice skating.