Oregon Rode Trip – Leg IV: Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway

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Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway | Long Haul Trekkers

If you missed our recap of our first three legs, Portland to Champoeg State Park, the Willamette Valley and McKenzie Pass Scenic Bikeways, you can catch up before continuing on here. Before hitting the road back home to Portland via the Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway, we stayed with our friends Dakota and Chelsea in Bend for a little over a week to play and relax (a recap of that fun adventure will eventually make its way to the blog!).

This post is written in partnership with Travel Oregon, Visit Central Oregon, and Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory.

By the time we departed, the weather finally decided to stick around and officially call itself summer, promising long days and plenty of mountain views. As always, a map of our route is below, complete with all the places we ate and slept along the way.

Dog-Friendly Suttle Lodge in Central Oregon

Day 1: Bend to The Suttle Lodge (38 miles)

We attempted to depart Bend early to beat the heat, but when Chelsea offered to make quinoa pancakes, we couldn’t very well say no. Bellies filled, we followed the Deschutes River Trail out of Bend toward Tumalo Park and set off toward Sisters.

While Hwy 20 wasn’t our favorite cycling route with the constant traffic, the shoulder was plenty wide, and the views between Bend and Sisters are some of my favorite along any route. Wide open fields open up to views of the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Three-Fingered Jack.

We arrived to Sisters in time for lunch, and stopped at our favorite park: Village Green City Park, where we filled our waters and grabbed burritos and provisions for the next couple meals from Sisters Market and Eatery.

From Sisters, we seemed to fly to The Suttle Lodge, arriving in the early afternoon, leaving plenty of time to explore and relax. Our rustic cabin was super cozy and amazingly could fit six people in the tiny space.

Shortly after arriving, we considered stand up paddle boarding, but the winds had picked up and we were pretty certain us newbies would fall in with one strong gust of wind, so we opted for a walk around the lake instead. The easy three-mile loop offers beach access in some spots and plenty of views of Mt. Washington.

To say The Suttle Lodge is dog-friendly is an understatement. We found happy dogs around every corner. They were welcome in all outdoor areas and inside the restaurant and main lodge. The owner and staff have a few dogs they bring to work with them, which just means puppy play time all day, every day. The Suttle Lodge was undoubtedly the most dog-friendly accommodation we have ever stayed.

Golden Hour over Mt. Jefferson | Long Haul Trekkers

Day 2 Suttle Lodge to Detroit Lake (46 miles)

After breakfast and doggy play time, we set off for Detroit Lake and the starting point of the Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway. Again traveling along busy highways, we felt mostly comfortable alongside the cars, who gave ample room when they could. Construction work along much of the route meant for long breaks without cars and slower moving traffic.

If the previous day’s ride was guided by the South Sisters, this ride was led by Mt. Washington. For at least half of the ride, we had full on views to our left of the peak.

I had mistakenly thought that the ride would be mostly downhill, and it was…after a very long uphill climb to the peak of the Santiam Pass that took most of the morning. Famished from all that climbing, we pulled over at the Lost Lake Campground for some lakeside dining. There are no services along this route and the only place we found to refill our waters was the Marion Forks Hatchery, about two thirds of the way to Detroit.

A small town of just 202 people, Detroit surprisingly has a lot to offer in terms of amenities. There were several pubs and restaurants, plus two small grocery stores. Vegan and fresh produce options were limited, so we were forced to use our creativity and assembled canned ingredients to make burritos at our campsite.

Hoping to find a hiker/biker option at the Detroit Lake State Park, a massive campground with 300 sites, we were disappointed to learn there were no designated spot for cyclists, and instead were happy to be directed to the tent spot with one of the best views of Mt. Jefferson.

After consuming our decent makeshift burritos, we walked along the lakeside trail throughout the park as I patiently awaited golden hour to set over Mt. Jefferson. When I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, I finally gave up for the pink hue to glow on the mountain and tucked myself into bed. Not long after, Dave got up for his evening pee and rustled me out of bed to get my photo.

Indian Head Campground | Long Haul Trekkers

Day 3: Detroit Lake to Indian Henry Campground (57 miles)

After two days of riding alongside cars, the start of the Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway felt almost eerily quiet. I could ride in the middle of the lane and pull over to the opposite side for photos without worrying much about oncoming cars. The tall pines cast long shadows across the road, blocking the sun from beating down on us for most of the day. Bright pink foxgloves and purple lupine lined the roads, escorting us along the gradual uphill.

Only the night before we had commented on the fact that we hadn’t needed to push uphill once during this trip. We spoke too soon. Sixteen miles in, we found ourselves facing a steep grade that forced me to dismount and push up the steep hill. The effort took me around a half hour, reminding me of our South America days of pushing up and over the Andes.

We rejoiced over our efforts after reaching the summit and for the upcoming downhill. I pointed my bike down and flew. My shirt flapped like a butterfly in the wind, a welcome feeling after the difficult exertion.

Knowing our one and only food option on the route was the Ripplebrook Camp Store, we stopped in to purchase some very basic provisions and inquire about camping.

It seemed the ranger behind the counter had no concept of what it means to have cycled 50 miles, partially uphill in a single day. I even mentioned several times just how tired we were from the ride. After inquiring about the closest campground with water, she directed us six miles in the direction we had just come. I explained that we weren’t too keen on retracing our steps uphill.

Next, she informed us of a campground that required hiking down a one-mile trail and there was no access to water. Again, I reminded her of the bicycles and our need for water, indicating that probably wasn’t our best option. She responded by offering for us to purchase a collapsible five-gallon bottle of water.

She finally pointed us toward a campground six miles down the road. Defeated from three days of tough climbs, the thought of mounting my bike for even a quarter mile seemed impossible. We downed an entire bag of tortilla chips before setting off and I sulked the entire ride to Indian Henry Campground. However, my attitude changed once we arrived. There were few campers, we had a spot right next to the river, where we soaked our legs in the icy water. The campground was ghostly quiet. An amphitheater and entire section of the campground were abandoned with moss blanketing some picnic tables, while felled trees split others in two. It was a clear vision of what happens when we allow nature to do her thing.

Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway | Long Haul Trekkers

Day 4: Indian Henry Campground to Milo McIver State Park (25 miles)

Heading back toward civilization felt strange, even just a few days after leaving Bend. The cars multiplied, the road widened, and the trees had been cleared for houses. We missed the serenity of the quiet roads, small town grocery stores that forced us to be creative for meals, and the lack of cell connection.

After summiting a surprise steep hill, we rolled into the cute town of Estacada, where a bike information board complete with a water bottle filling station, WiFi, whimsical bike racks, and maps provided all the information we’d need to know about the town and the route itself.

Famished, we pulled up to Bloom Cafe & Flower Shop and sat out on the pet-friendly sidewalk patio where we devoured vegan wraps and coconut milk peach smoothies. With full bellies, we headed to the Harvest Market a well-stocked grocery store, that felt almost overwhelming to us after having to pick from just a few options in smaller towns. We purchased provisions for dinner and made our way to Milo McIver State Park where we’d spend the evening.

A lakeside trail behind some houses led us directly into the park, avoiding another steep hill. We had the hiker/biker meadow completely to ourselves, including use of the covered picnic table, lockers, and electrical outlets. This hidden gem of a park features Clackamas River access, lake access, heaps of hiking trails, a 27-hole disc golf course, and is all within a day’s ride from Portland.

Boring Brewing in Boring

Day 5: Milo McIver to Portland (30 miles)

We awoke to a squirrel squatting in Sora’s trailer helping itself to our breakfast, so we decided to head to Estacada’s famous Harmony Cafe for a big breakfast before hitting the road. Not inherently vegan, we worked with the friendly staff to create a giant scramble overflowing with potatoes, veggies, spinach, and avocado.

The ride to Portland was fairly easy, just a quick hop over to the Springwater Trail, 10 or so miles outside of Estacada. We did encounter one short section of road that left us feeling a bit harrowed. The 2.5-mile ride along Amisigger Road was steep, dark, and had no shoulder.

Our reward for finishing completing the climb was the Liepold Farms Fruit Stand at the top of the hill. We parked our bikes and asked Sora to make some room for blueberries and raspberries in the trailer before going on to our most anticipated stop of the day: Boring Brewing, a small nano brewery born from a garage, now located in Boring’s tiny commercial strip, but about to move over to a larger location in Sandy. We went for a sample tray and loved the Farmhouse Ale and the RyePA. We were even allowed to bring Sora inside the tasting room! The owners informed us of a great taco food truck just around the corner, so we wandered over there to grab a couple burritos to eat in the park before hitting the Springwater Trail back to Portland.

A warm, sunny summer weekend day, the trail was filled with cyclists, runners, and families walking the paths. With no hills and few stoplights, we flew the remaining miles back to Portland, where we met with friends and celebrated our journey with beer and our favorite vegan dog-friendly restaurant, The Bye and Bye, to which we rode our bikes, of course.

Logistics: Cycling from Bend to Portland via the Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway

Mileage: 196 miles // From Bend to Portland, you travel along Highways 20 and 22, which are  busy roads with generous shoulders. On the Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway, the traffic is low until you near Estacada.
Difficulty: Challenging, based on the traffic and series of passes required to climb throughout the route. Easy once you reach the Springwater Corridor to head into Portland.
Food Options: Limited. Between Sisters and Detroit, there are no grocery stores and infrequent water access. The Suttle Lodge does have a restaurant. Bring extra water and food.
Scenery: Mountain views of the Sisters, Three-Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, and Mt. Jefferson from Bend to Detroit Lake. Thick pine forests and Clackamas River views along the Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway. 
Road: Good condition. The shoulders are plenty wide, but cars are going fast, so beware.  The Springwater Trail is completely paved and separated from cars.

PIN FOR LATER!

Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway | Long Haul Trekkers

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