The best spring experiences in Bend, Oregon
February 21, 20249 minute read
There’s a reason why Bend, is a prime year-round destination for all types of motorsports, from dual sport motorcycles to side-by-sides and ATVs, snowmobiles, or those with a 4×4 pickup seeking an off-road adventure. And it all starts with Central Oregon’s diverse and accessible trails and terrain.
Just minutes from town, you can explore hundreds of miles of dirt roads that snake through pine forests, wind their way up lava buttes, and lead you to awe-inspiring vistas. To the east, a desert landscape awaits, where it can take on sandy washes, rolling hills, and desert trails. Or get ready to rock crawl over challenging obstacles as you navigate through large boulders and rugged lava rock terrain. When the snow falls, gear up for a thrilling snowmobiling adventure in the Cascade Mountains, traversing winter terrain and exploring the backcountry.
Beyond our reputation for off-road adventures, Bend is also a hub for racing enthusiasts of all kinds. From thrilling motorcycle races to off-road competitions and even classic car shows, Bend’s calendar is packed with opportunities for both spectators and participants to indulge in their passion for all things motorsports.
Whether you’re a seasoned racer or a casual fan, you’ll find a welcoming community of like-minded motorsport enthusiasts in Bend. And with reliable support from retailers like Cascade Motorsports, The Moto Shop of Bend, and Pro Caliber Bend offering expert advice, gear, repairs, or new equipment, you have everything you’ll need to enjoy your adventures to the fullest.
An ATV Operating Permit (sticker) is required to operate an off-highway vehicle (OHV) if you are operating it on lands open to ATV use. The price is $10 and is valid for two years. OHVs include all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), utility terrain vehicles (UTVs), off-highway motorcycles (OHMs), and dirt bikes. For more detailed information on permit requirements and online purchases, click over to Oregon.gov. You can also purchase a permit here in Bend at Cascade Motorsports, Pro Caliber Bend, or The Moto Shop of Bend.
Oregon also has a reciprocal ATV permit program, meaning that Oregon accepts ATV permits from other states that have reciprocal programs with Oregon. There are currently 19 states that have reciprocity with Oregon, including Nevada and California.
Helmets are mandatory for all riders under 18, with DOT-approved helmets being crucial. Safety goggles are recommended, with orange or yellow lenses for better visibility. Spark arrestors, lights, fire extinguishers (for Class II and Class IV ATVs), and safety flags (for dune areas) are also required. Oregon also requires safety education for ATV use on public lands, and requirements vary by ATV class. For detailed and up-to-date information on safety laws from Class I through Class IV, head to the state of Oregon’s ATV webpage.
Spring and fall are considered the “sweet spots” for off-roading in Central Oregon, but summer offers longer days, while winter opens up snowmobiling. Whatever season calls your name, remember to check the weather and conditions first.
China Hat Road, which starts right from the southeast side of Bend, winds through ponderosa pine forests and meadows, offering stunning views of the Cascade Mountains. The terrain is varied, with a mix of dirt, rock, and sand. There are also several water crossings along the way during spring. China Hat Road is open to all types of off-road vehicles, including ATVs, UTVs, jeeps, and motorcycles. The road is relatively easy to follow, but it can be challenging in some places, especially after wet weather. If you want a more challenging route, turn off China Hat Road onto the China Hat Trail. This trail is more technical and requires a four-wheel drive vehicle.
The Edison Butte OHV Trail System, located west of Bend, offers approximately 25 miles of thrilling off-roading adventures. Situated within the Deschutes National Forest, this rugged trail system traverses through ponderosa pine forests and volcanic terrain marked by lava rocks and ridges, providing an exciting challenge for riders. It’s open from April 1 to November 30, making spring and fall ideal for the best riding conditions. The trail is suitable for various off-road vehicles but restricts those exceeding 80 inches in width. Be cautious of the rocky and challenging terrain, with steep climbs and tight maneuvering required.
East Fort Rock OHV Trail System, located southeast of Bend within the Deschutes National Forest, boasts a vast network of 318 miles of trails and 83 miles of shared-use roads, covering 110,000 acres. The user-friendly system accommodates riders of all levels, with loops winding through ponderosa pine forests and sagebrush. Four staging areas and four designated play areas add to the appeal. Open for Class I and III ATVs, with Class II vehicles permitted on shared-use routes, the trails are also accessible to horses, mountain bikes, and other recreationalists, promoting a shared outdoor experience.
Millican Valley OHV Trail System, located east of Bend, offers over 250 miles of designated routes, catering to Class I, II, and III off-highway vehicle (OHV) users. With trails ranging from easiest to most difficult, riders of all skill levels can enjoy a year-round off-roading experience. Managed by the Central Oregon Combined Off-Highway Vehicle Operations, this area boasts nine staging areas and three play areas, showcasing captivating vistas of the Oregon Badlands Wilderness and Cascade peaks. While conditions are best in spring and fall, riders should be prepared for dusty summers and possible winter closures. The Millican Plateau, with its sandy soils and desert landscape, provides a diverse riding terrain, welcoming various recreationalists.
The Cline Buttes OHV Trail System, located northwest of Bend and accessible year-round, boasts 65 miles of diverse trails that wind through juniper forests ancient lava flows, and offer stunning Cascade Range vistas. With routes ranging from easiest to extreme, it welcomes Class I, II, III, and IV ATVs. The area features 42 miles of Class III single track, 15 miles of Class I and III trails, and eight miles of challenging Class II/IV rock crawling routes. Trail conditions vary from rocky to sandy, with an elevation range between 2,800 to 3,200 feet. While ideal in spring and fall, the trails can get dusty in summer and may have seasonal closures due to fire restrictions or winter snowfall. The system caters to a range of riders, from novices to experienced rock crawlers.
Winter in Bend brings an entirely different kind of motorsport adventure – snowmobiling. When the Central Oregon landscape transforms into a winter wonderland, it’s time to rev up your snowmobile and experience the excitement of ripping through the snow-covered terrain. Central Oregon offers several fantastic snowmobiling destinations, including Wanoga, Edison Butte, and Dutchman Flat Sno-Parks just outside Bend, where miles of groomed trails and open fields provide the perfect backdrop for a snowmobiling adventure.
If you’d rather leave your ATV at home or you’re trying it for the first time, why not take a tour or grab a rental? Outriders NW offers a variety of off-road tours in Central Oregon, including Cascade Lake Adventure, Bend Badlands, and Lava Lands tours. These tours allow you to drive or ride in an ATV through the region’s stunning scenery and challenging terrain. For rentals, check in with Adrenaline Rentals, Elevation Adventure Rentals, and Octane Rental Company for a variety of off-road toys, including snowmobiles, side-by-sides, and other ATVs.
In addition to thrilling off-roading adventures, Bend also revs up its engines for exciting motorsport events. The Autocross Club of Central Oregon (ACCO) hosts events throughout the year where drivers of all skill levels can learn car handling skills and have fun racing against the clock on a short, closed course marked by traffic cones. The Deschutes County Fairgrounds in Redmond also plays host to various motorsports events, from autocross to rallycross and truck pulls. And just north of Bend, the Madras Speedway offers a unique dirt track racing experience. The speedway hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including sprint cars, late models, and modifieds.
Bend is a year-round haven for motorsport enthusiasts, offering diverse adventures and events. Explore hundreds of miles of dirt roads winding through forests and volcanic terrain, enjoy snowmobiling in winter, or an autocross race. Rev up your engines and discover off-roading excitement in Central Oregon.