: Brice Shirbach (pictured is Anthony Lakes)

Spring Biking in Eastern Oregon

Whether gravel, mountain or road, cycling east of the Cascades has it all.
March 11, 2015 (Updated April 17, 2024)

With about 5 million acres of public land, gorgeous country roads and soaring mountain views, Eastern Oregon shines when it comes to options for cycling. Fat-tire mountain biking fans have hundreds of miles of fast single-track, while quiet roads lead to towns that welcome Lycra-clad road bikers looking to refuel after a leg-burning spin. Add in a bottomless array of gravel roads for the grinders and you have a lifetime’s worth of places to play, no matter how you ride. Here is just a sampling of the goods. 

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Cyclists in the foreground with red barns, grass and large snowcapped mountains in the background
Riding around the Wallowas; courtesy of Cycle Oregon

Road Rides and Unique Scenic Bikeways

Make your plans now to head out to the Wallowas in September for a five-day ride with Cycle Oregon. You’ll head out through the Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman national forests, with road and gravel options pf varying distances available. Come evening, you’ll camp in Elgin and Enterprise and have the chance to catch a show at the Elgin Opera House or even go two-step dancing. 

Eastern Oregon also has numerous Scenic Bikeways that make for epic multiday trips (or one very hard day for the super fit). The Blue Mountain Century challenges even seasoned riders with 108 miles of undulating pavement with big hills and 8,000 feet of climbing, but the riding and the views are worth it. The 174-mile-long Old West Scenic Bikeway starts at Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site in John Day and loops through towns like Prairie City, Dayville and Mt. Vernon before returning to John Day. Other routes include loops through the Painted Hills and the Grande Tour with stops in La Grande, Baker City, Union and North Powder. Ride those before it gets too hot in the height of summer.

For a place to rest, the Spoke’n Hostel in Mitchell and the Churchill School Old School Bike & Ski Hostel in Baker City cater to cyclists.  

Man rides mountain bike on dirt trail next to lake and trees
Phillips Reservoir South Shoreline Trail in Baker City, courtesy of by Brice Shirbach

Great Mountain Biking in the Blue Mountains

The base of Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort sits northwest of Baker City at about 7,100 feet, the highest of any ski area in the state. Come summer, that same spectacular alpine scenery becomes a hub for 8 miles of alpine mountain biking. A popular route takes riders 1,000 vertical feet up through the ski area and then down an intermediate trail, Broadway Flow, a 3-mile romp with swoopy turns that drops steadily back to the base. 

Nearby, the Elkhorn Crest National Recreation Trail in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, the highest trail in the Blue Mountains, rarely drops below 8,000 feet as it runs for 14 miles high along a ridge. This is expert-level riding. Range Tour & Shuttle (currently not taking reservations for the 2024 season) makes it easier with a shuttle service that can cut off a lot of the climbing. At Phillips Reservoir southwest of Baker City, you can find fun beginner rides like the South Shoreline Trail that runs along the lake. 

In the Grande Ronde Valley outside of La Grande, the Mount Emily Recreation Area features about 45 miles of trail, most of them well suited for beginners and intermediates. Expert riders have runs like the Skills Slalom Trail to test them with berms, jumps and roll-overs.

Two men ride bikes along green fields and mountains in backdrop
Keating With Love and Virtue Trail in Baker City, courtesy of Visit Baker County

Gravel Grinding With Dirty Freehub

The dramatic high-desert country of Eastern Oregon plays host to a number of gravel rides that take riders rolling through quiet forested meadows, down into dry canyons and along wetlands teeming with birds. Your first step: Check in with Dirty Freehub, an Oregon-based nonprofit run by cyclists that creates these trails. It has all the maps and info you need. 

You can find the group’s work sprinkled across the region, from the south in Paisley, where the remote 47-mile-long Milk & Honey loop takes you into pine and ponderosa forests and up to ridges for views, to the north in Wallowa. There the 22-mile-long Building Bridges route takes you through the ancestral homelands of the Nez Perce. Bird Nerd, south of Burns, takes you through the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge — a place known for excellent bird-watching — on a 40-mile loop that’s half gravel, half paved. Northwest of Burns, a mostly gravel route called Egypt Canyon runs in a 44-mile loop through two canyons. 

Head to Baker City for one of the newer routes, Keating With Love and Virtue, a ride based on the route of the Oregon Trail.  

About The
Author

Tim Neville
Tim Neville is a writer based in Bend where he writes about the outdoors, travel and the business of both. His work has been included in Best American Travel Writing, Best American Sports Writing and Best Food Writing, and earned various awards from the Society of American Travel Writers and the Society of Professional Journalists. Tim has reported from all seven continents and spends his free time skiing, running and spending time with his family.

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