Bend, Oregon: Deschutes River Trail
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Bend, Oregon: Deschutes River Trail

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Page Type: Trail

Location: Oregon, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 44.00090°N / 121.37987°W

Trail Type: Cross Country

County: Deschutes

Technical Difficulty: Medium

Aerobic Difficulty: Medium

Layout: Out & Back

Elevation Gain: 360 ft / 110 m

Length: 17.0 Mi / 27.4 Km

Route Quality: 
 - 2 Votes


Page By: Malibu

Created/Edited: Mar 12, 2010 / Jul 21, 2010

Object ID: 275333

Hits: 4466 

Page Score: 79.78%  - 11 Votes 

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The Central Oregon Standard

The Deschutes River Trail from Meadows Picnic area to Benham Falls, a favorite of so many, is a ride by which others in this mountain biking rich region are compared and judged. I think it would be safe to say that this trail has the elements to please about 95% of those who ride. While in close proximity to the city of Bend, its 17 miles are very quiet, remote, and gain very little in elevation. The ever-changing views of the sometimes meandering and other times churning and whorling river, younger, lunar-like lava formations, the pine and manzanita vegetation, the buff and flowy sections of fast single track, the paint-scraping, derailleur-snapping rocky sections and the occasional views of the surrounding mountains all contribute to a feast for the mountain biking senses.


Along the trail at Lava Island.


One of the more unusual rock formations. Good place to be in a sudden downpour.

The River Ride

This trail is mostly wide and hard-packed. Built for multi-use in pre-bike times, it is not true, cycler-designed single track although many sections do a fine job of imitating this art form, providing the desired rush. The trail elevation varies from immediately riverside to many vantage points a short climb away from the water and a short downhill back.

Enjoying a view break near Dillon Falls.

The Deschutes River Trail is actually three parallel trails for much of its course in the name of reducing conflict: one for hikers, one for equestrians, and one for bikers. The caveat to this is, bikes are allowed on the hiking trail unless marked otherwise, providing the best ride with the most scenic views. The bike-specific portions are actually double track gravel roads that are away from the river and are actually quite dull. Just be aware of heavier use on the foot trail in the warmer months, control your speed, be friendly, stay off the specific "Foot Only" portions, and bikes will continue to be allowed on these best trails.

Making it safely through a rocky section.

One can start from either end of the ride as there are trailhead parking areas at both the Meadow Picnic area and at Benham Falls. You can also jump on somewhere in the middle at either Lava Island Falls or Dillon Falls. With the low elevation gain, it is a relatively easy out-an-back but some may shuttle it as a point-to-point. Whatever trailhead used for access, one can make this any length of an out-and-back.

Sweet (and wide) Deschutes River single track.

Finding the trail and red tape

In the Spring and Fall when the sheer number of users is down, many Bend locals will ride out to the Meadow Picnic parking area and then venture up river. This adds about 15 miles to the ride. But if you are more inclined to drive and park to start your adventure, simply proceed about 6.5 miles from the town of Bend on Century Drive/State Highway 46 until you see the sign for the Meadow Picnic area. Follow that gravel road about 1.25 miles and start looking for a parking spot. There are a few smaller parking turnouts and a parking turn around at the end of the road.

This is just inside the Deschutes National Forest boundary so a Northwest Forest Pass is required to park and use this area. Typically, this requirement is enforced from the months of April-November so check with the pass outlets in town to see if they are available before April or after November.

When to Bike

This is primarily a late Spring to late Fall ride. In lower snowpack years, this trail may be ridden year round on the lower portions more toward town. Summer means a very busy and dusty trail as the vacation season is in full bloom. The earlier you start in the day, the more alone you may be.


Snow is still visible in shaded areas during this early March ride.