Editor's note: Mountain Bike Trail Guide, by Bulletin sports and outdoors writer Mark Morical, features various trails in Central Oregon and beyond. The trail guide appears in Outdoors on alternating Wednesdays through the riding season.
Every time I make the trip to the Peterson Ridge Trail system I end up wondering why I don't ride there more often.
Sure, hundreds of miles of singletrack exist closer to Bend, but there is just something about Peterson Ridge that makes it a pure joy each time.
Maybe it's the distance, a 30-minute drive from Bend, that makes the heart grow fonder. Or maybe it's the spectacular views of the Three Sisters.
Then again, maybe it's just the fact that the Peterson Ridge Trail system is a sweet network of singletrack built by devoted volunteer mountain bikers from the Sisters Trail Alliance and the Central Oregon Trail Alliance.
Put simply, they knew what they were doing.
Once merely a lone 10-mile trail with a small loop on the south end, the Peterson Ridge Trail network near Sisters has in the last few years evolved into a vast network of trails to entice mountain bikers of any skill level. The system now includes 30 miles of expertly designed singletrack and myriad loop options.
I made the drive from Bend to the Peterson Ridge trailhead in Sisters last week with Dustin Gouker, who has ridden plenty on trails closer to home in Bend but had never been to Peterson Ridge.
He was impressed nearly right away, noting the gradual climb, the open space, and the views.
Spring and fall are the best times of year to ride at Peterson Ridge, as some of the trails become dusty in the summertime, much like the Phil's Trail network west of Bend.
The trail network in Sisters 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.)
We decided to ride the west trail up the ridge and the east trail back down for a ride of about 14 miles and a duration of 2 hours, 20 minutes.
The trail starts out flat and easy, and the west trail becomes increasingly dynamic as it climbs the ridge. As we climbed higher, the trail became a bit more steep and noticeably more technical, with sections of lava rock.
Most of the trails in the Peterson Ridge area are not technically demanding or particularly strenuous. Dustin and I decided to try a section of trail called Eagle Rock, which was built to provide a more technical option for those who seek out that style of riding. The trail climbs a rocky mound (Eagle Rock) and then descends the other side.
A short but challenging climb took us to the top of Eagle Rock, from where the Three Sisters, sparkling white with snow, glowed against a bright blue spring sky. We rode down the rock-strewn trail, walking our bikes in some of the more challenging sections, back to the west trail.
Peterson Ridge Trail West includes ridgeline riding with still more majestic views of Middle Sister and North Sister.
We rode to the middle overlook along the ridge, finding some rocks on which to sit and take a much-needed break while gazing at the dramatic views of the Cascade peaks.
We could have continued another few miles to the far overlook at the south end of the trail network, but we were more than ready for some downhill riding.
We took the connector from the middle overlook and rode to Peterson Ridge Trail East, a trail that was designed and built in just the last few years. We followed it through open sagebrush country and back down into the ponderosa pine forest.
The east trail features a section of banked corners and up-and-down dips through an old canal, an incredibly fun section that displays the forethought and ingenuity of the volunteers who built the trail.
After that section, the trail steepened and we cruised back down along the smooth, rhythmic path to the trailhead in seemingly no time.
Another perk of Peterson Ridge: We saw just one other mountain biker on the entire ride. Sure, it was midweek, but I would bet that the trails closer to Bend were much more crowded on that fine spring day.
Yet another perk of Peterson Ridge: Three Creeks Brewing Co. in Sisters. One chicken bacon tater later, I was ready to stomach an afternoon back in the office.
From Bend, take U.S. Highway 20 to Sisters. Make a left on Elm Street and park at the Village Green Park to the left. The trailhead is three blocks north off Elm Street.
Loop options of 2 to 18 miles.
Technically intermediate, aerobically easy.
Thirty miles of singletrack. East side offers unique trail with banked corners and small technical areas. West side is a bit more technical, with commanding views of Middle and North Sister along the ridge.