Dark Skies

5 Star Route

East of Bend by 30 minutes or so, are some of the darkest skies in all of the US. In the late 1960’s, Oregon University took advantage of this and built Pine Mountain Observatory.

The route takes in the beautiful scrub desert of Millican valley and Kotzman basin along with Ponderosa forests higher up on Pine Mountain.

In 2011, the observatory had three large reflector telescopes, with mirrors of thirty-two inches, twenty-four inches, and fourteen inches in diameter, housed in three domes. Observational work under Director Greg Bothun focuses on low-luminescent galaxies, with remote high-speed digital connections between the observatory and the University of Oregon campus and other astronomical data centers. [The Oregon Encyclopedia]

This ride is unique in that it can make for a very remarkable experience with a bit of planning. With that start your ride an hour or so before dusk and time your arrival at the peak for dusk. Grab a snack. Do a tour of the observatory, view the stars, kick in your courage … and when ready, hop back on your bike and begin the descent with your lights ablazing! **Click to Read More

Adventure / Gravel Route

Loop: 30 miles / 2700 ft gain
– Surface: ~ 85% gravel, 15% paved
eBike Friendly: Yes
– Location: ~ 30 minutes east of Bend, Oregon
– Published: April 2020


Advanced–. Due to the sustained 7% climb that is a bit gnarly and some sand patches that may require hike-a-bike.

When we like to ride this …

Late spring, just after the snow has melted, or fall when there is moisture begin sucked into the ground with freeze thaw cycles. The route needs moisture in the ground to be good. It usually begins riding in mid April and goes through late November, when the first snows arrive. Summer is mostly a no go due to sections of deep sand.

The Start

OHV dirt parking lot at intersection of Ford Road and Spencer Wells road (FS 23). No services.
Lat / Long: 43.873971, -120.987607


Wahoo / Garmin Direct Download
Cue Sheet / GPX file / TCX file


Red = paved road
Brown = gravel / dirt road

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.

Ridden and Reviewed by …

BenG / Team Dirty Freehub

Ben has made Central Oregon home for both work and play since 2000, in the summer dabbling in many kinds of cycling, running, hiking, or paddling, with winter’s favorite the overnight, free-heel, ski-tour of the backcountry. Always looking for adventure, yet still trading engineering skills with Dassault Systèms to pay the bills.

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