Water & Lava

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

Pinch me! This … really … is … our … hometown ride? A path along a river, a tremendous waterfall, a view from the top of a butte, lava fields …. gravel roads, paved roads, double track, single track and bike paths. Plus it’s close to town … and it rides great most of the year. Not toooooooo sandy during the summer and not too snowy during the winter (yea, it can hold a bit of snow when it snows in town.)

It’s the signature ride we send people to when they are debating on converting to gravel from road riding. They always come back smiling. 

Ride Details 

You start at the Cascade Lakes Welcome Center, then head towards the Deschutes River by crossing underneath the highway via the bike tunnel followed by a bit of single track and a bit of gravel road. Cross around a green gate, onto the double track path and the river is to your left and below you. **Read More

Adventure / Gravel Route

– Lollipop: 31 miles / 1400 ft gain
– Surface: ~ 45% gravel, 20% single track, 15% paved bike path, 20% paved road
eBike Friendly: No
– Location: ~ 10 min southwest of Bend, Oregon
– Date Posted: May 2014 (updated January 2020)

Difficulty

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. If you are set on making it to the top of Lava Butte but don’t quite have the lung capacity, pop into the Lava Butte Welcome Center and see if the shuttle is running.   

When we like to ride this …

The exceptional times are spring when the flowers bloom and the river runs full and fast and fall when the leaves are changing color. But, do not forego this ride if you visit in the summer. Some of the paths will be a bit busier, but it is still very worthwhile, especially for a family.

The Start

The Cascade Lakes Welcome center on Cascade Lakes Highway. Water & toilets.
Lat / Long: 43.998223, -121.405697

Food / Water

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


Downloads

Cue Sheet / GPX File / TCX File

Legend

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

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.

  • Mark Filer says:

    Rode this one at the tail end of a weeklong stay in Central Oregon after doing the “Big Red” ride earlier in this week. Both were fantastic. Like with Big Red, I was starting from Sunriver and rode a modified version of the route, but the turn by turn was perfect and kept me on track throughout. The views from Lava Butte and along Benham Falls were highlights, and the single track sections were really fun (I’d encourage you not to bypass those). Thanks again to the curators of this site for sharing!
    https://www.strava.com/activities/3978508132

    • Kevin / Co-Founder @ Dirty Freehub says:

      Excellent! Thanks for the comment. Part of our mission is to put routes out there and have people modify, combine, shorten them, etc. …. just like you did. Thanks for the feedback!

  • Anonymous says:

    I rode this trail this afternoon. The trails were in perfect condition. The single track along the river in Sunriver had one blow-down tree in the last 40 meters of the trail. It was easy enough to double back to ride down the hikers only trail. Note: the 8% gradient on Lava Butte is an average. There are sections that are 10-11-12%. The butterflies were everywhere. After we got organized, they provided a great lead out train to the top of the Butte. The peeled off one by one just like we planned and they left it for me to sprint to the top.

  • Andrew Murray says:

    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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