Black Butte Loop
Note: This is a 5 Star Route, meaning that it is a highly curated, premier riding route.
We really wanted to call this route “Old Man Strato” being that Black Butte is a stratovolcano and one of the oldest volcanoes in the area. [Wikipedia]But we went with the more true name of Black Butte loop.
We like this loop for is its mix of groovy drop-bar single track, undulating double-track, and big views of the Cascades (The Three Sisters, Mt Washington, Three Fingered Jack, and Mt Jefferson). Parts of the east side of the Butte Trail need more tires on the terra to buff it out, but this sector could be as good as the Water & Lava section along the river route for trail quality.
Overall, expect moderate climbing, and terrain that does not beat you up too much.
If you love drop-bar single-track riding, this route is for you!
Adventure / Gravel Route
– Lollipop: 33 miles / 1700 ft gain
– Surface: ~ 35% gravel road / double-track, 60% single-track, 5% paved
– eBike Friendly: No
– Location: Sisters, OR (~ 30 minutes northwest of Bend, OR)
– Published: May 2021
Terrain & Technical Riding Difficulty[what this means]
There is a significant amount of single-track along the route, but all rideable on a drop-bar gravel bike with some skill.
A turn or two may be a bit trick to find, but if you make a wrong turn, you will soon be lead into a paved road or a major gravel road.
There is good cell phone connection along most of the route.
When we like to ride this …
Late spring when the mountains are still snow covered and the flowers are in bloom. And fall with early snows on the mountains and changing leaf colors.
It can get soft in the summer, especially on the parts that are shared trail with horses.
Village Green City Park in downtown Sisters. Flush toilets, showers and water.
Lat / Long: 44.288902, -121.548927
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.
Miles 0 to 8 / Sisters Tie Trail / Single-Track (mostly)
From the park, take a few city streets to get the to trailhead at mile 1. The next 7 miles are some of the best riding drop-bar single-track in Central Oregon. Fast and flat, winding around big Ponderosa trees and paralleling small creeks and marshes.
Miles 8 to 15 / Black Butte (West Side) / Double-Track
If the prior single-track is some of the best in Central Oregon, this is some of the best double-track in Central Oregon. It undulates up and down with broken views of the Cascade Mountain through the tall trees. From south to north: Three Sisters, Mt Washington, Three Fingered Jack, and Mt Jefferson.
Miles 15 to 19 / Red Cinder Climb & Flats / Gravel Road
The next 4 miles are the only miles of proper gravel road. The first 3 are red cinder, climbing 600 feet with an average gradient of 4%. The next mile and a bit is a gray gravel road that sees enough traffic to develop some annoying washboard, but is is short lived.
Miles 19 to 25 / Black Butte (East Side) / Double-Track and Single-Track
At mile 18.6, turn left turn a dirt parking area with trail kiosk. Continue straight and pick up the double-track, this is the Butte loop trail. It has seen some recent trail work, but not a lot of riding. We would call this a gem.
The next 6 miles are the most technical of the day. In places a bit more chunky, and a bit more steep. But, overall the the technical demand is not beyond that of a intermediate gravel rider. We thought the riding was terrific and liked the pop-up mountain views.
Roll back into Indian Ford campground on some finishing double-track and then pick up the stick of the lollipop back to Sisters…
Miles 25 to 33 / Sisters Tie Trail / Single-Track (mostly)
…7 miles of sweet Sisters single-track. Along the way, give a big shout out to the Sisters Trail Alliance for making this possible.
Food & Water
40 mm tires or larger.
Sections of the route are shared trail with horses. Please pass with care: stop if necessary, ask the rider for the best way to pass, continue to speak to the horse / person.
- May 2021 / Original Post as a 5 Star route.
The great single-track trails on this route were developed out and are maintained by the Sisters Trail Alliance. If you like what they have done, please consider making a contribution to their campaign so that they can continue with the great work!
– The indian folklore of Black Butte
– Horse Etiquette