Motorcycle Riding in Central Oregon

July 9, 2014 (Updated December 23, 2016)

While Bend deservedly has a reputation as a vacation destination in its own right, the city makes a fine base for day and half-day trips on low-traffic roads that lead to spectacular destinations. A great place to ride to for lunch is the Newberry National Volcanic Monument in the pine-covered Paulina Mountains on the rim of Bend’s southern skyline. A windy, two-lane road will take you from the highway to two mini-Crater Lakes — Paulina Lake and East Lake — and their rustic settings.


As you leave Bend on Highway 97 southbound, the vanilla-like scent of the surrounding ponderosa pine trees will fill your helmet. Dark gray fields of lava and red cinder cones appear off of your right handlebar almost as soon as you leave the city. To learn more, pull into Lava Lands Visitor Center and the hallmark Lava Butte Lookout, which is about 6 miles south of the Baker Road interchange at Bend’s south end. The visitor center, open May through mid-October, is run by the Deschutes National Forest and offers nature walks, films and interpretive materials to learn about this volcanic landscape. There’s also access to nearby Benham Falls on the Deschutes River. The lookout atop Lava Butte offers stunning vistas of this volcanic terrain.

If you built up an appetite walking the Trail of Molten Lands, a great lunch awaits you about another 31 miles ahead at the Newberry National Monument. The turnoff for Paulina-East Lake is 13 miles south after you leave Lava Lands Visitor Center. While US 97 is arrow straight, after turning east (left) onto Paulina Lake Road for the next 18 miles you will be able to use your best cornering techniques of head held high while looking through the corner, delaying your apex, going in slow and rolling on throttle through the turn. And turns you will have, as the road climbs up 3,000 feet to an elevation of nearly 6,500 feet before dead-ending at East Lake. You get to enjoy those same twisty 18 miles all over again going back downhill, so watch your speed. There is a pullout on the way down where you can stop and take in the vista of the Three Sisters, a trio of snowy peaks. Both ascending and descending, keep an eye peeled as there are deer.

Paulina Lake Lodge offers a general store, a restaurant, boat rentals, and excellent fishing. There are also campgrounds both here and all the way to East Lake. The East Lake Resort offers similar services. Both Paulina Lake Lodge and East Lake Resort have rustic cabins for rent. The two bright blue lakes sit adjacent to each other in the Newberry Crater.

If you’re riding a dual-sport, there is a gravel road that leads to Paulina Peak after several miles of switchbacks with mountain on one side and steep drop-off on the other. The views are spectacular and remember the basics of riding on loose surfaces: hold the bars lightly, be smooth on the throttle and brakes, and favor the rear brake.

Finally, as you head back downhill, keep an eye peeled on your right for the parking lot at Paulina Falls. A short walk from the parking lot leads to the sight of two 80-foot waterfalls gushing side by side.


Editor’s Note: Another Central Oregon lodging option, DiamondStone Guest Lodges in La Pine, prides itself as a motorcycle vacation destination. The lodge’s popular MOTOFantasy package includes the chance to ride a different new or legendary motorcycle every day, such as BMW, Kawasaki, vintage Harley Davidson and more.

About The

Peter Russell
Peter Russell has lived in Oregon for nearly 30 years and has been riding motorcycles for the last 15 years, covering nearly 100,000 miles on a variety of motorcycles, but primarily BMWs and a Ural sidecar. He is the Central and Eastern Oregon representative on the Governor's Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety.