Mountain Biking the Deschutes River Trail in Bend, Oregon
There’s a good chance that affiliate links are scattered throughout this post. If you click on one I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you and I’ll definitely be using it to buy bike gear.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
I love hearing from you and appreciate your comments! However, if you leave a rude, unconstructive, or spammy comment, it will be deleted. It’s cool to be kind. Have an awesome day!
What about EBikes?
E-bikes aren’t allowed… Bend is actually pretty strict about keeping e-bikes off the trails…