Most avid mountain bikers from Bend probably know nearby popular routes such as Phil’s Trail like the back of their hand. As great as these tried-and-true trails are, it never hurts to add some variety to your life and try something new. The Madras East Hills Trail System is Central Oregon’s newest and potentially most unique trail system, offering downhill-adrenaline and uphill climbs just an hour’s drive from Bend.
The organization managing the trail system, the Central Oregon Trail Alliance, got involved back in 2019 after Brennan Morrow, who is now the Madras Representative for COTA, moved to Madras and noticed a lack of nearby mountain biking trails. Morrow approached the city about the land known as the East Hills, which is owned by the city of Madras and other private entities. “The city was excited to create a trail system to support healthy living in Madras,” Morrow said.
With approval from the land owners, COTA got to work on a trail system that breaks away from the norm in Central Oregon. While most trails in the region exist on federal land like the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests, and therefore have restrictions on what can be built on the trail, the Madras East Hills Trail System is privately owned and is exempt from these restrictions.
Fuel Up in Madras
After a day on the saddle, take some time to explore the city of Madras and refuel for the next big ride. Madras Brewing offers pub fare featuring ingredients from nearby farms and craft brews made locally in Central Oregon. Known for authentic home cooking and burritos the size of your head, Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant is your stop for vibrant flavors and refreshing drinks.
This means that not only are class 1 ebikes allowed on the trail (ebikes with a capped top speed of 20 mph), but the trails themselves are covered in manmade features. “The East Hills offers many types of trails for all users from beginners to advanced riders. We have berms, drops, jumps, and excellent wood features,” Morrow said. The unique nature of the trails has contributed to their popularity among local mountain bikers. Most trails around Bend on federal land can have features, but they must be built into the natural environment and typically incorporate logs or rocks. It’s the sheer amount of manmade and constructed features that makes the East Hills so special.
All together, mountain bikers have around fourteen miles of trails to explore, while horseback riders have six miles of trails for themselves. Along the way, bikers can test their skills with jumps of varying sizes, drops, tall, well constructed berms, paved corners and tons of wooden features to ride on. The passion and effort put into these trails is clear, and any biker enjoying the trails will notice that.
Cycling in Madras
While you’re in Madras, don’t miss your chance to take your bike and pedal down the Madras Mountain Views Scenic Bikeway, a thirty-mile stretch of paved road, suitable for most riders year-round. The bikeway showcases some amazing high desert landscapes and passes through the towns of Madras, Culver and Metolius. Take some time to soak in the views at the many overlooks above Cove Palisades State Park and Lake Billy Chinook.
The new trail system has helped put Madras on the map, and is a pretty popular spot on the weekends. Morrow remarked that many people use their weekend to travel out to Madras from Redmond, Bend, Portland and farther, because the East Hills have become a Central Oregon mountain biking destination. These trails are accessible year-round but have varying conditions, depending on the time of year. Dry summers call for lighter, dustier dirt while winters pack the dirt densely and sometimes reveal some mud on the trails.
The East Hills Trails are accessible near Juniper Hill Park on East Ashwood Road. From the trailhead, bikers have three trails to choose from that all splinter off into several other sections, providing bikers tons of unique combinations to keep their riding fresh. With trail names like Gut Punch, Leap of Faith and Valley of the Bones, bikers should expect a day of fast-paced, intense downhill action.