Spotting a beer tap in a bicycle shop is the first hint that Bend, Ore., is crazy about mountain biking and craft brews.
T.J. Jordan of The Hub Cyclery in downtown Bend poured a glass from a 10 Barrel tap as he gave tips on the best area trails.
“Phil’s trailhead offers a mix of trails from beginner to advanced,” he said.
Bend, known nationally as a beer and mountain biking town, is on the east side of the Cascades and has about 300 miles of single-track trails. This town of 81,000 also boasts about having one brewery for every 4,500 people — the most per capita in Oregon.
It’s an easy five-hour drive from the Treasure Valley, making it the perfect place for a biking and brews vacation, especially with fall colors bursting right now.
The Ale Trail
In addition to an array of single-track dirt trails, visitors can hit the sidewalks on the Bend Ale Trail, a unique tour of local breweries. The Ale Trail, dubbed the largest in the West, has a smartphone app with a passport that beer nuts get “stamped” at each brewery they visit. Complete the trail and you earn prizes from the Bend Visitor Center.
The scoop on dirt
Trails just minutes from Bend’s hotels lead bikers out of town where the forest meets the river. Single-tracks west of Bend go through fresh-smelling pine forests, along the blue-green water of the Upper Deschutes River and past black lava rock ridges dotted with orange and green lichen, all at an elevation of a little more than 3,600 feet.
Visitors will hear bikers describe the trails as “sweet, flowy and epic dirt.” Take their word for it. The trails are well-maintained and cater to all kinds of riders, from beginners and kids to downhillers and dirt jumpers. Ninety-nine percent of the trails are single-track, not logging roads or ATV-type trails. You can reach another 700-plus miles of trails in less than a 90-minute drive from town.
“Trails are on moderate terrain — not steep and not going to kill you,” said Frank Hassler, from Madison, Wis., who was camped at Tumalo State Park on the outskirts of Bend. “We got in two days already,” he said. “The trails are fast and flowy with nice berms and jump lines out in the woods.” The one thing that stuck in his mind about the trails: “It’s beautiful scenery in a pine forest.”
Ready to go? Here’s your guide to a long weekend in Bend:
OK, it’s a five-hour drive from the Treasure Valley, but it’s not that bad. Head west on Interstate 84 to Ontario and take U.S. 20 via Burns and Brothers to Bend. You won’t get bored on the drive. Smell the onions being harvested as you leave the Ontario area. Stop at the little museum just east of Burns, which features Native American and pioneer items. Look for antelope between Burns and Bend.
Where to stay
Bend has plenty of hotels and motels, many of which are close to urban bike trails.
There’s an excellent campground at Tumalo State Park that has RV hookups and showers. It’s a popular site and reservations are needed well in advance. Despite all the public land around Bend, there are few public campgrounds available, making Tumalo State Park pretty busy, even in the offseason.
When you get to town
Download the Bend Ale Trail smartphone app so you can scout brew pubs. Chances are you’ll get to Bend in late afternoon — just in time to hunt for dinner.
The Deschutes, Worthy and McMenamins Old St. Francis School breweries are easy to find and have exceptional menus and beer. (Follow the link on this story at IdahoStatesman.com to check out the map.) After dinner, hit a few more brew pubs like Bend Brewing Company or Silver Moon Brewing.
Ready to ride?
Head to one of the area’s bike shops and quiz the locals about the trails. That’s where you will get your best information. By lunch, hit Crux, a place frequented by the locals with great beer and food.
Itching to get on the trails? The best thing to do is head west out of Bend on the Cascades Lakes Highway to U.S. Forest Service Road No. 41. It’s the first road beyond the The Seventh Mountain Resort. You’ll find all the riding you can possibly do in a four-day weekend in this area.
Knobby tire enthusiasts frequently point out the Upper Deschutes River, Lava Island, Big Eddy, Benham Falls and Phil’s Trail.
By the time you get done exploring, you’ll have time to visit more brew pubs. Check out Boneyard Brewing, Cascade Lakes Brewing, Goodlife Brewing and Rat Hole Brewing. If you have time, schedule a tour at Deschutes Brewing. It’s really interesting. You’ll need a reservation because it’s popular.