Editor's note: Mountain Bike Trail Guide, by Bulletin outdoors writer Mark Morical, features various trails in Central Oregon and beyond. The trail guide appears in Adventure Sports on alternating Fridays through the riding season.
Easing into the mountain biking season is often challenging in Central Oregon.
We want to ride our epic singletrack as soon as weather conditions become warmer and sunnier after a long, cold, snow-filled winter and early spring.
But many of those trails remain muddy or buried under snow. Riding in muddy conditions can create ruts that damage the trails when they dry out.
Luckily, the High Desert is home to some fun winter riding areas that stay in prime shape well into May.
Located between the town of Tumalo and Eagle Crest Resort west of Redmond, the Maston area is one such place. And because of the gently rolling relief of the Maston Plateau, it is the perfect place for a mellow ride to kick off the mountain bike season.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has designated Maston as a mountain biking area in the Cline Buttes Recreation Area Plan. More trails are in the works on and around Cline Buttes themselves, according to BLM signs, but that area remains a confusing mix of private property and off-road motorized vehicle trails.
Over the past few years, the Maston area has become more and more established as a mountain biking destination. Evidence of this includes the BLM's Juniper Trailhead on the northwest end of the trail network off Cline Falls Highway, just a couple miles before the entrance to Eagle Crest.
I parked at the Juniper Trailhead on Tuesday, a mild day with temperatures nearing 70 degrees, and began the ride heading toward the Middle Deschutes, which carves a small, scenic canyon in the area.
The trail wound through a small juniper forest, some of the trees appearing as old, mangled sentinels that stood out in the sandy swath of sagebrush.
The trails were still in decent shape, not too dusty yet, so riders would be advised to take advantage now. By midsummer the trails will no doubt be too dusty to be enjoyable.
The Maston area includes 12 to 15 miles of singletrack with various loop options. A map on the website ormtb.com can help bikers navigate throughout the relatively confined trail system. Several Y-shaped intersections force riders to make a decision on which way to go.
I continued cruising along flat singletrack, nothing too technical or challenging, and branched off down a slight hill where the forest seemed to open up.
I arrived at a breathtaking vista of the Deschutes River surging through the rimrock canyon.
Back on the trail, I headed west among the juniper trees and through flat, open sections where snowcapped mountains — Broken Top and the Three Sisters — came into view. To the north, Cline Buttes dominated the horizon.
I soon came to an area of trail near the highway, before the path headed back eastward to complete my clockwise loop of 10 miles or so at the Juniper Trailhead.
The desert area does not offer a vast array of changing features, but rather constant rolling singletrack that most cross-country riders would enjoy. Neither harrowing descents nor steep, sustained climbs await, but bikers can gain decent speed along some downhill straightaways.
The Maston area constitutes about 4,000 acres of the Cline Buttes Recreation Area Plan's 32,000 acres (50 square miles), where trails are in the works for mountain bikers, hikers and horseback riders.
The winter riding area remains in good shape, especially after recent rainfall. But mountain bikers would be wise to get out there soon, before the dusty days of summer arrive.