There are nearly 300 miles of single track in the Deschutes National Forest, west of Bend, Oregon. The area is easily accessible by highway 46 which runs straight through the middle of the forest on its way to 9,000 foot Mt. Bachelor and 10,000 foot South Sister. It is a mountain biking playground that will leave you feeling like a rock star, even if you aren't. The majority of the trails are pumice soil, interspersed by short rocky sections and log obstacles. A few trails have human-made jumps, banks, pump tracks, table tops, etc. for those who like to play.
The natural geological formation funnels all the trails back down to Bend, which sits below straddling the Deschutes River. Whether you ride up from Bend and loop back or shuttle to a point higher up in the mountains to avoid the climb, the trails will funnel you back down to Bend as you descend. It's a bit like a ski resort where all runs lead back to the lodge. In this case, the lodge is likely to be one of the many brew pubs in Bend.
The trails with the heaviest use are Whoops and the Phil's Trail system which run right down the center of the trail web. If you head south of center, there is an entire trail system on the other side of highway 46 that is less heavily ridden. On the northern slopes, is a more remote trail named Mrazek which leads down into the Shevlin Forest on the edge of Bend.
If you need to rent bikes, Sunnyside Sports is a great. They have a good selection of full-suspension bikes from Yeti, Ibis and Trek as well as hard-tails for the old-school riders.
We had high expectations for this trip. My sister-in-law had brought us mountain biking in Bend two years earlier and we'd been aching to get back here ever since. We were able to convince a couple friends to join us, so we set a date, rented a cozy cottage in Bend and booked our bikes.
The trails were as exhalarating as we remembered. One of our friends who hadn't done a lot of mountain biking commented after our third day on the trails, " I never knew I could ride a bike like that." He was hooked on zipping through the forest and over the obstacles.
Mountain air, beautiful forests, stunning vistas, clear blue skies, exhilaration followed by exhaustion, cool starry nights: a true summer dream. One we hope to relive again.