Three Sisters Three Rivers

  • Distance

    325 Mi.

    (523 KM)
  • Days

    9

  • % Unpaved

    90%

  • % Singletrack

    60%

  • Difficulty (1-10)

    7

  • % Rideable (time)

    98%

  • Total Ascent

    26,949'

    (8,214 M)
  • High Point

    6,715'

    (2,047 M)

Contributed By

Gabriel Amadeus - Limberlost

Gabriel Amadeus

Limberlost
The Three Sisters Three Rivers route criss-crosses Oregon's Cascade Range from the dry desert forest trails of Bend and Sisters to the hot springs and alpine ridges of the Upper Willamette to the lush, western flanks of the Calapooya Range, blue pools, and hot springs of the North Umpqua Trail.
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Looking at the route’s meandering squiggle on a map doesn’t tell its rugged and beautiful story. What makes this route unique is the mountain bike trail systems and terrain it links up. Three Sisters Three Rivers is ambitious. It covers loose, sandy ponderosa terrain outside of Bend, Oregon to the lush, wet, mossy trails of the North Umpqua River and everything in between. It covers over 300 miles—the vast majority of which are on singletrack. And not any singletrack.

Climbing 27,000′ and descending cliff-hugging technical singletrack, this route challenges the most stalwart rider. Secluded campsites on glacier-fed lake shores, hot springs, and volcanic flows make it an instant classic. See stunning views of the Three Sisters from the east, north, west, and south. Knock off five of the best trail systems Oregon has to offer!

  • When Bike Magazine needed a location to test 36 of the year’s best bikes where did it come? Bend.
  • What community hosts the largest mountain bike race in Oregon? Sisters.
  • What trail was named the best in the US in 2008? McKenzie River Trail.
  • What community did IMBA designate as one of the top 10 ride centers in the world? Oakridge.
  • What Oregon trail has received one of the highest honors possible, IMBA Epic status? North Umpqua Trail.

We’ve spent years getting lost in Central Oregon’s vast National Forests finding little-traveled trails and long-forgotten historic wagon roads linking up each of these stupendous trails. Each one is a worthy destination. On the Three Sisters Three Rivers route not only will you sample each one, but you’ll connect the remote dots between them.

  • Highlights

    camera

  • Must Know

    alert

  • Camping

    home

  • Food/H2O

    drop

  • Trail Notes

    signpost

  • Little Three Creeks Lake campsite
  • Headwaters of the Metolius River
  • Big Lake and views of Mt Washington
  • McKenzie River’s Blue Pool
  • Hidden Lake’s fleet of log rafts
  • Elk Camp Shelter on Alpine Trail
  • Brewer’s Union Local 180 in Oakridge
  • Chuckles Spring
  • Timpanogas Lake Shelter
  • Windy Pass spur and Cowhorn Mountain hike
  • Umpqua Hot Springs
  • Burgers at Dry Creek Store on the Umpqua
  • Many spur options right on the route if you want even more singletrack

When To Go

  • Great all summer long, snow lingers through mid June in the passes, and flurries start flying in September.

Logistics

  • Most trails are signed but being confident with GPS navigation is a must. Paper maps for the whole route would be cumbersome.
  • The route is not a loop. Contact Cog Wild for shuttles to the start and to be picked up. The Breeze bus from Portland to Bend requires your bike be boxed.
  • Contact Crows Feet Commons in Bend for info on where to park and local trail beta.
  • You’ll get sick of singletrack, trust us. There are alternate (paved) options along most of the route if you need to bail.
  • Most campgrounds are marked on the map (of which there are many) but there are even more bushcamp options along the route.
  • Practice Leave No Trace ethics when camping anywhere.
  • There are many rustic shelter options along the route. Most are infrequently occupied and don’t require a reservation. And are quite rustic.
  • Even late in a dry summer we had no problem finding water on the route. (ahem: “Three Rivers”) Be smart about when you fill up. Elk Camp Shelter does not have a reliable water source so load up 5-10 miles before you reach camp.
  • There are many (limited) food re-supply points along the route. (noted on the map) Some have weird hours and strange selections but you won’t starve. If planned smartly you won’t need to carry more than 2 days worth at any time.
  • Don’t miss Spork and Chow in Bend, Melvin’s in Sisters, Brewer’s Union Local 180 in Oakridge, and Dry Creek Store on the Umpqua.
  • We took 8 days to ride the route. Logistically it was a good length, but we both wish we had taken a rest day in Oakridge. Our shortest day (20 miles up the Middle Fork) was one of the toughest. Our longest day (North Umpqua Trail) should have been split up into two days even though it was “all downhill.”
  • There’s a fair bit of climbing overall, but for as much downhill singletrack riding you get it’s really not bad. The two heinous climbs are the Indian Ridge climb between the McKenzie and Oakridge, and the Stairway to Hell climb to Timpanogas Lake.
  • 90% of the route is unpaved, 60% is singletrack. This is slower and harder than you think. Some of it is really good, fast, flowy singletrack; some is gnarly, steep, overgrown, and technical singletrack. Reassess your expectations.
  • Some trails are not kept up as frequently as others. Expect downed trees, burned forests, re-routes, elk stampedes, or mud slides at least three times each day.
  • There are a few double digit climbs, and a few log bridges or creek hops, but overall there aren’t any sustained pushwhacking legs.

Terms of Use: As with each bikepacking route guide published on BIKEPACKING.com, should you choose to cycle this route, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road closures. While riding, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow the #leavenotrace guidelines. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. BIKEPACKING.com LLC, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individual riders cycling or following this route.

  • Iain Cranston

    Wow, what a resource!! Thanks for putting this together and building this site. Definitely looking to get into this in the future!

  • Thanks Iain!

  • mikeetheviking

    Damn…. Bucket list status, Hey Gabriel, who makes that blue bar bag harness system there?

  • I think it is a DIY model…

  • mikeetheviking

    Cool. i’ve been working on something very similar… Looks rad.

  • Yep, that’s right, it’s a DIY version. I love it and think it’s more stable than production styles. Very easy to make, I plan to do a tutorial post on it soon. Based on: http://www.bikepacking.net/forum/diy-make-your-own-gear-(myog)/cheap-handlebar-stand-offs/

  • Cheers, a lot of work went into dialing this route!

  • Rad, let me know if you have any questions about the trails/area.

  • mikeetheviking

    Yeah man, I can tell a lot of work went into this. I’m a family man, who knows when i’ll be able to make it out there;)

  • Jason

    What is the blue part made of? Some kinda rubber or plastic?

  • It’s two layers (for rigidity) of polyurethane. Tried abs first and it ended up cracking after a lot of use. I got it at tap plastics, but I bet most craft or hardware stores would have something similar.

  • Jason

    Cool sounds like I’m going shopping.

  • Jason

    Did you laminate the 2 layers together?

  • Hey Gabe, how would it be riding to Bend, starting on the Umpqua?

  • Yeah, I think just with some 3M spray adhesive.

  • Fenton Crackshell

    Nice work. Is this route doable over say 5-6 days, assuming you ride light and have a support vehicle meet you at the campsites?

  • Maaaybe. It’s honest singletrack, so much slower going than a gravel ride. If you’re quite fit and put in long days I’m sure it’s doable, but not a lot of time to enjoy yourself. Your best bet if you have sag like that is to shuttle a few of the more arduous gravel road sections.

  • Not great. It’s designed this way to take advantage of the best direction on the trail systems: Metolius Windigo, MRT, Alpine, NUT. Scott Morris just recently put together a similar trip that links these together in a loop: http://salsacycles.com/culture/the_oregon_hot_sisters_route

  • toothjockey

    Anyway you could post the link from Tap? I’m not seeing polyurethane on their site.

  • If you were to cut this ride in half. What sections would you do?

  • Chris

    Thanks for putting all this together! Any chance you could share some details on the mods to the seat pack mounting? This is the first time I’ve seen the trio of a seat bag, rear shock and dropper post. (ref: bikepacking.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/three-sisters-three-rivers-22.jpg )

  • Chris

    Thanks for putting all this together! Any chance you could share some details on the mods to the seat pack mounting? This is the first time I’ve seen the trio of a seat bag, rear shock and dropper post. (ref photo #22 above)

  • Earnest

    Hi Gabriel,

    Do you think the route would be doable on a Cyclocross bike?

  • KATE’76

    Can you start south and go to bend? Or should you start in bend?

  • Joshua Willard

    Anyone want to go together the second week of June? We can set up our own shuttles.

  • cicevicek

    What about bikepacking with a trailer? Where does it rate from ‘totally frustrating’ (0) to ‘good idea’ (10)?

  • Alan Love

    I just did the North Umpqua section (not the full 3S3R route), and it’s tough singletrack. On a standard MTB bikepacking rig with softbags, it was tough to get around treefall, stream crossing, and washout sections. I’d rate it as a -3 with a trailer. If you avoided the Dread and Terror section, it’s a very shaky Maybe. Also to note, the Dry Creek Store is permanently closed, and the store at Lemolo is also temporarily closed. Check before leaving as there really aren’t any resupply points for food along the NUT.

  • Andy Farish

    Our group of 3 (2 from South Dakota and myself from Colorado) made the road trip out to do this great route. It was more challenging than we expected but in a good way. Great job setting up this route. Just enough resupply on route to make it fun but logistically thought envoking. Some of the portions have had some big windfall and fire damage recently on the trail making slow moving hike-a-bike (lots of trees to crawl over). We finished our ride in 7 calendar days (5 days, 22 hours – start/finish). We started July 1st 2016 and ended July 8th. We only had a handful of very short snow spots to cross. Mosquitos were bad on 2 days of trip but otherwise not bad. The hot spring stops were a great treat to have on a bikepacking trip especially since they are clothing optional :).

  • Andy Farish

    Absolutely 0. You would need to unhook trailer and crawl across trees then go back to get bike then Repeat every 2 minutes in certain sections. Great for bikepacking but not trailer or panniers.

  • Stephen Balcao

    Hey Gabriel, I’m planning on biking this route in a few weeks; this information has been an awesome resource! Do you think I’d be able to hammock camp the whole thing or would you advise bringing a tent instead?

  • Ron Winsett

    I am trying to do this route from Agust 13 th to the 23rd. Anyone else headed out there we could combine a shuttle

  • John May

    I would add to the camping section: many of the marked camp sites (even the seemingly remote Three Creeks Lake ones) fill to capacity on summer weekends – reservations are a good idea if your plans are relatively firm.

  • Steve

    Help! Any suggestions on where to park my car. The folks at Crows Feet Commons suggested regular residential parking but the cops say the tow after a car is parked for 5 days. I am thinking by the time I get back to Bend ten days will have passed.

    I checked with Wallmart today but the said no.

    I am out of ideas. Any suggestions? Thanks!

    Steve

  • perrygeo

    I could imagine a great round-trip variation on this where you cut North after Cresent Lake and continue on to Waldo, Cultus and Lava Lakes then back to Bend. You’d be hitting Waldo (an IMBA Epic) and have an opportunity to cover more of Bend’s south-side trails.

  • Ron Winsett

    Me and a friend of mine just did this rout mid to late September, fantastic I must say. We took 12 days, had a couple days in Oakridge and road some extra credit rides, (Larison Rock, and Moon point trail) I must say the trails around Bend were especially dry, thank God for the 3″ tire. Another highlight was the Kokanee caffe out side of Sisters, very good food, worth the stop. Just wanted to say it was a brilliant rout. I guess, do to it being after Labor day we saw hardly anyone, sometimes not seeing anyone all day, what a treat. Thanks for putting together such a great bike packing rout..

    Oh ya, one other thing it did snow!!!

  • Would a fat bike be a good idea? Or a rigid 29er?

  • Ron Winsett

    I think s fat bike would be to much for this big of ride. I think the +size tire is perfect. I would use a 29er before a full on fat bike

  • Thats good to know. Thanks for the opinion.

  • If I was to leave mid September what kind of weather would I be in for? Whats the ideal time to ride?

  • Ian Vorster

    Gabriel, do you perhaps have more info on how you got the second stem to fit, and if you had any loosening of it over time? And maybe which stem you used. I’d like to try and create the same hack.

  • jess

    Did you find a parking solution? I’m running into the exact same problem right now.

  • Andrew Spurlin

    I want to put it out there that I will be attempting this route beginning July 17 or 18 and I would like to ride with somebody else.
    I’ll be flying into Portland late on the 16th, getting stuff ready and traveling on the 17th.
    I intend to spend 9 days as this guide says, give or take a few based on my fitness and the route’s difficulty.

    Also looking for any more beta on transit/rideshare options between Portland, Bend, and Roseburg/the end of the route.
    Contact me through email at spurlin.andrew@gmail.com

  • Alan Love

    I would recommend contacting the Forest Service office for each of the main trail sections to see about conditions. I rode the Umpqua section last year in early July and it was a beast with all the downed trees and washed out sections. This last winter in the Pacific Northwest was a brutal one. I haven’t ridden any of this route this year, but I can imagine it might still be rough in a few sections. Also, the lower Umpqua section has tons of Poison Oak, so bring your preferred cleaning method.

  • Grace Bagley

    I’m riding with a group planning to leave July 11. So far, snow reports from the Forest Service haven’t been good. If anyone has recent experience in the Summit Lake area that beta would be great.

  • Nicolas Legorreta

    Hey!! thanks a lot for the route! we’ve enjoyed it a lot so far! We are currently in Oakridge taking a rest day, but we are having problems with your GPX file from now on… as we download them into our garmin, the rest of the route just doesn’t show… have you have the same problem? do you by any chance have the rest of the file?

  • James Bagley Jr

    I was able to load the GPX into trailforks and it looks complete so maybe a garmin problem? I can download a GPX from the trailforks ride plan of this route which would be a re-processed version of the GPX from this site, might work for you? But, you’d need a computer to upload the GPX to your garmin. Send me an email if you want to try that james@akind.com and i’ll send you the file;

    We are planning to do this trip starting Tuesday and would love any beta on trail conditions between Oakridge and the N Umpqua, particularly the summit lake area.

  • MIke Farrell

    The issue is the track is too long to fit on a garmin (number of data points). I had to split it into 3 tracks to get them to show on my garmin. Let me know, and I can send you the 3 gpx files if you want.

  • MIke Farrell

    The store at Dry Creek does shuttles. They said they could drive you to Roseburg. You can talk to them.

  • Mat Simeti

    We are heading out first thing in the morning to start this route. The plan as of now is to spend about about 9 days on the trail. We will try and provide trail updates trail conditions as cell phone/data service allows. Have a great trip and maybe see you folks on the trail! As of now we are also a bit in the dark around the dark about the current conditions in the Summit Lake area,

  • Nicolas Legorreta

    For portland to bend with bikes, https://mthoodteleporter.com/

  • Nicolas Legorreta

    No snow on the route whatsoever, almost done with it and its clear

  • Mat Simeti

    We just finished the route yesterday evening. The mosquitos from about halfway up the middle fork through the summit and windy lakes area where about some of the worst I have experienced. We also experienced some patchy snow in the windy lakes area. I would suggest not lingering in that area very long. We ran into some folks on the Oregon Timber Trail heading the opposite direction and they looked like they where in pretty rough shape due to all the swarming mosquitos. We ended up doing a pretty big push from Indigo Springs on the middle fork down to Tokatee Lake on the NUT to clear the area. We finished the route in 7 days ending a couple days ahead of schedule. Kudos to putting together an awesome route!! I have lived in Central Oregon for about 9 years and it was awesome to ride some new single track right in my backyard!!

  • Andrew Spurlin

    Mat, could you contact me at Spurlin.andrew@gmail.com?
    I’d love to hear more about this route’s conditions.

  • Nicolas Legorreta

    Thanks! We met another rider who had also split the route in 3 and he shared the files with us!

  • Nicolas Legorreta

    Hey! Thanks, another cyclist we met in person had split the route in three sections and it worked perfectly.

    About the beta, the climb to summit lake is hard. Specially because the snow is just melting so there are furious mosquitos by the thousands. Bring PLENTY of mosquito repellent. They get worse as you follow the route untill the Umpqua trail. Make sure it has a decent percentage of feet, it’s the only thing that helps, not even smoke… Also, on that section, bring extra food, it’s likely that this secction will take you longer than you think.

    That section is full of blue lakes and lagoons, of the beaten track trail. Nice. Still has snow patches on the trail but totally doable, without question. If you want to enjoy it, don’t forget mosquito repellent. Seriously haha.

  • Andrew Spurlin

    Thank you everybody for all your info!

  • Ray G

    Hey Bikepackers! I was just wondering if anyone knows what effect the Oregon fires have had on this route. Looking at the fires map it looked like they were quite close. Not sure if this will make the trail impassable or otherwise unrideable. My wife and I were looking to start planning a 2018 trip.
    Thanks in advance for any info!