2% Paved

42% Dirt road 

55% Singletrack 

95% Percent rideable

Longest stretch between resupply: 94 miles. 2-4 days

Longest stretch between water sources: 35 miles, 1-2 days

Physical difficulty: 5/10

Technical difficulty: 6/10

Bikepacking challenge: Intermediate


The Deschutes Tier takes you back over to the dry, volcanic eastern flank of the Cascade Range. Bend is famous for its large network of world-class mountain bike trails and the Oregon Timber Trail takes advantage of them as it leaves Waldo Lake and winds its way through the Cascade Lakes region and around Mt. Bachelor.

Crossing under the shadow of Broken Top and the Three Sisters you’ll visit Tam Mcarthur Rim and Three Creeks Lake before descending into Sisters for a stop at the brewery, stocking up at the co-op, and getting your bike tuned up.

The second leg of the Deschutes Tier takes you over the Cascade Range yet again on the historic Santiam Wagon Road. You’ll leave Sisters skirting Black Butte and Camp Sherman (worth a side trip) before popping out at Suttle Lake. A newly remodeled lodge offers rooms, cabins, hot food, cold cocktails and even canoe rentals. Once you’ve had your fill, you’ll climb to Big Lake with views of Mount Washington and descend the sandy wagon ruts to Fish Lake and the headwaters of the Mckenzie River. 

Highlights

Secluded alpine lakes and dry alpine forests

Intense volcanic geology

Many Cascade peaks dotting the horizon

Small lake resort stores

Little Three Creeks Lake

Suttle Lodge

Santiam Wagon Road

Tam McArthur Rim © Gabriel Amadeus

Tam McArthur Rim © Gabriel Amadeus

Logistics

The Deschutes Tier has no substantial resupplies aside from Sisters. It does, however, have many small resort stores and restaurants. Make a plan and carry plenty of food. 

There is one long dry section (~35 miles) around Mount Bachelor where you’ll need to be careful to carry plenty of water, it can get quite hot in the summer. 

There are roughly 2 miles of riding on the Cascade Lakes Highway between Wanoga and Swampy Lakes, please ride carefully and stay on the shoulder. 

The Indian Ford bridge is out. (Mile 450) Use caution when detouring around on Hwy 126 for .25 miles. 

The area around Big Lake is used by a lot of OHV traffic, stay alert and share these dirt roads. 

The Metolius-Windigo Trail is a shorter multi-use trail option between Lava Lake and Sisters but it is a perceived high-conflict zone between equestrians and people on bikes. For this reason the official Oregon Timber Trail route skirts the Metolius-Windigo Trail and instead aligns on forest roads. Please be alert and friendly when passing through this area. See the beginning of this guide for suggestions on how to courteously interact with equestrians and other trail users. If you’re comfortable riding and yielding right-of-way on trails shared with equestrians; the Metolius-Windigo Trail is shorter, contains more singletrack, less climbing, and more water sources than the official Oregon Timber Trail route. 

Trail & Forest info

Deschutes National Forest, Bend, OR - (541) 383-5300

Recommended maps

USGS Topographical Quadrants available at USGS.gov

Bend Area Adventure Map

Bend Three Sisters National Geographic Trail Map

Deschutes National Forest Map

Bike shops

Mt. Bachelor Repair Shop, Mt. Bachelor - (800) 829-2442

Blazin Saddles, Sisters, OR - (541) 719-1213

Nearest medical facilities

St. Charles Medical Center
2500 NE Neff Road | Bend, OR 97701 | (541) 382-4321.


CASCADE PEAKS

Segment 6 of 10 - Waldo Lake to Sisters

Sun kissed forests © Leslie Kehmeier

Sun kissed forests © Leslie Kehmeier

Segment length: 94 miles

Total climbing: +7,145 feet

Number of days: 2-4

3% Paved

40% Dirt road

57% Singletrack

100% Rideable

Physical difficulty: 5/10

Technical difficulty: 6/10

Bikepacking challenge: Intermediate 

Longest stretch between resupply: 94 miles, 2-4 days

Longest stretch between water sources: 35 miles, 1-2 days

 

Resupplies

Mile 366: Cultus Lake Resort: Busy resort store and restaurant

Mile 376: Lava Lake Lodge: Quiet small resort store

Mile 405: Mount Bachelor Resort: Bike shop, grab and go food items, restaurant (limited hours, chairlift access) 

Mile 421: Three Creeks Lake Store: Tiny & friendly lakeside store with basic snacks and beer

Mile 442: Sisters: Full Services

Commercial Lodging

Mile 366: Cultus Lake Resort: Busy resort with cabins

Many options off route in Bend and Sunriver

Mile 442: Sisters: Many options

The Cascade Lakes segment is defined by high elevation lakes that collectively form the headwaters of the Deschutes River system. These quiet lakes are nestled in volcanic rock and tree-lined shores and the segment connects the dots between them as it skirts Mount Bachelor and the Three Sisters. 

Alpine meadows © Leslie Kehmeier

Alpine meadows © Leslie Kehmeier

You’re back on the dry side of the cascade range now, and the forest makes that apparent. Ponderosas, Mountain Hemlock, Lodgepole Pine, and Juniper hug wet, grassy marshes and jagged dusty outcroppings. In contrast with the Willamette Tier, the Deschutes forest is sparser, dryer and typically made up of much smaller desert evergreens. 

Leaving the shores of Oregon’s second deepest lake—Waldo—you’ll first pop over to Charlton Lake, then Lemish Lake, Little and big Cultus Lake, the Blue Lagoon, both Lava Lakes… you get the idea. It’s likely going to be quite hot and sunny, so make sure to stop at each for an ice-cold dip. There is relatively little elevation gain throughout this section save for a little hop over the shoulder of Mount Bachelor on the Edison Lava Trail. Edison Lava can be rocky and technical in spots. Keep your wits about you and don’t push beyond your riding abilities. You’ll wrap around the east side of Bachelor on Dinah Moe Humm, Kiwa Butte and Funner-Tiddlywinks trails. 

At Wanoga Sno-Park either detour to Bend’s vast trail network and alluring brewery selection, or stay on route and hop on the Cascade Lakes Highway for two miles to connect to Swampy Lakes Sno-Park and the Dutchman connector. A bike shop, lift service trails and food are available at Mt. Bachelor Lodge, or continue on through Dutchman Flat to the rough and tumble NF 370 road. This road travels just below treeline through fragile subalpine meadows and groves. Many dispersed campsites are available along its length, but be cautious while riding the 370 road as it can be quite busy during peak summer season. 

After a few more miles you’ll pop out at Three Creek Meadow. Either take a left to the busy Three Creek Lake Campground or hoof it into Little Three Creek Lake for a much more secluded campsite. This zone is a great place to relax for a day and explore the Three Sisters Wilderness and Tam McArthur Rim by foot. From camp it’s a fast descent on dusty roads to the Peterson Ridge Trail system. Peterson Ridge is a dense network of fast rolling singletrack with great sight lines. It can be confusing at first but almost all trails will lead you to town and every intersection is well-signed. Head straight to the brewery or explore the small but well-stocked town of Sisters. Cheap showers are available in the city park as well—you’ll probably need them by this point. 

Little Three Creek Lake Trail © Gabriel Amadeus

Little Three Creek Lake Trail © Gabriel Amadeus


SANTIAM WAGON ROAD

Segment 7 of 10 - Sisters to Fish Lake

Santiam Wagon Road © Gabriel Amadeus

Santiam Wagon Road © Gabriel Amadeus

Segment length: 34 miles

Total climbing: +2,400 feet

Number of days: 1-2

0% Paved

48% Dirt road

52% Singletrack

90% Rideable (sandy)

Physical difficulty: 4/10

Technical difficulty: 4/10

Bikepacking challenge: Beginner 

Longest stretch between resupply: 15 miles, 1 day

Longest stretch between water sources: 10 miles, 1 day

 

Resupplies

Mile 442: Sisters: Full Services

Mile 459: Suttle Lodge bar & restaurant

Mile 477: Clear Lake Resort: Very minimal snacks at store

Commercial Lodging

Mile 442: Sisters: Many options

Mile 459: Suttle Lodge

Mile 477: Clear Lake Resort Cabins

A relatively short segment, the Santiam Wagon Road takes you west across over Santiam Pass to the headwaters of the McKenzie River and historic Fish Lake Work Center. The Santiam Wagon Road was built as a response to the influx of settlers coming to the Willamette Valley on the Oregon Trail. Soon all the workable land was snatched up and emigrants headed back east over Santiam Pass to settle Oregon’s central valley ranchland. While less rugged and steep than many routes, the wagon road was—and still is—an arduous journey. Belknap Crater and numerous spatter cones belched out loose volcanic sand across the range a few thousand years ago creating a frustratingly unstable road surface for wagons and mountain bikes alike. 

Suttle Lodge © Gabriel Amadeus

Suttle Lodge © Gabriel Amadeus

Much like the rest of the Deschutes Tier, The Santiam Wagon Road takes you through thin lodgepole and ponderosa forests, transitioning to darker, greener groves as you make your descent to the spring-fed Clear Lake. 

Leaving Sisters, wind your way through the hypnotizing orange trunks of Ponderosa Pines towards Black Butte. You may encounter equestrians between Sisters and Black Butte, say hi and move off the trail to let them pass. Hop on the Suttle Tie Trail to skirt Black Butte and connect to the stunning Suttle Lodge. They’ve got quaint cabins, delicious cocktails, a giant outdoor beer garden, and enticing dock for jumping off. Rumor on the street is they’ll even hook up Timber Trail riders with a free burger at the Boathouse.

Once refueled, begin the short but steep climb out of the basin and connect to the Santiam Wagon Road. Big Lake has campsites and great views of Mount Washington but is busy in summer months, keep going through the slow sand and eventually you’ll start descending, once you cross the gravel road, the sand disappears and a super fun and fast forest grove trail opens up, taking you quickly to the upper parking lot for the McKenzie River Trail. Detour for a side loop on the MRT or push on into the fourth and final Hood Tier. 

Santiam Wagon Road © Gabriel Amadeus

Santiam Wagon Road © Gabriel Amadeus

 

Continue on your journey to the Hood Tier...