Big Red sounds like the name of a dog . . . or an old pickup truck . . . or that kid in high school who played center on the basketball team. But in La Pine State Park, Big Red is the name of Oregon’s largest ponderosa pine tree. He’s an old guy . . . . Over 500 years old, which means he was alive when Christopher Columbus was born . . . . And he earns his name by topping off at 162 feet tall and 28.9 feet around.
Big Red isn’t the only reason to do this ride: There’s also a visit to the lovely Fall River Falls (yes, the name is really Fall River Falls.) And there are miles and miles of gently rolling single track trails along the Deschutes and Fall Rivers in La Pine State Park. Most of the ride is wonderfully shaded and the trails are mainly smooth and packed down.
There’s almost nobody on these trails; just mainly fly fishers who pride themselves on their secret fishing spots and hikers who are camping at the park. But you will see birds of prey: hawks, osprey, and even owls. **Read More
This ride is easy like Sunday Morning. But it’s well worth the drive to La Pine just for all the river views … and the visit to Big Red.
This route starts off by heading east on South Century Drive for 1.5 miles. This will be the busiest road of the day, but it has a wide shoulder. Make a right onto Foster road, the main access road to a local neighborhood. It is paved for 2 miles, then gravel.
At mile 5.5 make a right, followed by a quick left. In 500 feet you enter into LaPine State park and are on your quest to find Big Red! From here until mile 14.4 the trail will vary between old dirt road, double track, and wide single track. It will twist, it will turn. A little up, a little down.
At mile 7 you go past Dead Slough. This was an arching bend in the river, but at some time, the river forged a new, straighter channel bypassing the bend. Thus, the slough. Just after this, cross the Deschutes River on State Park road (paved) and the dive back into the woods and follow the river for another 2 miles.
Loop back north and east and touch the Deschutes river three more times, until at mile 12 you pick up the Fall River (which flows into the Deschutes River). Take a break at mile 13.2, Fall River Falls.
From here, there is a wee bit more riding along the river, then a traverse through the woods around Bates Butte. Pop onto the paved road and meander back to the start, about 1 mile.
A shorter version of this route, what we like to call the Family Friendly version, can be had by parking at the Big Red trailhead (Lat / Long: 43.769755, -121.518360) and doing an Out & Back to Fall River Falls. From the parking lot, go directly north and pick up the route at mile 6.5. Fall River Falls is at mile 13.2, making for a round trip of 13.4 miles. To get to the Big Red trailhead, take State Recreation road west from Highway 97 for 4.3 miles and turn right on Bench Leg Road. Go 0.7 miles to the parking area / trailhead.
Adventure / Gravel Route
– Loop : 17 miles / 500 ft gain
– Surface: ~ 70% gravel road / double-track / single-track, 30% paved road
– eBike Friendly: No
– Location: ~ 30 min south of Bend, OR
– Published: July 2018 (updated June 2020)
Easier+. This is a ride suitable for an advanced beginner. It has little elevation gain, but it does have about 6 miles of single-track … mostly smooth and rolling with a few roots and a bit of sand.
When we like to ride this …
Almost anytime from late spring (let the snow melt and allow the ground to dry out) through late fall.
Big River boat launch. Just east of the intersection of the Deschutes River and South Century Drive.
Lat / Long: 43.817639, -121.496563
Food / Water
Red = paved road
Brown = gravel / dirt road / double-track / single-track
For help with GPS files, the RideWithGPs mapping app and to learn how to download our routes for free, see the “Using Our Rides” page.