Water & Lava

5 Star Route / Ridden and Reviewed by Gravel Girl

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Pinch me!  This really is our hometown ride?   Includes a path along a river, a tremendous waterfall, a view from the top of a butte, lava fields …. and a mixture of terrain.  Plus it’s close to town.  And it doesn’t get toooooooo sandy during the summer and too snowy during the winter. 

It’s the ride we send people to when they are debating on if they should convert over to gravel from road riding.


The Details:  You start at the Welcome Center then head toward the river (yes, you have to cross the highway!)  But soon enough, you are wandering along gravel roads and single track that hugs the river (right above the hiking trails in spots) and then lands you at Benham Falls.  Be sure to stop and go down to the overlook. The next section brings you to the top of Lava Butte via a paved bike path that has a slight uphill grade until the very end where there is a short, but steep 10+% grade climb on paved road.  (You have to earn that view on the top of the butte!  There is a shuttle during the summer that takes off from the Visitor’s Center.)

After leaving Lava Butte, ride the road, not the paved path, back towards Benham Falls.  (It has great views of the mountains.)  Near the railroad tracks, you will veer off left onto a paved bike path bringing you to the northern portion of Sunriver. Once you reach you Sunriver, you take the easy single track back to Benham Falls (yes, it has a few rocks that you can easily walk over) and then re-trace your route along the Deschutes river back to the Welcome Center.

Note: If you decide to take a spin through Sunriver, maybe to go grab coffee, good luck navigating the complex roundabouts.

Adventure / Gravel Route

– Lollipop: 30 miles / 1400 ft gain
– Surface: ~ 25% paved, 45% gravel, 15% single track, 15% paved bike path
– Course by: Captain “O”
– Location: ~ 10 min southwest of Bend, Oregon
– Rideable: Spring through Fall. The exceptional times are spring when the flowers bloom ad the river runs full and fast. And in the fall when the leaves are changing color.
– Date Posted: May 2014 (updated July 2018)


Easier+. For experienced beginner gravel/adventure riders. The single track is about 4 miles in length and has a few rocky sections …. walk the sections that you are not comfortable with. The more difficult sections of the route occur after Benham Falls, including the final climb up to Lava Butte.  

The Start

The Forest Service Welcome Center on Cascade Lakes Highway. Water & toilets

Food / Water

Lava Lands Visitor center, approximately half way.  Water, food, & toilets. Seasonally open.


Cue Sheet / TCX File


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

For help with Ride, GPS files, etc see the “Help with …” page. To learn how to download the routes for free, see “Using Our Routes …” page.

1 thought on “Water & Lava”

  1. We’ve lived in Bend for a year and half now and have ridden so many trails and routes and felt like we actually new our way around pretty well, yet we didn’t know about this route to get out to Sunriver, until just a couple weeks ago. This is such a fun, accessible route from Bend. It’s pretty flat and can be ridden at brisk pace on a cross or gravel bike pretty much the entire way. The top out at Lava Butte is a great feature.

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