Metolius-Windigo Trail from Lava Lake
Directions: From Bend, take Cascade Lakes Highway past Mount Bachelor. The turn in to Lava Lake on Road 500 is at milepost 38, about 16 miles south of Bachelor. The lake is 1 mile in on a paved road. The Metolius-Windigo Trail starts near the boat ramp.
Trail features: Nice views while riding along Lava Lake and through lava fields and alpine forest. Follow the trail about 6 miles north to Hosmer Lake.
Length: The out-and-back ride from Lava Lake to Hosmer Lake is about 12 miles.
Elevation gain: About 250 feet.
Rating: Aerobically moderate to strenuous, and technically moderate to advanced.
Season: Summer through fall.
More rides can be found at bendbulletin.com/rideguide.
LAVA LAKE —
Known mostly as a rainbow trout fishery, this lake is an ideal destination for anglers looking to land trout in the 15-inch range.
But Lava Lake, as with nearby Little Lava Lake, offers the opportunity for many other outdoors pursuits besides fishing. Wildlife and bird viewing are popular, and the deer in the area are known to not be shy.
While Lava Lake is not entirely circled by a trail, the Metolius-Windigo Trail does skirt its entire east shore, making for an enjoyable, scenic mountain bike ride on the high lakes.
Bikers, hikers and horseback riders can take the trail north to Hosmer Lake, and farther, for a journey through the remote Deschutes National Forest west of Mount Bachelor.
The unique path cuts through alpine meadows and lava flows, and it passes several Cascade lakes.
I made the 45-minute drive southwest from Bend to Lava Lake last week to explore the area on my mountain bike. From Lava Lake, the Metolius-Windigo Trail starts near the boat ramp then cuts along the lake for 1½ miles.
With a lack of rain this summer, the trail was fairly dry and sandy, but I found a rhythm as I cruised along the picturesque blue lake.
Several sections of lava rock make the path somewhat difficult to navigate, but the trail smoothed out as I reached the north end of the lake.
A few fishing boats sat on the lake as anglers cast for their chance at rainbows.
As the trail continued into the woods past the lake, the ride became more challenging, and I climbed through the thick lodgepole pine forest. Soon thereafter, the trail turned from a dusty, high desert track into a smooth path covered with pine needles as I approached the remote east side of Hosmer Lake.
As the forest seemed to give way to my left, I arrived at the junction with Quinn Creek Trail. This loose, sandy path seemed mostly for horseback riders, so I decided to turn around and head back toward Lava Lake.
On the way back, I dismounted my bike and hiked through some trees and marsh to the edge of Hosmer Lake. This lake also offers quality fishing, for cutthroat trout, Atlantic salmon, brook trout and rainbow trout. It is also an extremely popular lake for kayakers, as the fish are visible in the clear water.
Back on my bike, I pedaled downhill returning through the thick forest toward Lava Lake. The nearly snowless southwest side of Mount Bachelor dominated the horizon to the east as I negotiated the lava flows along the loose pumice soil. The trail rolled into tight corners through alpine forest. The rocky, technical portions were much easier on the way back downhill.
After biking south past Lava Lake, I continued on to Little Lava Lake. This small, captivating lake features a popular campsite along the headwaters of the Deschutes River. I rode to the boat ramp, then hopped off my bike to hike the trail for about half a mile along the stream. I startled a doe in the long grass, but she just stared at me, unamused as she rested in the shade. The deer in the area are accustomed to humans and are not easily spooked.
From Little Lava Lake, hearty mountain bikers can connect to the challenging Edison-Lava Trail and ride all the way to Edison Butte Sno-park, about 10 miles east.
I chose to call it quits after about 12 miles and three hours of mountain biking.
At nearly 5,000 feet of elevation, the trail near Lava Lake will likely become inaccessible due to snow by November. But late summer and early fall are perfect times to cruise through the Central Oregon high country on a mountain bike.
— Reporter: 541-383-0318,
Editor’s note: Mountain Bike Trail Guide, by Bulletin outdoors writer Mark Morical, features different trails in Central Oregon and beyond. The trail guide appears in Outdoors on alternating Wednesdays through the riding season.