Horse to Horse

5 Star Route / Ridden and Reviewed by Gravel Girl & Captain ‘O

This ride has a split personality. Kind of like comparing Mr. Ed and the Black Stallion. It’s a great winter ride; summer is a different story. But we love that it’s close to town and always offers up big views. This is a simple loop that passes by Horse Butte and then circles around Horse Ridge.

Ride Details

Begin by riding out on China Hat road heading southeast, past Horse Butte, and slightly uphill. As China Hat transitions from paved to gravel you break out of the Ponderosa pines and onto the plains of Horse Ridge with Pine Mountain looming in the background. The route climbs over Horse Ridge via the old, abandoned section of Highway 20 and drops down to the other side via a descending single track section, a popular route for mountain biking. Note you might have a little bit of toe dabbing, push a bike through the rocky bits, but that’s no reason to skip this ride.

After a short stint on Highway 20, you can race back to the barn on quiet, slightly uphill, paved roads and a very smooth section of gravel. (Look for the buffaloes and yaks at Pine Mountain Buffalo Ranch, which is on Highway 20, a great place for carnivorous shopping, although you need to call ahead if you are stopping in.)

Ride Notes

This route is very close to Bend, thus on a nice winter day when people are trying to get out and enjoy the area for hiking, biking, etc. expect some traffic on the gravel roads and some mountain bikers on the single track.

Ride the route in the direction mapped (counter clockwise) as the “washboard” on China Hat road will feel less severe.

The single track section can be avoided by taking Highway 20 at the intersection with Fort Rock road (~ mile 21) to the trailhead parking area for Horse Ridge. There is a good shoulder for riding.

Adventure / Gravel Route

– Loop : 38 miles / 1800 ft gain
– Surface: ~ 45% gravel, ~ 10% Roubaix (broken pavement), ~ 5% single track
eBike Friendly: Yes (if avoid the single track section as detailed below).
– Location: Bend, OR
– Date Posted: February 2018 (updated April 2019, February 2020)

Difficulty

Moderate. Most of the ride is on good gravel roads with no significant climbs. However, there is one single track sector that will have you wishing you were on a mountain bike. If you came from the mountain biking world, you will have a blast, even on your gravel bike… if you are an ex-roadie, swallow your pride and walk.

When we like to ride this …

Winter is best for this ride as the traffic is less, the freeze thaw cycles keep the hard pack in place, and the lighting is incredible. Summer can have a bit more traffic, the roads can be dusty and the washboard can be harsh.

The Start

An ad hoc dirt parking lot on the west side of Billadeau road just past Faith Run Farms.
Lat / Long: 43.998412, -121.224263

Food / Water

None


Downloads

Wahoo / Garmin Direct Download
Cue Sheet / GPX FileTCX File

Legend

Red = paved road
Brown = gravel / dirt road
Blue = single track
Purple = paved bike path / roubaix

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.

7 thoughts on “Horse to Horse”

  1. Ride Report: June 7, 2020

    Decided to give Horse to Horse a go today. Overall it was a wonderful ride, even though temps dropped into the 30s and there were snow flurries at higher elevations. In June!

    Traffic: Some vehicle traffic, particularly at the beginning and end of the ride. Essentially no cars at all from Y-junction where Forest Service Rd. 18 splits from China Hat Rd. (mile ~13) to the Horse Ridge trailhead (mile ~25). Only saw one other gravel rider and two mountain bikers the entire time.

    Surface: Pretty bad washboard along the entire gravel section of China Hat (miles 6-13ish). That’s what I get for doing this route in June. Ride gets really enjoyable after the Y-junction when the washboard disappears and you start to go downhill a bit! Saw a couple cows and a calf roaming around these parts, so keep an eye out. As someone who is primarily a roadie, I was a bit worried about the singletrack but it wasn’t too bad. Rode ~90% of it normally, rode with one foot unclipped for ~5%, and hike-a-biked 5%.

    Gates: There were two gates along Old Highway 20. Neither was locked but at the first gate (going counter-clockwise) I had to lift my bike over the gate.

    Difficulty: A nice workout, but nothing particularly steep. A short technical section but you can always walk the tricky bits. Highly recommend!

  2. November 11, 2018 Ride Report. Counter clockwise along China Hat started out with washboard but smoothened out considerably after several miles. Instead of taking Fort Rock Rd we chose a curvy alternate route to the north which hugs the south side of Horse Ridge and provides a fun descent, some interesting Breaking Bad scenery, and in our case three groups of kind folks engaged in target practice. We joined back up with the route where Fort Rock Rd meets Hwy 20. The single-track of Horse Ridge was firm and frozen in some places. We very much enjoyed the surface diversity along this route. Highly recommended.

  3. Ahhh … it is summer time and the washboard on China Hat road is now severe. Wait until late fall to ride again. But … the road construction is completed!

  4. I just rode this last week, April 9 of 2018. Quite a fun ride, got stuck sucked up into a real life stampede of cows, calves, and a random coyote! Thankfully no bulls or I might not have lived to tell. A good solid intermediate gravel ride.

  5. This is an excellent ride for beginner gravel riders, virtually no traffic in winter, more or less flat, short and relatively kind single track. Loved it!

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