Deschutes River Trail (Biggs Junction)
Biggs Junction, Oregon is all about gas stations, or so I thought until I tested out this unique slice of Americana. The route is a simple out and back on an old, historic railroad bed that hugs the Deschutes River.
It is a great leg stretcher for when you are cruising through Biggs to go somewhere else. Or if you just want cool (with a capital K) views of the river. With a little luck, a train will buzz through the canyon while you are riding; the tracks are on the opposite side of the river, but I loved the rumbling sound. And it got me singing Folsom Blues by good ole Johnny Cash.
I hear the train a comin’
It’s rollin’ ’round the bend
And I ain’t seen the sunshine
Since, I don’t know when
I’m stuck in Folsom Prison
And time keeps draggin’ on
But that train keeps a-rollin’
On down to San Antone.
There are plenty of hikers to share your trail, many hiking through to other locations. **Read More
The ride starts at state park where the Deschutes River merges into the massive Columbia River. This is where settlers along the Oregon Trail crossed the river. There is a kiosk just east of the parking area with the history of the Oregon Trail and the river crossing.
It’s an “easy smeasy” route (video), no tricky navigation and one hill that I would really call a dip. The surface switches from smooth to bumpy and back to smooth.
We recommend you “out and back” it to about mile 11 when the road starts to toughen up a bit. The turn around point is delineated by the burnt remains of the Harris Ranch from the July 2018 Substation fire.
If you don’t mind bumps and a more rugged journey, keep on going. The views continue to get better as the canyon walls close in.
At mile 19, you will hit the beginning of a 4 mile section that is very demanding. It is marked by some old timbers from the trestle bridge that was in place in the day. We really recommend that you turn around here. The route is just as beautiful on the way back but be warned, the wind whipping off the Columbia River can catch you, late afternoon or really any time.
If you continue, the old railway bed leads to Macks Canyon and a gravel road. But to make it through this stretch, you will have some “push / carry your bike” spots across six canyons where the trains made it easily upriver via wooden trestle bridges. You will also encounter a mix of rugged single track and double track. Rideable for some … not others. Plan accordingly, this 4 mile stretch is slow going.
This area and this trail are known for “goatheads” and snakes. Goatheads are sharp, burly stickers that puncture tires at will. We encountered no goatheads on our ride, but the second half of the trail from mile 11 to 19 is an area to be vigilantly on watch for the vine with yellow flowers. Tubeless tires are a must, and the bombproof solution is to add a CushCore insert as well.
Yep, watch out for snakes. We saw just one on the trail in early March of 2020.
Note, the general elevation profile shown below in the map is accurate, but the elevation gain is not. The entire gain for 38 mile out and back is about 700 feet.
If you are looking for a bigger ride and bigger adventure, check out the Big Mack route.
For a complete write up on the history of the railway and the July 2018 Substation fire we recommend the write up by Our Mother the Mountain.
Adventure / Gravel Route
– Out & Back : 22 miles / 500 ft gain
– Surface: ~ 100% gravel double track
– eBike Friendly: No
– Location: ~ 40 min east of Hood River, OR
– Date Posted: March 2020
Easier, up until mile 11. Moderate after that, until mile 19. Then advanced.
When we like to ride this …
Early in the biking season (i.e. March and April). It is scenic, has some distance, and not a lot of hills. It rides most of the year.
Food / Water
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.