A pretty chill river route surrounded in an amazing river valley. The river trail starts at the Deschutes River State Park (just east of the city of The Dalles Oregon.) A flat gravel / rock trail on the East side of the river that used to be a rail line back in 1910, but a competing rail line on the west bank rendered it unnecessary in 1936 and thus we have a brilliant bike / hike trail.
Route here: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27209444
The first part of the trail near the Deschutes park is flanked by smaller hiking loops (once used to be ok with a bicycle, but now – posted no bicycles). The main ridable path goes out for 20miles one way- meaning you can turn around at your desire, making it family and beginner friendly. The trail provides a fun day on the bike with amazing views each side of the river. Changing terrain of smooth hillsides, rocky crags with eagle caves and rocky washouts from where other rivers meet the main Deschutes. For the most part, the trail is flat and somewhat packed dirt with occasional small rocks or light gravel, there are sections of larger shale type rock, but those sections are not long and very easily navigable if on a mountain bike.
There are several camping sites along the way at mile 10 and 7 making it perfect for a little bikepacking out and back jaunt. At mile 12 is Harris Canyon, here stands a water tower originally build for the steam trains in 1909, it has been preserved over the years. Harris canyon area is also home to a small farm house since blown down, heritage unknown.
Many rivers join the Deschutes river and large valleys from the East so back in the day there used to be large trestle bridges, but these have since gone, leaving steep, loose rocky sections that are impassable for the normal riders. Thus milepoint 20 is the furthest you can go, we tried to push on, scrambling up and down some sketchy sections with our bikes, we gave up after a few valleys. Maybe for a next time to make it connect over to the Mac campground to the South.
Required: Take a patch kit or ride with tubeless tyres and sealant because this area can be riddled with sharp thorny goatheads – from a plant that grows in the arid conditions leaving nasty bicycle puncturing thorns all over the show.
Bicycle: Best rode on a hardtail mountain bike or fatter tyre touring bike- a full squishy mtb if you wish. I rode it on a cyclocross bike and it was fine for the most part, maybe not the smoothest ride. But don’t ride it on a road bike with anything less than 34c tyre or you are going to experience a bone shaker.
Overheard: very hot in summer and rocky sections can be prone to snakes, so read the trail signs before entering.
At mile 20 the end of the trail…
I’ve camped at the campground where the trail starts – clean and well maintained (Deschutes River State park maybe?) . I’ve hiked this a couple times up to about 6-7 miles in (the old settlers cabin at the dip) but we were camping w/ kids and there is only so far they will go in a day on Haribo. I will first hand attest to: “very hot in summer and rocky sections can be prone to snakes.”