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Outside » Outside Features

Gravel Bike Adventures in the Ochoco National Forest

Finding solitude and wide-open spaces, just east of Bend



The Ochoco National Forest has a million roads with so few cars that I always give out a big HOWDY wave when they go by. It's the perfect place for gravel cycling; a recreational paradise.  Late spring through mid-summer is my favorite riding time, with loads of wildflowers. We often run into mustangs, deer and antelope as we cruise by green prairies, fast running creeks, and rocky canyons. 

Looking at a map, you'll realize it's a tall order to figure out where to start, so let me help you. Here are a few of my favorites, just an hour or two from Bend. Find all the route details including downloadable maps, photos, and route descriptions at Dirty Freehub ( All for free! Note that all of the routes listed below are e-bike friendly which means there are no restrictions for riding an e-bike.

Kevin English tops the hill on the Bonanza Route. - LINDA ENGLISH
  • Linda English
  • Kevin English tops the hill on the Bonanza Route.

Bonanza is a moderate route that starts near Brothers. The route is 51 miles with 3,200 feet of gain. It has a wild, Wild West history of gold mines and an ill-fated wagon train expedition. Don't be surprised if you end up in a cattle drive.

McKay Creek Lollipop is a moderate route that starts 12 miles north of Prineville. The route is 38 miles with 3,700 feet of gain. You'll love the big ponderosas, a beautiful creek and a ripping fast descent at the end. This is a classic Ochocos route! 

Kloochman is an advanced loop that starts in downtown Prineville at the Good Bike shop. It is 92 miles of gravel and road with 5,400 feet of gain. The route includes two of the best road cycling routes, connecting them with a great gravel section up and over the Maury Mountains. It includes the Post General Store and Prineville Reservoir.  

Meatloaf is a moderate route that starts in the town of Post. It's 35 miles and 2,900 feet of climbing. The loop has a big continuous climb through a ponderosa forest, from valley floor to the mountain tops, with a blasting long downhill and terrific views of the Post/Paulina valley. The backside of the loop has a beautiful section of ponderosa trees covered in bright green wolf moss. There's also the stop at the Post General Store for meatloaf sandwiches.

Famous meatloaf sandwiches are served up at the Post General Store. - LINDA ENGLISH
  • Linda English
  • Famous meatloaf sandwiches are served up at the Post General Store.

Major Enoch is a moderate+ route that starts 30 miles east of Prineville. The route is 54 miles and 5,900 feet of climbing and includes amazing geographical features like the Steens Pillar. It finishes up with a fast, paved descent. 

Big Summit Prairie is a moderate route that starts 15 miles east of Prineville, 48 miles and 3,800 feet of climbing. It's a great place to spot antelope and mustangs. This route is a huge favorite in spring because of the amazing wildflowers and abundance of birds.

Pink Lady is a moderate+ route that begins two hours east of Bend, near Riley—32 miles and 1,400 feet of gain. It includes wetlands and rocky canyons but is also rugged and remote. 

Dreamliner is a moderate route that starts outside of the town of Paulina. The route is 38 miles and 3,600 feet of gain and includes Boeing Field, Little Summit Prairie and a dreamy 8-mile paved downhill finish.

-Linda English, aka Gravel Girl, is the co-founder of Dirty Free Hub, a free local resource for gravel cycling routes in Central Oregon and far beyond.

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