Maston Area

Directions: From the town of Tumalo, follow Cline Falls Highway northeast for 4.4 miles. Turn right on Newcomb Road at a sign for Maston Trailhead. The trailhead, with ample parking and restrooms, is half a mile down the road. Parking is also available 3 miles north of Newcomb Road at the Juniper Trailhead, just off Cline Falls Highway.

Length: 8- to 15-mile loop options

Elevation gain: Up to 500 feet.

Rating: Aerobically easy and technically intermediate.

Trail features: Flat and rolling singletrack through juniper trees and sagebrush, with views of the Cascade mountains. Trails are currently in decent shape, but avoid riding them in the summer when they could be extremely dusty.

Season: Fall, winter, spring.

The tires were nearly flat. The chain was bone dry. There might as well have been cobwebs clinging to my bike as further evidence of its lack of use over this past winter.

Indeed, it had been months since I had last gone mountain biking.

The late-winter snowfall and more recent significant rain had kept my bike hanging from hooks in the garage well into spring.

But this week it was finally time to pump up the tires, grease the chain — dust off the proverbial cobwebs of a long winter — and hit the trail.

But where to go?

For those trails no longer covered in snow, the rapid meltoff and heavy rains have left many of them a muddy mess — even those that are usually ridable by this time of spring. (Riders should avoid muddy trails because bike tires can leave behind ruts that dry and harden in the summer.)

The Maston area north of Bend between Tumalo and Eagle Crest Resort is an ideal location for early-season mountain biking. The trails there have already dried out, and the general flatness of the plateau across which they wind and weave make for a good way to kick off the season without any crushing climbs or heart-pounding descents. It is also a great place to take kids or novice mountain bikers.

Still, I was worried about the condition of the trails after so much rain fell on the High Desert over the past weekend.

On Tuesday, though, the singletrack at Maston was in prime shape, firm and tacky, making for a fun start to the season. A few puddles remained on one section of trail, but there were no sticky, mucky conditions on which bike tires could cause damage.

Maston includes about 20 miles of trail and contains various loop options. Most of the trails feature rolling terrain along sagebrush and juniper trees.

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.

Late morning on Tuesday at Maston, several cars were parked at the trailhead off Cline Falls Highway along Newcomb Road, about 14 miles from Bend. The area is certainly no secret, especially when other popular riding spots remain muddy or covered by snow and ice.

I typically ride the outer loop at Maston, and it works well in either direction. I started out riding clockwise on the outer loop, encouraged to find 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.

I 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, I rode some rocky but mostly smooth trails 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 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, I rode about 15 miles in 2½ hours Tuesday, a perfect way to dust off the cobwebs and ease into the mountain biking season in Central Oregon.

—Reporter: 541-383-0318,

mmorical@bendbulletin.com

22960476