We are stoked to release our Field Guide For Bend
Here is a short bit to learn more. Enjoy.
The gravel roads around Bend and Central Oregon are amazing and complex. Our field guide is a collaboration with Visit Bend & Dirty Freehub. We hope you enjoy our take on the area. Please enjoy our compressed online version. Expected release date is May 20, 2022. Click the link to see the list of shops to grab a compli
Visit Bend extends an enthusiastic welcome to the gravel cycling community. Bend is for all of us. We believe each route, cafe table, road descent, and spot along the river is a place for everyone to enjoy while here. Our commitment to Bend includes acknowledging the importance of environment and sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and history.
When you travel to Bend, we invite you to bring your very best self. At the core of the gravel cycling experience is a warm and welcoming spirit, and each of us plays a vital role in keeping that grassroots spirit alive within the sport.
Bend’s strong cycling culture makes it a beloved destination for all bike enthusiasts. Packed with bike shops, coffee shops, breweries, restaurants, and a wide range of accommodations, Bend is a destination where your time off the bike will be as rewarding as the miles of gravel, road, and singletrack. Your time and currency help our community flourish, whether you’re staying one night or a lifetime. Thank you for being part of our community.
Central Oregon, with its sunny climate and miles of unpaved roads, is a world-class gravel bike destination in the Pacific Northwest. Bend’s close proximity to the Deschutes National Forest and its vast network of dirt and gravel roads creates a new way to experience an already famous outdoor recreation town. It’s a place where you can get away from it all, while still taking advantage of amenities like great places to eat, drink, sleep, and a number of cultural events. Bend’s geological history has created many unique features, some so out-of-this-world that NASA astronauts traveled here to train atop Lava Butte for the 1969 moonwalk. Bend is located on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Range, where pine forests transition to high desert, making this area an ideal year-round gravel bike destination. The unique, natural beauty of the terrain includes waterfalls, lakes, rivers, and scenic vistas, offering cyclists a rewarding journey. No matter which direction or distance you go, there is no better way to see Central Oregon than on a gravel bike.
PHOTO: NASA Astronaut Walter Cunningham east of Bend near Paulina Lake,
August 1964 Photo: NASA Archive
Bend is an amazing gravel bike destination not only because of the thousands of miles of unpaved roads in its vicinity. With geologically sculpted terrain, river views, and blue skies, this high desert destination is raw and rugged while being the cultural heart of Central Oregon. Embracing the spirit of adventure travel comes naturally when traveling through on a bicycle. It’s simply an inherent part of the riding experience.
Millions of years worth of volcanic events crafted the region’s otherworldly terrain. About 50 million years ago volcanoes in eastern Oregon erupted to create the Clarno Formation (volcanic and sedimentary rock). Two distinct types of volcanic layers leave a mark on the roads surrounding Bend. 30 million year old tuff (formed from ash deposits) and a 400,000 year old basalt (formed from lava flows). Once eruptive activity ended, the process of erosion took hold. You will encounter evidence of this in the “moondust” that appears on trails and gravel roads as summer approaches.
Out of this natural upheaval, the Deschutes River formed, whose waters drew Oregon’s First Peoples to create foot trails for travel to the natural landmarks left behind. Indigenous people of the Warm Springs, Wasco, and Paiute tribes, the original occupants of the region, harvested plants and animals and created the first overland trails in Central Oregon. By the 1850s, overland trails shifted towards wagon roads that brought Euro-Americans to Central Oregon. Cattle ranching played a major role in attracting settlers. On February 1, 1905 a month after Bend was founded, Oregon’s forest reserves were transferred to the Department of Agriculture to be managed by the newly established U.S. Forest Service. Three years later, Deschutes National Forest was created and its Forest Headquarters based in Bend.
The subsequent decades-long legacy of the timber and logging industry has contributed to Bend being a premier gravel bike destination. Infrastructure associated with logging resulted in miles of dirt roads. Starting in the 1960s, these unpaved roads increasingly became public land access points for recreational purposes. Today there are hundreds of miles of gravel cycling routes that range from unpaved rural roads to both paved and unpaved roads managed by the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Oregon State Forestry Division, or the Oregon State Parks Division. The Bend Gravel Adventure Field Guide is designed to help you decipher and navigate the network of roads and trails in and around Bend and Central Oregon. Consider it your roadmap to finding the best gravel routes in the area.
Cycling, while seemingly passive, does impact the natural resources of Central Oregon. Please consider that even gravel riding can influence native plants, riparian and wetland areas, along with fish and wildlife habitats. IMPACT: Everything from a group’s size, equipment used, and trash impact a cyclist’s time in nature. Cycling has a greater impact than many other recreational activities because of a cyclist’s ability to travel greater distances with higher noise levels. Roads in general tend to be the biggest pollutant on rivers and streams in the form of sediment. Road construction, use, and trail widening all contribute to vegetation damage and erosion. Here in Central Oregon, roads and trails next to rivers can even alter water temperatures impacting fish species such as Chinook and Salmon.
Repeated interactions between cyclists and wildlife can result in habitat fragmentation, whereby a decline of animal populations and ecosystem takes hold. Wildlife will typically respond to the stress of human interactions with either freeze, flight, or fight reaction. Be mindful out there.
Adopt environmentally friendly behaviors:
• Respect signage and seasonal closures, and stay on road or trail.
• Stay away from animal migration corridors, provide space during animal encounters.
• Pack it in, pack it out. Manage your trash, Please leave no trace.
• Deliver messages of good behavior to your personal contacts, friends and family.
• Get involved with how natural resources are managed.
• Support conservation organizations with your dollars and volunteerism.
Photo courtesy: centraloregonlandwatch.org Please go to the get-involved link to see how you can do more to protect our wilderness and public lands. Be wild, get involved.
Majestic? Yes. Vulnerable? More than you think. Elk Image: Meredith Fontana/C.O.L.W.
Founded in 2020 as a collaboration between Visit Bend and Dirty Freehub, the Cascades Gravel Scenic Bikeway comprises six of the routes found in this guide, ranging from shorter and flatter rides, to longer, more technical gravel and mixed-surface rides.
These routes are a true sampling of the spectacular scenery and varied terrain that Central Oregon gravel has on offer. Look for the icon on the Map Legend on the pages that follow to experience these gems of gravel cycling in Bend.
Book Illustrations: Stephen Beneski
A local non-profit with an extensive database of the Bend gravel road system.
The curated routes included in this guidebook are the result of efforts by Bend-based non-profit, Dirty Freehub, whose mission is to provide the best cycling routes while connecting cyclists to the places they ride. Founded in 2012 by Kevin and Linda English, Dirty Freehub has a growing library of great gravel routes across the Western United States.
Work continues as they explore and document gravel routes while providing resources around cycling etiquette and cycling’s impact on wildlife and sensitive ecological areas. They seek to motivate cyclists to ride gravel while becoming community advocates, stewards, volunteers, and positive members of the bike community.
Turn-by-turn navigation made easy. Choose one of three options and start your ride.
Download the free Ride Spot, RwGPS, or Strava app to navigate the routes using visual and audio directions and track your ride. Hover over the QR code with the camera on your smartphone. Follow the prompt and go.
Once you have downloaded and registered, scan the QR on any of the following map pages to immediately see, save and navigate the gravel route. Together We Make Biking Better:
What makes the Central Oregon gravel bike experience even better? Craft beer! Founded in 2010 with only six breweries, the Bend Ale Trail was one of the first in the U.S.. Today, it spans from Sunriver to Sisters to Redmond to Prineville and, of course, Bend. It is so large it’s been divided into seven territories. In addition to beer, Bend boasts a bounty of cideries, distilleries, wine tasting rooms, and kombucha brewers concocting all kinds of non-beer beverages.
Track your Bend Ale Trail progress on the free app, or pick up a keepsake paper passport at the Visitor Center for five bucks. You can plot which spots to visit for post ride beers with your friends to remember a great day on the gravel bike. Along the way you’ll earn prizes for each new territory you conquer, plus a grand prize for finishing the whole thing.
Please remember to drink responsibly. Riding a bicycle is like driving a car. You must follow the same rules. Play it safe, call a taxi or rideshare like Uber or Lyft. Got a designated driver? Your sober pal can earn prizes too, by collecting special designated driver stamps.
Visit www.bendaletrail.com for more info.
For more great stories on Bend and Central Oregon, visit one of our local shop partners to pick up a free field guide, or you can order a copy and we will mail it to you. 25% of our online purchase goes back to a local non-profit to help give back.