Bend, Oregon: Ride Like a Local

Bend, Oregon and the surrounding area has over 600 miles of singletrack for mountain bikers. These are the best trails to ride, according to our local guide.
Mountain biking the farewell trail near Bend, Oregon
Farewell Trail Mountain Biking – Abbi & Jaclyn – June 26th 2023. Photo: Visit Bend

Bend, Oregon, has long been known as an outdoor paradise. Mountains and rivers cut through the landscape, creating one of the most beautiful places to live and visit.

Eight distinct mountain peaks lining the Cascade Range are visible from Bend and surrounding Central Oregon. Mt. Bachelor is the southernmost of these mountains, located just 20 miles outside of Bend, while Mt. Hood, the state’s largest mountain, is about 100 miles north.

The area is high desert; hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Juniper trees and sage brush flow from the east, colliding with pine forests from the west. And in the mix of it all is hundreds of miles of mountain biking trails.

To find out what trails to ride in Bend, Oregon, we enlisted the help of Bend local and professional racer Austin Hemperley

Hemperley has been on two wheels since he could walk—first BMX, then motocross, and now mountain bikes. His race career started in the enduro discipline on the EWS circuit before switching to downhill.

Since Hemperley was born and raised in Bend and mountain bikes nearly every day, we figured he’d be perfect to share all that Bend has to offer.

Photo: Visit Bend

Why mountain bike in Bend?

Mountain bike in Bend and you’ll cross paths with beginners and professional riders—Bend has trails for everyone. 

And when it comes to trail mileage, the number is high. Bend and surrounding Central Oregon are home to over 600 miles of singletrack. While you can always find the pockets of tech, Bend mountain biking tends to be more about the flow.

“High speed and really fun flow,” Hemperley said, giving an overall feel for mountain biking in Bend. “It’s mellow at the bottom and gradually gets more fun.” 

The  “more fun” Hemperley refers to is the terrain getting steeper, faster, and more difficult as you head west. Heading west puts you farther into the Cascade Range and closer to Mt. Bachelor, Bend’s local ski hill and summertime bike park.

Mountain biking Horse Ridge / Kyle Jameson and Jace Ohran. Photo: Visit Bend

However, being so close to the mountains doesn’t have Bend locals snowed in all winter. When the west side trails get hit with snow, new opportunities east of town open up for mountain biking at areas like Cline Butte and Horse Ridge.

Bend’s winter riding is categorically different than its summertime trails. Local mountain bikers trade flowy jumps, berms, pine forests, and alpine meadows for steep, chunky, high desert riding. “Really western, rocky, crusty dirt. We get lower temps and wet dirt, so the tires hook up,” Hemperley told us.

A winter day in Bend could potentially start with a sunrise ride at Cline Butte, followed by snowboarding in the afternoon at Mt. Bachelor. It is possible; Hemperley has done it.

Across the board, regardless of trail rating, the trails in Bend lean toward user-friendliness. This means you will likely never be in over your head in choosing a trail. If you’ve ridden black trails back home, you likely will be able to ride the black trails in Bend. “The 500 miles of trails that lead up to the mountain are beginner-friendly; anyone can do them,” Hemperley said

Phil's Trailhead in Bend, Oregon
Photo: Visit Bend

Bend’s must-ride trails for all levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced trails

Beginner trails

“A great spot for a beginner to start at is Phil’s Trailhead,” Hemperley told us, referencing Bend’s largest trailhead. “Phil’s is the most gradual part of the mountain.” The Ben’s/Phil’s loop, one of the more common rides in the area, is a 12-mile loop with only about 700 ft. of elevation gain in nearly six miles.

Trails in this area are relatively smooth, with very manageable tech sprinkled in. Sight lines are apparent, and there aren’t any surprises around corners. The Phil’s Trail Complex allows for an easy transition from green to blue trails, perfect for families and beginner mountain bikers.

Photo: Visit Bend

Intermediate trails 

Bend’s intermediate trails tend to pick up in speed as more are located further west, higher into the Cascade Mountain Range. Hemperley suggested a popular intermediate trail: Tiddlywinks.

“Tiddlywinks is more of a jump trail, and there are a few rock rolls you need to be aware of.” Many Bend trails allow for easy progression by making many of these jumps and drops either rollable or optional.

If backcountry riding is more of your style, Hemperley suggested South Fork and Farewell. Due to higher speeds and access, these chunky descents blur Bend’s blue and black trail rating system.

Advanced trails

Despite Bend’s trails leaning toward the mellower side, there are still options for more advanced riders. “More advanced riders can have fun on Lone Wolf,” Hemperley said. Lone Wolf drops nearly 500 ft. in 1.5 miles. “You’re constantly turning or jumping on [Lone Wolf].”

Bend also has a bike park about 20 miles away at Mt. Bachelor. “Start out with Rattlesnake. It is a solid black trail that erosion has made pretty fun,” Hemperley shared. He also mentioned other chunky tech trails at the mountain, like Rockfall, a double black, and Last Chance, one of the bike park’s longest trails.

Photo: Visit Bend

The perfect Bend bike

With most of the trails being more flowy than technical, Hemperley feels the perfect trail bike for Bend has less than 150mm of travel. And while 29-inch wheels are the new standard, Hemperley thinks 27.5 might benefit you.

Hemperley is on his 27.5 Pivot Shadowcat when not on his downhill bike. “I went the fastest I’ve ever gone here in Bend on that bike. The turns here are so tight…most of the trails were built with 26-inch wheels.”

If you don’t have or don’t want to bring the perfect bike, Bend has many bike shops that will happily rent you a bike for your stay. If you plan to ride at Mt. Bachelor, you will need to rent from them.

Bend brewery
Photo: Visit Bend

Extracurricular activities

Bend has quite a bit to do when not on the bike, especially if you like beer. Bend is home to many great breweries that are worth a visit. 

One of the most well-known Bend beer spots is Deschutes Brewery, which is located downtown. This iconic pub is a great place to stop for lunch or dinner and a beer or two. Other great breweries are 10 Barrel and Cascade Lakes.

Bend is also home to many awesome foodcart pods. These pods are scattered all over Bend, with each usually having six or seven different food carts surrounding a taphouse. 

Aerial view of Bend, Oregon
Photo: Visit Bend

The Deschutes River also cuts through the middle of Bend. Much of Bend’s summer life revolves around the river. While there are opportunities for fishing or whitewater rafting, many grab their tubes and float a few miles through the Old Mill District and into downtown.

“A perfect summer day in Bend would be laps at Mt. Bachelor,” Hemperley said, “grab a bite to eat, then more laps. Then, we would go down to the river, find some rope swings, or just hang out by the river.” 

Local shops, cafes, and other great restaurants are in Bend’s central shopping districts: the Old Mill and Downtown Bend. And, for the best 360° view of the area, head to the top of Pilot Butte, an extinct cinder cone volcano in the middle of Bend.

Photo: Central Oregon Trail Alliance

Community connection

Bend’s local trail organization, Central Oregon Trail Alliance (COTA), manages the area’s hundreds of miles of mountain biking trails. COTA’s website has a lot of information, including trail closures, and is the best way to contact the group.

Group rides are a great way to learn Bend’s trails. Bike shops like Pine Mountain Sports host group rides during the summertime. Or get a tour and a shuttle with Cog Wild.

Bend is also home to some great XC bike races, a DH series at Mt. Bachelor, and other events. Many more events, both biking and non-biking, can be found on Bend’s community calendar.