Perhaps one of the best things about mountain biking in Central Oregon is that the season is nearly year-round.
Don’t want to pay for a season pass to Bachelor this winter? You can always spend your winter weekends mountain biking instead of skiing or snowboarding.
And most of the time you do not even need a fatbike designed for snow.
Minus the periods of winter when deep snow lingers on the ground, mountain bikers can usually find ridable trails all through late fall and winter on the High Desert.
The Maston area is one of the prime late-autumn and winter mountain biking destinations, and it’s popular with trail runners as well.
Located north of Bend between Tumalo and Eagle Crest Resort, the Maston area is a flat plateau just west of the Deschutes River that includes about 20 miles of singletrack with endless loop options. Most of the trails feature rolling terrain along sagebrush and juniper trees.
The network is an inviting place for beginners or families — or those just looking for a mellow ride — because it has no crushing climbs or heart-pounding descents.
After several days of rain and cold temperatures, the singletrack at Maston was in prime shape this past weekend.
I made the 20-minute drive from Bend to meet a friend at the Maston trailhead for a 12.5-mile ride around the outer loop.
The dirt was firm and tacky, with no puddles, making for nearly ideal conditions.
The Bureau of Land Management has designated Maston as a mountain biking area in the Cline Buttes Recreation Area Plan. Maston constitutes about 4,000 acres of the plan’s 32,000 acres (50 square miles), where trails are in the works for mountain bikers, hikers and horseback riders.
Over the last few years, the BLM’s development of Maston as a mountain biking destination has become evident, with trail junction signs and a trailhead with a map kiosk, restrooms and designated parking. There always seems to be at least a few cars in the parking area November through April. On weekends, it can fill up.
The area is certainly no secret, especially when other popular riding spots west of Bend are starting to get covered with snow or ice.
I typically ride the outer loop at Maston, and it works well in either direction. We started out riding clockwise on the outer loop, encouraged to find the perfect trail conditions.
While no rain fell, the wind whipped vigorously across the plateau but was never a problem as the numerous juniper trees quelled its force.
At Maston, riders can find a nice rhythm on the desertlike trails, gaining speed on the downhill sections and never getting hindered by grueling uphill sections.
We rode past the Juniper Trailhead on the northwest end of Maston, then cut across east toward the Deschutes River canyon. After stopping to take in the canyon views, we rode some rocky, technical terrain on the edge of the canyon.
But the trails were mostly smooth all the way back to the main trailhead off Newcomb Road. While trails at Maston are relatively easy, they do include some rockier sections that families with children or novice bikers might want to avoid.
One such section is the Rockbar Trail, which parallels the picturesque Deschutes River canyon deep in the High Desert. At first glance, the trail appears an impossibly technical jumble of rocks along the edge of the canyon. But the rocks are perfectly positioned for mountain bikers to ride over while carefully sneaking glances of the river far below.
And for those who would rather stop to take in the views, several viewpoints are located just off the trail.
In all, the 12.5-mile ride took about 1 hour, 30 minutes — another memorable outing on some of my favorite offseason trails.