Redmond Radlands

Directions: From Bend, take U.S. Highway 97 north to Redmond. Turn right on state Highway 126/Evergreen Avenue. Turn left on Ninth Street. Turn right on Negus Way. Stay straight to go onto Maple Avenue. The High Desert Sports Complex and the Radlands trailhead are on the left.

Length: About 12 to 15 miles of singletrack bike trails, with several loop options. Plans call for 30 miles of trails, eventually.

Elevation gain: As much as 600 feet.

Rating: Technically intermediate to advanced; aerobically easy to intermediate.

Trail features: Trails range from easy to advanced. Many of the trails include technical riding over lava rock. Views include the Cascade Range and Smith Rock State Park.

Season: Fall, winter, spring.

REDMOND — Just minutes from downtown, but seemingly in the middle of the desert, the Redmond Radlands offer mountain bikers easy access to some intriguing and challenging trails.

The relatively new trail network is known for its rocky and technically difficult terrain. The system is close to home for mountain bikers who live in Redmond, and it is well worth the trip a few times each spring for those who live in Bend or elsewhere in Central Oregon.

Made up of about 12 to 15 miles of looped singletrack trails in northeast Redmond, the Radlands provide a sort of urban mountain biking — complete with transient camps — but the trails never really lose their wildness.

Lava rock is incorporated creatively into much of the singletrack, designed by volunteers with the Central Oregon Trail Alliance over the past six years.

Plans call for a total of about 30 miles of trails to eventually be built east of Redmond. Existing singletrack starts from a trailhead at the High Desert Sports Complex on Maple Avenue, home to the Smith Rock BMX racetrack.

I made the trip from Bend to the Radlands Trailhead on a clear day last week, and I found the trails in good shape after some recent rainfall. The Radlands are an ideal place for spring riding, but they should be avoided in mid- to late summer when the High Desert terrain can become excessively dry and dusty.

From the trailhead at the sports complex, the trail started out smooth and fast, cutting through sagebrush and old, twisted juniper trees. It took a while to reach the rocky sections of the trail, but once I did, they never seemed to end.

Much of the rock built into the singletrack at the Radlands is flat slab rock that is relatively easy to ride over. But some rock sections are particularly tricky, with the rocks jutting up sharply for long stretches.

“There’s a lot of lava rock that can make it insanely difficult,” says Eric Helie, who owns Redmond’s Trinity Bikes shop and helped build the trails at the Radlands. “A lot of it is pretty technical for beginner riders. But they were trying to make a mix of just enough technical to keep you on your toes — that’s what we like about it.”

On the north end of the trail system, a short, easy loop includes fewer rocky, technical sections than a longer, intermediate loop. Full-suspension bikes and 29-inch wheels that can help to smooth out a ride are recommended at the Radlands.

The project is a collaborative effort of COTA, the Redmond Area Park and Recreation District, and corporate sponsors Trinity Bikes and REI. The current trails are located on Deschutes County land.

The Radlands area also includes 7 miles of horseback riding trails, built and maintained by RAPRD and Oregon Equestrian Trails.

The flat, open expanse of the Radlands makes the most of sprawling views of Smith Rock State Park to the north and the snow-capped Three Sisters to the west.

After looping through the north portion of the Radlands, I crossed Maple Avenue and headed onto the southern end of the system, which includes the Outer Loop. Posted signs rate the trails as “easy,” “more difficult” or “most difficult.”

The trail eventually led me to the Hillside Terrain Park, a sprawling jump park that has been maintained by professional free-ride mountain biker and Bend resident Carson Storch.

South of the terrain park is where the Radlands has had some issues with transients and homeless camps, according to Helie.

“They’ve been there pretty much since we built it,” Helie says of the transients. “More recently we’ve seen an influx of people moving out there. Unfortunately, we’re advising people to not ride the southern loop. County and city officials are trying to figure out what to do. They’re running into issues with how long they can be there.”

The area of the southern loop has also been popular for target shooting. Helie says the Redmond park district is hoping to eventually make that a no-shooting zone, but that might take some time.

The Radlands trails should remain in prime riding shape after this week’s rain, but the number of riders has dwindled there in recent months, according to Helie.

When I rode out there I saw no other bike tracks and grass was beginning to grow right along the trail in a few areas.

“I think the ridership has gone down, and maybe that’s because there’s not as much trail maintenance going on right now,” Helie says. “We need to get re-engaged out there. There’s some maintenance that needs to be done.”

Even with its recent issues, the Radlands remain a good spring destination for mountain bikers who might want to try something different or work on their technical riding skills.

“It’s still a great area,” Helie says. “It’s close, it’s fun, and it has some great views.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0318,

mmorical@bendbulletin.com

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