Just 10 minutes Southwest of Bend, Oregon, Water & Lava is a perfect combination of some pretty awesome adventure riding challenges and great views. This route has a path along the river, a huge waterfall, a view from the top of a butte, lava fields and a diverse terrain. Plus, it’s close to town and can be ridden all year round. Because of this, it's also a local favorite. Expect it to be relatively busy on weekends and especially during holiday periods. If you want to have a bit of alone time or simply long for a private and less crowded ride, we suggest riding this one on weekdays.
Despite Water & Lava not getting too sandy during summer nor too snowy during winter, the best times to ride it are Spring and Fall. While Spring offers eye-catching sights of wildflowers and the fast flowing river, Fall has the most spectacular views with leaves of changing color.
Since the route is pretty easy to ride, everyone can enjoy it. Nonetheless, beginners should have some experience in riding gravel routes.
Water & Lava has a mix of 5 gravel sections (13 miles total), 3 singletrack sections (4 miles total with some rocky sections), and 2 paved bike path sections (5 miles total).
Overall, the route's terrain is relatively flat... except for one pretty tough climb in the middle of the ride.
For tricky sections (the rocky parts), you can easily walk your bike if you're not comfortable riding.
The ride starts from the Forest Service Welcome Center on Cascade Lakes Highway.
Food and drink
The Welcome Center at the start point provides some food options as well as water. At mid-point, you can replenish on some snacks and refreshments at the Lava Lands Visitor Center. Both locations offer restrooms.
Please note that they only operate during summer.
Kick off the ride at the Welcome Center, and then make your way toward the river. At this point, you have to cross the highway, but you will soon find yourself meandering along the river on gravel roads and singletrack before reaching Benham Falls. Be sure to stop and go down to the overlook to take some cool pictures.
The next section of the ride brings you to the top of Lava Butte on a paved bike lane. You have to climb a bit here. At the very top, there is a short but steep 8% grade climb on paved road. So be ready!! (If you're riding the route during summer, you can find a shuttle that takes off from the Visitors’ Center.)
After leaving Lava Butte, ride on the road, not the paved path to get back to Benham Falls. When you're closer to the railroad tracks, turn left onto a paved bike lane which eventually takes you to the northern portion of Sunriver. Once you reach there, take the easy singletrack back to Benham Falls and then re-trace your route along the Deschutes River back to the Welcome Center.
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More routes like this can be found at www.DirtyFreehub.com
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