5 Star Route

Note: This is a 5 Star Route, meaning that it is a highly curated, premier riding route.

Skydog is one sweeeeeet dog. It’s the wild, wild west tossed in with a visit to the Skydog mustang sanctuary. An awesome mix of Cadillac gravel roads, a stair stepping rugged climb, and pavement that gives you enough of a break to make it all fun. You’ll also love the historic Skydog barn; plus the big sky views make the miles just that more special.

No complaining if you get delayed by a cattle drive, it’s been known to happen. We would almost tell you to wear your cowboy boots. Yeehaw! But a note on the horses; some of them are wild mustangs that Skydog ranch is working hard to keep wild. If you are lucky enough to see them, please try not to scare them. Do not feed them, just let them roam free on their sanctuary!

This ride is for you … if you like big, wide-open skies, distant mountain views, ranchlands, rolling hills, hard-packed gravel, birds, wild horses, and a bit of intro / outro pavement.

Adventure / Gravel Route

Lollipop: 47 miles / 3400 ft gain
– Surface: ~ 80% gravel road, 20% paved
eBike Friendly: Yes
– Location: ~ 40 minutes east of Bend, OR
– Published: May 2021

Terrain & Technical Riding Difficulty[what this means]


The terrain is mostly hard-packed gravel roads except for 12 miles, from miles 24 to 36. It tends to be a bit more rutted and technically demanding. It is unknowing quite easy to catch a tire on a rut edge and go down. Some caution is advised.

There are also a couple of steep up pitches in excess of 8%.

This area is remote but has some cell phone reception.

When we like to ride this …

Mid-May through July, when the creeks run full, and the hills and fields are painted green. From November 15th to April 15th, there is a seasonal road closure in place, do not ride before this. It could be a muddy mess with a lot of hike-a-bike. Also, the route starts with a downhill, so pick a start time according to your tolerance for cold.

The Start

A makeshift dirt pull-out along the west side of the Crooked River Highway, OR-27.
Lat / Long: 44.060784, -120.780479


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.

Ride Details

Miles 0 to 4 / Taylor Butte Descent / Paved

Get on your bike, ride a slight incline for a little less than a mile, then descend the Crooked River Highway on a sweet paved descent of 800 feet. This drops you into a scenic valley dotted with ranches.

Miles 4 to 24.5 / Bear Creek / Gravel

The next 6 miles are on Highway 27 (the Crooked River Highway), the only gravel highway in the state. The road is a wide two-lane gravel road with a slight incline that can get washboarded; if so, look to the outsides for good riding lines. You will most likely encounter a couple of cars / trucks on this sector.

At mile 10, you turn left onto Bear Creek Road. The gravel gets really good. Cadillac good! Hard-packed and fast, but with a slight incline that is almost imperceptible. Bear Creek is to your right for the entire sector. Rolling hills and some grazing lands dominate the area.

Miles 24.5 to 38 / Little Bear Creek & Roberts Road / Dirt

This sector is the most demanding of the day. The roads are more dirt / clay than gravel. They tend to become rutted with tire tracks, and some care is required to negotiate this safely. Also, this sector has several challenging but short hills. Pitches up to 10%, maybe a bit more. However, you will get some great views looking west to the Cascade Mountains. And if you’re lucky, just beyond the entrance to Skydog ranch, you will see one of the herds of horses of the ranch. Note that cyclists are not encouraged to stop at the ranch; this is to protect the mustangs and burros, to allow them to live in a sanctuary without being scared by cyclists. If you see horses, please just slow down.

SKYDOG RANCH is a forever home for wild mustangs and burros who have ended up in horrible and dangerous situations – at kill pens, at auctions, or in unloving homes where they have often been starved and neglected. We are also home to several wild horse families that we have reunited after being separated during roundups.[Skydog Ranch]

Miles 38 to 47 / Salt Creek & Taylor Butte Climb / Gravel, and Paved

At mile 38, a left turn onto Salt Creek Road, you’re back on hard-pack gravel with a long straight zipping fast downhill. At mile 41 go right and back onto the only state highway in Oregon that is gravel. The next 3.5 miles are slightly downhill, but work you harder than you expect due to the washboard and thick gravel.

At mile 42.5, the road returns to tarmac, and the finishing climb begins — 800 feet in 2.5 miles. The bottom half is steeper than the top half. 5 to 7% grade versus 4 to 6%. The climb felt easier than we anticipated, but it could be a brutal slugfest if you are with a spirited group.

From the summit near Taylor Butte, it is a little less than a mile back to the cars on a slight downhill. Enjoy!

Food & Water


Ride Notes

40 mm tires or larger.

Ridden and Reviewed by …

Gravel Girl / Team Dirty Freehub

She loves a good day of gravel like most people like a good book. She’s always amused by the outdoors and the wild adventures. Gravel Girl is a Co-Founder of Dirty Freehub.

Captain O / Team Dirty Freehub

He should have “Never Stop Exploring” tattooed on his chest! He loves adventures on bikes and is a Co-Founder of Dirty Freehub.


Revision History

  • May 2021 / Added The Ride video, Podcast, Get Involved info. Refined the details page. Updated the intro.
  • May 2021 / Original Post as a 5 Star route.

Get Involved!

The Skydog Ranch is a sanctuary for wild mustangs and burros. To learn more about their work, take a look at their website.

The Ride!


An depth interview (45 min) with the Executive Director of Skydog Ranch.

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