Oregon Outback

A dirt odyssey across the state of Oregon


We think this is hands-down the best bikepacking route in Oregon.  Starting in Klamath Falls near the California border, you get to traverse the entire length of the state on lightly traveled roads including a slice of route’s namesake area – the Oregon Outback – a dusty, remote portion of the state populated primarily by coyotes and rattlesnakes. Expect desolation, extremely limited water and services, and some of the most beautiful riding anywhere.  But don’t expect it to be easy; this is one of our most difficult, committing routes.

Highlights include the OC&E Woods Line State Trail, 30 oz. steaks at the Cowboy Dinner Tree, Fort Rock, the Crooked River, the Ochoco Mountains, and amazing views of the Deschutes and Columbia Rivers.

At a glance





The Oregon Outback route links up a handful of must-see, but rarely visited parts of the state while simplifying the logistics of cross state travel as much as possible. The route starts in Klamath Falls, the southern-most full-service stop in Oregon on Amtrak.  From K-Falls, you’ll get to enjoy 70+ miles of car-free bike trails before hitting lightly trafficked roads for the next 290 miles or so, eventually wrapping up your ride at the confluence of the Deschutes and mighty Columbia Rivers.

While it’s been done in as little as 28 hours, we recommend spending 5 to 7 days on the route to maximize your opportunities to take photos, dip your toes in cold creeks on hot days, and put down a 30 oz. steak at the fabled Cowboy Dinner Tree.

The season for riding this route is generally spring through mid-summer and then again in late summer and into the fall. Winter brings snow to the mountains and summer brings extreme heat. The wind can be a real pain on this route, especially as you approach the Columbia River Gorge. Unfortunately, the wind only seems to die down as the temps rise into the 90’s. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s worth keeping in mind when estimating your daily mileage and whether this route is within your limits.

Although the prevailing winds might dictate otherwise, we recommend riding the route south to north. This allows the train travelers the opportunity to fully enjoy the experience and a net 4,000 foot elevation loss.

The route technically finishes at the Deschutes River State Recreation Area which has camping and showers but little else. If you haven’t arranged transportation back to Portland and points beyond (one good option is Portland Sag Wagon), riding 18 miles west will put you in The Dalles at a Greyhound station. Or ride back to Portland along several recommended alternatives.

Check out the route forum for the most up-to-date information

Services & Water

Services and water are extremely limited along the route.  Generally you can expect to encounter the following:

  • Mile 0 – Klamath Falls: full service town with grocery stores; brew pub; coffee shop; good convenient hotel; and a full service bike shop.
  • Mile 39 – Sprague River: café; small convenience store
  • Mile 51.5 – Beatty: small convenience store with good burgers (requires a 1 mile each way detour off route)
  • Mile 114.8 – Cowboy Dinner Tree: see “Highlights” below
  • Mile 120 – Silver Lake: small convenience store; good café near the far end of town
  • Mile 136.7 – Fort Rock: tavern; restaurant with bar
  • Mile 225.8 – Prineville: the only full service town on the route with grocery stores; brew pub; several restaurants; and two bikes shops – Good Bike Co. and Back Alley Bikes.
  • Mile 301.4 – Shaniko: ice cream shop; small convenience store

Water is very limited in several sections of the route.  There are points of interest (POI) on the GPS link above that note the last reliable water for the most significant sections, the longest of which is ~80 miles.  There are several other sections of 50+ miles without reliable water.  Much of this depends on the season you ride. Spring and early summer ensure more reliable water sources.  Late summer and fall could be hit or miss.  Plan accordingly.

We strongly recommend reading the “Using This Site” section where we discuss the need to conduct your own research into available services. We also recommend checking the forum where folks who’ve recently ridden the route can provide updates of what they found for services and water.


There are great camping options spread out all along the route.  We put a few on the GPS map above, but there are many, many more.  The Benchmark Oregon Road & Recreation Atlas will show most of the established campgrounds.  If you’re into bush camping, options abound when in BLM and National Forest land.  Please be respectful and don’t trespass or camp on private land.


We recommend using a GPS and the Benchmark Oregon Road & Recreation Atlas.  Most of the route is easily navigable.  The only sections that seem to give people problems are as follows:

  • Mile 52.7 – stay left when the OC&E trail splits
  • Mile 71.7 – turn left when you finally hit pavement
  • Mile 108.2 – turn right off the pavement onto a small gravel road. You will be going downhill and it’s easy to miss. This is the turn for the Cowboy Dinner Tree. If you miss this, you’ll roll on paved roads down to Silver Lake where you’ll meet back up with the route and you’ll miss the CDT altogether.
  • Mile 167.6 – stay straight through the intersection at Sand Spring
  • Mile 247 – stay roughly straight at the top of the big climb, taking “2725” downhill.
  • Mile 252.4 – turn left just after crossing a bridge over a creek after a long downhill section
  • Mile 257.4 – stay right (going left would mean hopping a gate with clear “no trespassing” signs – don’t)

It is possible to navigate the entire route with just the Benchmark maps.  We do not recommend attempting this unless you are competent with navigation and prepared in the event you get lost.

For map geeks, we suggest adding in the Upper Klamath Basin, Deschutes NF, and Ochoco NF maps.  All are excellent and provide much more detail than the Benchmark maps.

Bike & Tire Selection

While the route primarily links up decent dirt and gravel roads, there are two sections of the route that are particularly loose, shitty and soul crushing: 1) portions of the OC&E Woods Line State Trail; and 2) the “Red Sauce Forest”.

The OC&E traverses through a variety of topography before climbing up into the Fremont National Forest. The surface conditions change dramatically from section to section and although conditions have improved significantly with the added bike traffic, there are several portions that will sap you mentally and physically. Conditions tend to degrade the further you go, climaxing with the worst section between miles 66 and 72.

The “Red Sauce Forest”, as it’s now affectionately known, is a 20-mile section of the route north of Fort Rock as you pass through the Deschutes National Forest. The only nice thing that can be said about this section is that once it’s over you’ve ridden the worst parts of the route with all the very best sections yet to come. It’ll suck, but trust me, it’ll be worth it in the end…

We see no reason to stray from our standard bike & tire recommendation – a rigid 29er (or similar) with ~2” tires with some tread.

Route Alternatives

For a route of this length there are surprisingly few worthwhile alternatives. The primary area for creating route variations is around the Fort Rock Basin and the Deschutes National Forest.

One interesting alternative would be to cut northeast from Silver Lake linking up the town of Christmas Valley, Crack-in-the-Ground, and Green Mountain. We’ve never tried this variation but it at least appears on paper to be easy to link Green Mountain up with the route somewhere near Sand Spring. As with this entire area, water access would be the primary concern and you would completely miss Fort Rock.

Another alternative would be to stay northbound on NF-18 in the Deschutes NF riding past China Hat and climbing up to camp on Pine Mountain. While there is no water available, there is an established campground on the top of the mountain and on clear weekend nights the Pine Mountain Observatory is open to the public. It would be easy to link back up with the route if you headed north to US-20 and then east.

Highlights, History & Other Resources

We strongly recommend enjoying a huge dinner at the Cowboy Dinner Tree, which serves up your choice of either a whole chicken or 30 oz. steak along with baked potatoes, dinner rolls, cowboy beans and ice-cold pink lemonade.  Reservations are required, it’s cash only, and it is only open certain days of the week so you’ll need to plan ahead.  If you’re fast enough you can stop in on night one.  Better yet – slow down your pace, camp at one of the great spots on the creek around mile 62, and enjoy your steak on night two.

Enough different folks have now ridden this route that there’s not much to add to the collective voice, so we’ll simply share those with you. Our friends over at VeloDirt put together a compilation of photos and write-ups from folks who rode the route last year.   Here are more accounts from 2015.

We also highly recommend checking out Gabriel’s photos.