Central Oregon is a stark contrast to the wet, muddy, forested off-road areas of the western coastal side of the state. High plains, filled with sage, juniper and scattered Ponderosa pines growing in reddish brown pumas sand, from not so extinct volcanoes, fill the landscape. Cold in the winter, hot in the summer. Clear dry skies most of the year. Central Oregon is a great option for off-road adventures.
Searching for an alternative to Oregon’s Tillamook Forest off-road area, we set out to explore Cline Buttes’ new(ish) 4×4 trails. The 32,000 acre Cline Buttes recreational area has been established to serve all types of outdoor adventurers. Large chunks of land have been carved out for motorizes and non-motorized trail use as well as blocks for those who prefer to travel on two feet or even four hooves .
Five miles east of Sisters, nine miles north of Bend and a short drive west of Redmond Oregon, Cline Buttes is easily accessible from just about any direction (Cline Buttes recreation area). Its proximity to these iconic western towns allows those who’s idea of roughing it involves room service to find all levels of lodging and meal options. When it comes to sitting around a camp fire and looking up at the stars, Cline Buttes offers plenty of dispersed camping options. (The area does get dry so be sure to check the fire restrictions before you go).
A staging area in the north east corner provides plenty of parking and an outhouse. Everything else will need to be packed in, and packed back out. From here an easy 4×4 off-road trail takes you out into the heart of the off-road area connecting to several options.
The 4×4 off-road trails are categorized as easiest, more difficult and most difficult. Most stock, high clearance 4x4s are more than a match for the easiest and more difficult trails. Drivers would be well served to have a lift, taller tires and rock rails before traversing the most difficult trails. Additionally there is a “play area” where cross country travel is permitted.
We explored the Cline Buttes OHV area in late November following a week of warm torrential rains. What we found amazed us. The lava sand and rock trails were well drained with only a few scattered puddles on Barr Road. No mud or slippery rocks that can take the entertainment value out of navigating tail obstacles with open diffs.
The down side of wheeling under clear blue skies this time of year in central Oregon is that it gets cold, really cold. The mercury barely topped 24 degrees Fahrenheit at lunch time and dropped into the teens as we climbed into our sleeping bags. The upside of the cold weather… We never saw another truck on the 4×4 off-road trails and we covered a good chunk of most of them over two days.
Maybe it was the outstanding weather, maybe the great trail conditions or just that it had been awhile since we’d explored something new, but Cline Buttes has definitely moved into the top 10 list of great off-road adventure locations.