Suttle Lake is well-known as a camping, fishing and boating destination in Central Oregon.
But it is underrated as a prime mountain biking spot.
Located 14 miles northwest of Sisters along U.S. Highway 20, Suttle Lake covers 250 acres and is ringed by a 4-mile loop along its picturesque shores. The loop is perfect for families and mountain bikers of all skill levels because the trail is mostly flat and nontechnical.
Cyclists looking for a longer ride can start at a small trailhead just off Highway 20 across from the turnoff to the Metolius River Recreation Area, about a 45-minute drive from Bend. This trailhead is for the Suttle Tie Trail, a 5-mile path of singletrack and doubletrack that leads to Suttle Lake.
Riding the lollipop route out and back makes for a 13-mile ride along ponderosa and lodgepole pines, yellow wildflowers, blooming manzanita and sparkling blue Suttle Lake.
After making the drive from Bend, Mark Johnson, Andrew Williams and I started out on the Suttle Tie Trail Tuesday on a bright, sunny morning. The trail began as basically a dirt road, making for more of a social ride as we rode next to one another and conversed.
The path turned to singletrack a few miles in, some of the trail soft with pine needles and gravel. Eventually, Mount Jefferson — shining a bright white with snow this time of year — entered our field of view.
We crossed a paved forest road and came upon scenic Lake Creek, flowing from the east end of Suttle Lake. The trail there led us through a dense canopy of trees, which reminded us of the renowned McKenzie River Trail, not far away on the western slopes of the Cascades.
The relatively new Lake Creek Trail passes under a short bridge on Highway 20 and follows the creek northeast all the way to Camp Sherman and the Metolius River.
It starts out as singletrack but eventually becomes more of a dirt road closer to Camp Sherman.
Combining the Suttle Lake and Lake Creek trails makes for a longer day in the saddle for mountain bikers looking to ride more miles.
Deep in the forest, we turned left onto the Suttle Lake Loop Trail — the loop rides well in either direction but we chose clockwise — and rode to the east end of the lake.
We followed the firm dirt trail along the south end of Suttle Lake and past several campsites. Bikers should be ready to yield to hikers and campers on the south side of the lake, as it can get somewhat crowded. The four campgrounds in the Suttle Lake area are extremely popular in the summertime.
After cruising over a small bridge to the north side of Suttle Lake, we glanced back and saw Mount Washington — still mostly covered in snow — towering over the lake in the distance.
The north side of the lake is popular with anglers, who can fish there for kokanee, brown trout and whitefish.
We picked up speed along the flowy trail, as butterflies fluttered past us amid the blooming manzanita.
Near the day-use area on the east end of the lake, we merged back onto the Suttle Tie Trail. The ride back to the car was mostly downhill as we cruised through the forest along the singletrack and doubletrack once again.
The ride took about two hours and made for a good workout but was not overly taxing.
To get in more miles in the Suttle Lake area, mountain bikers can consider trail loops around Black Butte, the Green Ridge Trail and the Metolius Windigo Trail.
For trails closer to Sisters, riders can head to the Peterson Ridge Trailhead just south of town. The area is home to a vast network of trails that volunteers with the Sisters Trail Alliance have spent thousands of hours improving in recent years.
Local mountain bikers have lots of options, but the 13-mile Suttle Tie and Loop is a Central Oregon ride not to be missed.