Mountain Biking the Deschutes River Trail in Bend, Oregon

Idyllic landscape view out over Deschutes River Trail in Bend Oregon

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The Deschutes River Trail is a beautiful 11-mile stretch of singletrack that runs parallel to the Deschutes River between Bend, Oregon and the small town of Sunriver to the south.

Along the way, the trail passes stunning meadows, secluded swimming holes, sandy beaches, and quiet picnic spots. It’s one of my favorite trails to ride in Bend for its beauty and tranquility.

But there are a few important things to know about biking the Deschutes River Trail, particularly where to start and what sections you might want to avoid. In this post, I share my tips on how to make the most of your ride.

Deschutes River Trail Map

The full trail runs from Bend, Oregon to Sunriver.

Note that the direction on the map below is the opposite of how I recommend riding it. If you shuttle, it’s mostly downhill 😁. (See ‘How to ride the Deschutes River Trail Below’).

How to ride the Deschutes River Trail

I actually don’t recommend riding the Deschutes River Trail from town. The first few miles are rocky and technical in places and there’s more climbing than most people realize.

Here are two ways I recommend mountain biking this trail:

1. Shuttle out to Lava Lands Visitor Center

Full Deschutes River Trail Shuttle

  • Route difficulty: Intermediate
  • Mileage: 16 miles
  • Time needed: 3-4 hours
  • Elevation gain: 640 ft*
    Elevation loss: 1,155 ft*
  • Map/GPS: TrailForks

Route directions: Lava Lands Visitor Center > Blackrock > Deschutes River Trail > Rimrock Trailhead (aka Good Dog Park) OR Meadow Day Use Area

This is my favorite way to ride the Deschutes River Trail. It does require two vehicles, but you get to enjoy the full trail. It’s also (mostly) downhill!

To ride the Deschutes River Trail as a shuttle, park one car at the Rimrock Trailhead (also called Good Dog Park) and drive a second car out to Lava Lands Visitor Center. (If you don’t have two cars, I have taken an Uber from town back to Lava Lands after dropping off my bike at the end of the ride. It was about $30).

The ride starts on Blackrock trail, which has great views out over Mt. Bachelor and the Three Sisters. You can even bike up onto the lava rock flow if you want.

Views of Mt. Bachelor and the Three sisters in the distance from Blackrock mountain bike trail in Sunriver, Oregon
Bachelor and the Three Sisters from Blackrock Trail

After exiting Blackrock, you’ll get on a paved bike path for a short stretch before crossing a bridge to the Deschutes River Trail. This section can be very busy with hikers, but the crowds thin after a mile or two.

Foot bridge over the Deschutes River on the Deschutes River Trail near Bend, Oregon
The start of the Deschutes River Trail near Benham Falls

The next 8 miles or so are super fun, flowy, and scenic with very little climbing. Take your time and enjoy it! Stop for photos, snacks, or even a nap on a nice beach.

The last two miles back to Rimrock Trailhead are definitely more technical with some punchy climbing. You may need to walk some sections.

Make it shorter & easier

If you want to skip the last few technical miles, I recommend parking at the Meadow Day Use Area instead of Rimrock trailhead. This will cut off about 2 miles and the most chunky section of trail.

2. Do an out & back

Out & Back from Dillon Falls

  • Route difficulty: Beginner
  • Mileage: 13 miles
  • Time needed: 1-3 hours depending on how far you go
  • Elevation gain/loss: 402 ft
  • Map/GPS: TrailForks

Route directions: Dillon Falls Parking > Deschutes River Trail > Sunriver to Lava Rock loop > Deschutes River Trail

If you don’t have two cars to do a shuttle or you simply prefer to do an out-and-back, I recommend parking at Dillon Falls and riding the Deschutes River Trail south to Benham Falls.

From there, you can choose to do the Sunriver to Lava Rock loop before returning to Dillon Falls the way you came.

NOTE: This section of trail can get very busy with hikers in the summer. It’s best to ride it on a weekday, or better yet, during the spring or fall shoulder seasons. Please share the trail and be kind and courteous.

Deschutes River Trail passing through beautiful meadow with river to the left
The meadow section of trail near Dillon Falls is stunning

Making the most of your ride

What type of bike to bring

The Deschutes River Trail is dirt & gravel singletrack, so it’s best to have a mountain bike or a wider-tire gravel bike. A hardtail would be fine.

Pack a picnic

There are so many great places to stop and have a picnic by the water. If you can make a leisurely day of this ride, pack a nice picnic and find a secluded spot by the river to enjoy it.

Dillon Falls rapids on the Deschutes River Trail in Oregon
You might even get to watch white water kayakers at Dillon Falls

Practice good trail etiquette

I’m not going to lie, the Deschutes River Trail can get really busy with hikers during the summer. It’s best to ride it on a weekday or during the spring/fall shoulder seasons.

If there is a lot of trail traffic, please practice good trail etiquette. Slow down and say thanks as you go by.

Becky posing for photo with a llama on the Deschutes River Trail in Bend
You might even see llamas!

Have some sort of navigational aid

For the most part, navigation is pretty easy, but it’s always a good idea to have some sort of navigational aid like TrailForks downloaded to your phone.

Pay the recreation fee

Depending on where you park for your ride (including Lava Lands Visitor Center), you may need a $5 recreation pass. You can learn more about where fees are required here.

What to bring

For a full list of what to bring on your Deschutes River mountain bike ride head over to my post on Mountain Bike Pack Essentials. Here are a few of my favorite mountain bike gear picks:

Looking for more fun things to do?

Check out these popular tours in Bend

Have you biked the Deschutes River Trail? What was your experience like? Leave a comment below!

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Learn the best way to enjoy the Deschutes River Trail in Bend, Oregon by bike with this trail guide including route recommendations and more!
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