Easy Like Sunday Morning
Big Red - Cascades Gravel Scenic Bikeway
On the lookout for a peaceful and smooth like butter gravel ride near Bend that gently rolls through an enchanting ponderosa forest? Well, then Big Red has you covered.
Big Red gravel ride is a scenic loop through LaPine State Park with a visit to the largest ponderosa pine in the world, and as you might have guessed, its name is Big Red. This towering tree comes in at 162 feet tall and 28.9 feet around and has stood the test of time at over 500 years old! Leonardo da Vinci created some of his finest works of art when this ancient tree was just a wee sprout.
Big Red isn’t the only reason to love this ride. There are also miles and miles of gently rolling single track that snake along the cold and clear Deschutes and Fall rivers. Most of the ride is shaded, making this a great summer option, and you’ll really appreciate the smooth and packed down terrain. Perfect for families and directionally-challenged folks like myself, it’s a safe route with low chances of getting lost in the woods.
If you need one last reason to love this route, here it is. There’s almost nobody out here — a few fly fishers who pride themselves on their favorite fishing spots, hikers camping at La Pine State Park, and awesome birds of prey like hawks, osprey, and even owls making themselves at home in the trees or touring the open skies.
Distance: 17 miles
Difficulty Rating: Easy like Sunday morning
Elevation Gain: 500 vertical feet
E-bike Friendly: No
Start Location: Big River boat launch, 30 minutes south of Bend
Surface: ~ 70% gravel road / double-track / single-track, 30% paved road
This route starts off by heading east on South Century Drive for 1.5 miles. This will be the busiest road of the day, but it has a wide shoulder. Make a right onto Foster road, the main access road to a local neighborhood. It is paved for 2 miles, then gravel.
At mile 5.5 make a right, followed by a quick left. In 500 feet you enter into LaPine State park and are on your quest to find Big Red! From here until mile 14.4 the trail will vary between old dirt road, double track, and wide single track. It will twist, it will turn. A little up, a little down.
At mile 7 you go past Dead Slough. This was an arching bend in the river, but at some time, the river forged a new, straighter channel bypassing the bend. Thus, the slough. Just after this, cross the Deschutes River on State Park road (paved) and the dive back into the woods and follow the river for another 2 miles.
Loop back north and east and touch the Deschutes river three more times, until at mile 12 you pick up the Fall River (which flows into the Deschutes River). Take a break at mile 13.2, Fall River Falls.
From here, there is a wee bit more riding along the river, then a traverse through the woods until you come to a green gate (an emergency fire road exit) that you will need to shimmy under or around. Ride the rolling paved neighborhood road back into the start / finish. About 2.4 miles.