It has been almost 15 years since I have been mountain biking. The first time I went was when I was a camper at Windy Gap, a Young Life camp in North Carolina. I remember it being a lot of fun, but I haven’t had the opportunity to go again…until now!
When I set my mind on doing something, I go all in. So, instead of taking an easy short route to start, my husband and I decided to take a 10.2 mile bike ride through the Lava Lands right outside of Bend.
We had been to the Newberry National Volcanic Monument (lava lands area) about a month ago when my in-laws came to visit, but we only explored the Lava River Cave (which was super cool). At the time I didn’t even know there was beautiful views just steps away on the Blackrock Trail.
The blackrock trail starts at the Lava Lands Visitor Center, which is about a 5-mile drive south of Bend on Highway 97. It’s really close to our house so it was exciting to find an adventure right outside our door!
You can park at the Lava Lands Visitor Center and then take the trail marked Sun-Lava Trail. This will take you to Blackrock Trail, which you will see as a turn-off to the right about .3 miles in.
Blackrock Trail is a 4.2 mile long singletrack trail (meaning a narrow trail big enough for only one biker). This was definitely a great trail to start out with on my first mountain biking experience. It was relatively flat dirt with a few rocks and a lot of pine cones to ride over. At first I was really nervous about going over all the rocks, I lost my balance a few times, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly and was tackling those rocks after a few miles in. Take a look at this short video to see what the trail is like:
The trail follows along an old lava flow almost the entire way. We stopped a few times to climb up the lava rock and get a view of the Cascade Mountain range and the miles and miles of lava rock. It was an incredible view!
You’ll reach the end of Blackrock Trail when you get to the railroad tracks. If you want to continue your trail along the Deschutes River Trail, this is where it will meet up. Of course we decided to continue on so we could get a look at Benham Falls. You can either take the hill to the right and ignore the “No Trespassing” sign to cross over the railroad tracks, or take the dirt road to the left which will take you to the Sun-Lava Paved Path. Either way, you will end up at the Benham Falls trailhead.
We decided to ignore the sign.
It only took about .3 miles to get to the Benham Falls trailhead from the railroad tracks and then another .5 miles to get to the Benham Falls overlook. Again, another amazing view, this time of whitewater rapids and the falls.
The Deschutes River Trail is a lot different than the Blackrock trail. It is a doubletrack trail with few rocks. It was a very easy ride to the falls, but of course we stopped a few times to take some pictures of the river!
It took us about an hour and a half to bike from the Lava Lands Visitor Center to Benham Falls with some sightseeing stops along the way, and a little bike repair stop.
You can continue along the Deschutes River Trail to Dillon Falls, but it was getting late in the day so we decided to begin heading back.
Sun-Lava Paved Path
After leaving Benham Falls we took the sun-lava paved path back to Lava Lands Visitor Center. Even though the terrain on this trail was easy (paved the whole way), there was a slight incline in the path pretty much the entire 4.9 miles back to the start. It definitely made my quads burn!
What You’ll Need
For a beginners mountain biking trip, there are some things you should be sure to bring:
- Your mountain bike. Duh. I know that’s a no-brainer but if you don’t know much about bikes (like me) you may try to attempt this ride on a beach cruiser or road bike and you probably won’t get very far. Mountain bikes are designed for rough terrain and elevation changes. I got my bike at Wal-Mart. It’s a cheapy but it worked just fine for my skill level!
- Helmet. I chose one like this with a visor for some extra sun protection.
- Long pants and closed-toed shoes. You don’t have to wear long pants but I noticed that while wearing my capris a lot of the brush would rub against my legs. It was a little uncomfortable. I also definitely recommend closed-toed shoes. Here are the new hiking boots I just got for my Birthday. So far I love them.
- Bike repair tools. Wes and I played around with our bikes before taking them out on a trail so we understood how to make minor repairs if needed, like tightening the brakes or adjusting the derailleurs. I’m no bike mechanic but I feel pretty confident when it comes to making minor adjustments. It is a good thing we took the time to educate ourselves because Wes’ derailleurs got out of whack on the trip and we were able to fix it by using his Leatherman. I was so proud of us! 🙂
- Water. Mountain biking is hard work, but fun! You will definitely get thirsty along the way!
- Camera. I just brought my phone but Wes brought his Canon in a camera backpack that has become super handy for all our trips! You will definitely want a camera to snap some photos along the way!
My First Moutain Biking Experience
This was definitely a fun adventure! I traded in my beach cruiser for a mountain bike and I am ready to explore this world of mountain biking some more!
One thing I learned is that I really need to get some strength into my legs. Mountain biking is hard work on the legs and I feel like the more my lower body strength improves, the better I’ll get! I can’t wait to go again!
Have you ever been mountain biking?