Epic Motorcycle Travel: Central Oregon

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Epic Moto Travel: Central Oregon

Lying along the east slopes of the Cascades, the high desert of Eastern Oregon is a mecca for motorcycling if you know where to go. One can travel there and anchor in either Bend or Redmond while enjoying day trips in all directions that feature great roads, good food, and wonderful sightseeing. And the area is ripe with good riding for both on- and off-road riders.

Bend sure has grown over the years. As a result, the city offers plenty of overnight accommodations and the restaurant choices have bloomed along with the population. For a less expensive alternative, Redmond will suffice without draining your pocketbook. Or maybe spend a few nights in each location.

Let's go for a ride!

Ride West

For road riders, a favorite loop of mine is to ride out to Sisters on SR 126 and across the McKenzie Highway on SR 242. A stop at the Dee Wright Observatory is a must. Continue West to McKenzie Bridge and follow FS 19 along the legendary Aufderheide Memorial Drive into Oakridge. Follow SR 58 east, then grab the Cascade Lakes Highway and continue back toward Bend by way of Mt. Bachelor.

Dual sport riders can enjoy galloping along dirt roads near HooDoo and Santiam, then traversing the Green Ridge area in the afternoon before descending to Lake Billy Chinook for stunning views of The Cove Palisades.

Ride East

Heading out to Prineville provides a nice loop ride for the day. Take The Paulina Highway east to Post and you'll wind up dead center in the middle of Oregon. Continuing along FS 112 and FS 63 will bring you out to US 395 and you can follow that north into John Day for lunch. For the return flight, head west on US 26 with a stop off at the John Day Fossil Beds.

Dual sport riders can explore the area around Grizzly Mountain, locate the former site of Rajneeshpuram, or get lost up in the Ochocos.

Ride North

Road riders can visit Smith Rock, then head out to Antelope to enjoy SR 218, the Shaniko-Fossil Road. Bakeoven Road will get you into Maupin for lunch. The return flight can be made via the Kah-nee-ta Hot Springs Resort using the Wapinita and Agency-Simnasho roads. Day passes are available if you want to take a dip in the spring-fed hot pools.

Dual sport riders can head toward Mt. Hood and enjoy the challenge of the old Barlow Wagon Road, returning via Skyline Road and then along Rhododendron Ridge.

Ride South

I like to start the day with breakfast in Sun River, then head down to Crater Lake. Plan to enjoy lunch at the lodge and with any luck, the perimeter road will be open. For the return ride explore the Klamath Marsh,  riding east to Silverlake, then make a beeline back to ground zero using SR 31.

Dual sport riders can head to Paulina Lake and ride FS 500 to the top of Paulina Peak for a panoramic view. If you're up for the challenge, give FS 7710 and FS 9710 a whirl around the outer slopes of the Newberry Crater.

This area of Oregon can keep a rider busy day after day without having to switch overnight accommodations nightly. If you haven't spent much time there, add it to your moto bucket list.

Tom Mehren/August 2022


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