There’s no wrong way to explore Central Oregon—but exploring Central Oregon from the saddle of a road bike, the wind whipping in your hair, and the scenic landscapes stretching before you? It doesn’t get much better than that.
Central Oregon has a little of everything that makes road riding so fun: a thriving cycling culture that’s awash in bike shops (which offer rentals for every adventure), quiet roadways, protected paths—and, of course, plenty of sunshine. So we’ve put together a rundown of some of our favorite rides to inspire your next outing.
We’re also showcasing some of our favorite Oregon Scenic Bikeways. If you’re unfamiliar, Oregon Scenic Bikeways are state-designated routes that show off the state’s scenic beauty. These routes were selected and curated by experts who’ve explored every backroad and byway around Central Oregon, and each includes printable maps, GPS directions, and other helpful features to ensure you have a fun ride. And even if the idea of doing a 30-mile ride (or longer!) seems daunting, keep in mind that you can tackle an Oregon Scenic Bikeway however you see fit; feel free to start and end wherever you feel most comfortable and safest.
Ready to get rolling? Here’s where to go road biking around Central Oregon.
Road Biking Around Bend and Sunriver
You can’t talk about road biking in Central Oregon without talking about Bend and Sunriver. As the largest city in Central Oregon, Bend hosts all kinds of unique road riding opportunities, protected paths, plenty of bike shops, and other resources for getting on the road. And just south of town, the community of Sunriver hosts more than 40 miles of protected bike paths that take cyclists to the area’s most enduring attractions. So if your travels bring to you Bend or Sunriver, here are a few ideas for epic rides around the region.
Twin Bridges Scenic Bikeway: The 36-mile Twin Bridges Scenic Bikeway begins in Bend and, over the course of 36 scenic miles, heads into the high desert just outside of town, affords views of snow-capped Cascade peaks, stops at a few parks, and twice crosses the Deschutes River (hence the name). Given its close proximity to Bend and striking beauty around every corner, it’s no wonder this is one of the most popular rides anywhere in Central Oregon.
Mount Bachelor: In summer, some of Central Oregon’s most popular (and most challenging rides) take place along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. Head out of Bend or Sunriver along wide highway shoulders as you climb into the heart of the Cascade Range—where you can enjoy up-close views of numerous peaks and dip your toes in the water at several lakes along the seasonal highway. It might be a tough climb, but at least the downhill ride home is a joy. From downtown Bend, the 23-mile ride to Mount Bachelor ascends about 2,800 feet when riding the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway; from Sunriver, it’s a 20-mile ride (mostly along the quiet Forest Service Road 45), which gains about 2,220 feet. If you decide to tackle the epic ride, take care to wear bright clothes so vehicles can easily spot you on the busy road.
Road Biking Around Sisters and Redmond
Cyclists can rack up plenty of miles on the backroads, ambling highways, and curvy byways in the Sisters and Redmond areas—and visit countless scenic sites that include old lava flows, sweeping high desert, and cinnamon-hued rock formations. Even so, you’re never far from the likes of Redmond, Terrebonne, and Sisters—offering plenty of opportunities to stop, refuel, and refill your water bottle.
Here’s a rundown of some of the area’s best bike routes.
McKenzie Pass Scenic Bikeway: Every summer, drivers head into the heart of the Cascades, passing through sweeping lava flows and old-growth forests along the two-lane McKenzie Highway. But before they get the chance, crews clear snow from the roadway and open it up only to cyclists—who enjoy unfettered access to the McKenzie Pass Scenic Bikeway in late spring. The winding 38-mile route, which begins in the community of Sisters, is one of the region’s most popular routes among dedicated cyclists; after all, where else can you ride a closed road in the heart of a mountain range, surrounded by towering snow drifts?
Sisters to Smith Rock Scenic Bikeway: Explore the Central Oregon high desert along the 37-mile Sisters to Smith Rock Scenic Bikeway, which passes some of the region’s most iconic sites—including forests of pine and juniper, sweeping valleys, and (naturally) the regal Smith Rock State Park. The ride begins in Sisters, passes through Terrebonne, and is just a few miles from Redmond—so it’s easy to stop for food, water, and a cold pint during and after your ride.
Road Biking Around Madras and Maupin
Backroads around Madras and Maupin reward cyclists who make less-traveled treks with stunning scenery—jagged rock formations, sun-kissed rivers, sweeping Cascade peak views, and more. So if you want to enjoy a quiet ride and have all that scenery to yourself, a pair of Oregon Scenic Bikeways offer unforgettable opportunities to do just that.
Madras Mountain Views Scenic Bikeway: The 29-mile Madras Mountain Views Scenic Bikeway delivers exactly what it promises. The ride heads past working farms that grow grass, potatoes, and other crops; skirts the canyon rim at Lake Billy Chinook; and affords views of Central Oregon’s most iconic peaks—from Mount Hood in the north to Mount Bachelor in the south. (On a clear day, cyclists can see at least eight peaks in all.) And if you’re curious about all those stunning peaks, learn more about the mountains in Central Oregon.
Sherars Falls Scenic Bikeway: For a trip into the rugged rock formations, sloping river canyons, and region history of Central Oregon, take a trip along the 33-mile Sherars Falls Scenic Bikeway. The route begins and ends in the community of Maupin (most notable as the heart of whitewater rafting in Central Oregon) but spends most of its ride winding through the quiet byways around town. Along the way, you’ll pass Sherars Falls on the Deschutes River, where Native American tribes have fished for salmon for thousands of years by using wooden scaffolds and traditional tools (such as dipnets and setnets).
Road Biking Around Prineville
There’s no mistake: When you venture out to Prineville, you are firmly in the heart of Central Oregon’s high desert. Rolling hillsides covered in sagebrush and juniper dot the landscape, bubbling rivers cut through jagged canyons, and the sun seems to shine just a bit brighter elsewhere in the region. Naturally, all that scenery makes it a premier destination for road cyclists.
Crooked River Canyon Scenic Bikeway: The 37-mile Crooked River Canyon Scenic Bikeway is among the region’s most beloved rides, thanks to a winding route that never strays far from the Crooked River—but which shows off new and stunning sights around every turn. The ride departs from Prineville and heads south, quickly leaving behind the modern world for a remote river canyon, springtime wildflower blooms, and expansive views across the quiet terrain. It ends at the massive Prineville Reservoir.
Try to avoid riding the Crooked River Canyon Scenic Bikeway in summer, when temperatures can top triple digits and shade is at a premium. Rather, aim for a crisp fall afternoon or breezy spring day.
What to Know About Road Biking in Central Oregon
Before strapping a helmet on—you are wearing a helmet, right?—you’ll want to know the rules of the road around Central Oregon. Here’s how to get started and have a great time.
Helmets: Approved helmets are strongly recommended for all cyclists 16 and older in Oregon—and are required for all riders 15 and younger. Bike shops throughout Central Oregon sell new, high-quality helmets—and offer them with each rental.
Roundabouts: You might run into roundabouts in Bend, Sisters, and Redmond; these circular intersections can seem confusing at first, but fear not: Bikes are considered vehicles under Oregon law, giving you just as much right to the roundabout as the car behind you. As you prepare to enter the roundabout, look to your left to ensure no vehicles are approaching; if it’s clear, head into the middle of the lane as you enter the intersection (always in a counterclockwise manner)—and be sure to signal properly as you prepare to exit.
Seasons: There’s no bad time to ride in Central Oregon—just never enough time. That said, we’d suggest rides in spring or fall, when high temperatures aren’t quite so warm. Summer can be a fun time to ride, but highs can reach 100ºF, with little shade to be found along our high-desert roads and highways. And in winter, low temperatures, snowfall, and black ice can create hazardous conditions.
Water: There’s no downside to bringing plenty of water along on your ride, especially when the forecast looks warm. Be sure to pack plenty of water, stop often to have a drink, and take advantage of refill stations in communities, at parks, and at businesses throughout Central Oregon.
Explore Nature’s Beauty
From the sagebrush-covered plains of the high desert to the towering pines and majestic mountain peaks, discover the diverse landscape Central Oregon has to offer.