This weekend, more than 200 bold trail runners will tackle the inaugural Oregon Cascades 100-mile Trail Run, a point-to-point race from Bend to Sisters that includes nearly 10,000 feet of elevation gain.
Runners will be treated to some of the best singletrack trails and alpine vistas in Central Oregon as they crest the eastern edge of the Cascade Range and try to finish in the allotted time of 32 hours.
It’s an incredible achievement for the runners who finish, but let’s be honest, most of us do not want to run 100 miles. In fact, most of us just want the chance to sneak out for an hour during the day to get in a run.
Lucky for us, while Central Oregon is home to the incredible mountain singletrack that will be featured in the Oregon Cascades 100, it is also home to easily accessible trails within the city limits of Bend, Redmond and Sisters.
Here are four options for close-to-home trail runs in Central Oregon:
Central Oregon Historic Canal Trail
The Central Oregon Historic Canal Trail parallels the canal and connects to parks, trails and area businesses. If you are looking for a trail run that includes both west and east Bend, or looking to add some miles to a run on the Deschutes River Trail, then the 4-mile canal trail is an ideal option.
Currently the trail runs unbroken from the Deschutes River east to Reed Market Road. It includes a tunnel under U.S. Highway 97, an under-crossing at Brookswood Boulevard, and a pedestrian-activated crossing signal at Third Street. I use the canal trail to connect to the river trail from southeast Bend.
An additional section of the canal trail is open between 15th Street and Ferguson Avenue in southeast Bend. There is currently no public access along the canal through the Nottingham neighborhood.
Maintained by the Bend Park & Recreation District, the canal trail features a wide path for passing and soft, compacted gravel.
Deschutes River Trail (from First Street Rapids)
The Deschutes River Trail from First Street Rapids Park is a path in Bend that is suitable for all levels of trail runners. The wide trail features several hills as it climbs from near downtown along the north edge of Awbrey Butte.
A trailhead is located at First Street Rapids Park at the end of First Street off Newport Avenue. The trail can also be accessed from Pioneer Park via a pedestrian bridge.
I like this section of the river trail because the path is wide enough to allow for easy passing and the trail leads runners high above the Deschutes River as it cuts through a dramatic canyon. About 3 miles north of First Street Rapids Park, runners are treated to sprawling views of the river and the Three Sisters, making this a fun out-and-back 6-mile run.
Dry Canyon in Redmond
Over the past few weeks, runners and other outdoor enthusiasts have had their routines thwarted by smoke from wildfires to the south. On some recent days, the air north of Bend (in Redmond or Sisters, for instance) has been much better. Sometimes a drive north can be well worth it for trail runners dealing with unhealthy air in Bend.
Those who live in Redmond know the Dry Canyon Park well. A mix of High Desert geological features with modern recreational amenities, the park stretches 3.7 miles through the center of Redmond. Within the park are a variety of paved and dirt trails, some singletrack and some wider, allowing for out-and-back trail runs with little elevation gain.
The majority of the Dry Canyon is set aside as a nature preserve, and the steep canyon walls reflect the volcanic past of the area.
Peterson Ridge in Sisters
Located on the southern edge of Sisters, the Peterson Ridge network consists basically of two main trails — Peterson Ridge Trail West and Peterson Ridge Trail East — with about a dozen smaller trails that connect the two sides. The network is well-marked with signs on nearly every trail connector (the trailhead kiosk is usually stuffed with detailed maps that show every numbered junction in the network).
PRT West is a bit more technical and cuts alongside the edge of the ridge. Runners can enjoy the views as they climb. PRT East features more flow and fewer rocks.
More than 15 loop options are possible along the PRT from Sisters, varying in distance from 1.4 miles to 20.8 miles.
The PRT is the final section of the Oregon Cascades 100, so if you see racers there this weekend, cheer them on — they will have come a long way.