The Peterson Ridge Trail system has a route for every type of mountain biker.
Whether it’s your first time or you’ve been ripping for years, Peterson Ridge offers a variety of options just half a mile from downtown Sisters, where it’s easy to rent a bike and hit the trail. A ride through the beautiful Ponderosa Pines will take you to your chosen lookout points with stunning views of the waterfalls.
“Peterson Ridge is more on the trail of mountain biking across the country,” said Jacob Polachek, of Blazin Saddles bike shop in Sisters. “In terms of maneuverability or who the trail is for, this applies to pretty much everyone.”
Peterson Ridge is one of the most popular horseback riding locations around Sisters, with over 20 miles of singletrack also used for walking, running, and biking, as well as trails for horseback riding. Oregon’s largest mountain bike race, the Sisters Stampede, is also held there each May.
The trails were first built in 1989 as a mountain bike trail system combining single track and old forest service roads. A major expansion in 2008 increased the length of the single track and added signage and beacons for easier navigation.
As a beginner, I found the trails to be a great starting point for someone looking to get on a mountain bike for the first time.
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According to the Sisters Country website, “The system can generally be characterized as a smooth, playful single track.” The trails are laid out in a stacked loop with east and west sections and connecting trails in between. Essentially, the further you get from town, the more difficult the trails become. The plethora of path options allows for a personalized experience.
“Peterson Ridge (is) for someone who’s just getting into it and wants to start with a light, smooth trail,” Polachek said. “They can start with that and then as they progress they can move on to something a little more technical.”
My goal for this hike was to get to Peterson Ridge Overlook, one of the main lookout points on the trail. It would be about a 10.5 mile round trip with 521 feet of climbing on a mix of easy to moderate trails.
Rent a mountain bike
If you don’t have your own ATV, there are a few rental options in Sisters. I rented an adult mountain bike from Blazin Saddles, located on the west side of downtown Sisters. It was $15 an hour or $40 for 24 hours, and there was a helmet and a bike lock. Choose from flat pedals, SPD pedals, Crank Bros pedals or bring your own. As I am new to mountain biking, I opted for flat pedals, which will look like a road bike. The store employees will also help you adjust your seat to the correct height before dispatching you.
Eurosports is also located in the city center and offers rentals at relatively similar prices.
While in the store I picked up a map of the Peterson Ridge trail that included landmarks and viewpoints. The routes were also color coded by difficulty which helped me figure out which paths to take.
It’s only a short drive to the trailhead from downtown. If biking from Blazin Saddles, head east on Hood Avenue, then turn right on Elm Street. You follow this road for about 0.07 miles until you reach the trailhead on your left. Parking is available at the trailhead, but people are recommended to park at Village Green Park, just 400 yards from the trailhead. Electric bikes are not allowed on the course.
If this is your first visit to Peterson Ridge, I recommend planning your itinerary in advance. The routes are well marked with signs and are quite easy to navigate. However, the signs don’t start pointing you to the viewpoints until you’re further down the trail. There are also plenty of route options to take, so the map was my best friend in keeping me on the right path to the lookout.
I started on PRT West. The Blazin Saddles worker said most people start on the west side because the climb is a bit easier than the PRT East.
The path is flat and free of technical objects until you reach a gravel logging road about 1.5 miles into PRT West. It’s a great, smooth start to getting you started on the feel of mountain biking, taking you through a forest of beautiful ponderosa pines. It’s not the most scenic and the views get a bit monotonous until you start to gain elevation.
After passing the logging road, you have the option to drive to Eagle Rock, which offers 360 degree views of the Cascade Mountains. The trail to reach the viewpoint is marked as very difficult, which is why I didn’t hike up there, but it could be a great option for those with a bit more experience.
Trails start to get a little more difficult after about 2 miles. That’s when I started facing rock and root obstacles. As a beginner there were a few times where I had to walk my bike over technical obstacles, but overall the trail was still passable for me. The trail was pretty empty so I didn’t feel rushed or crowded navigating the trails. I only saw a few other cyclists and walkers.
The elevation gain remained very gradual until the fourth mile when the paths get slightly steeper.
Peterson Ridge Viewpoint
The final climb to the lookout gets a little tough, but once you reach the top, the view is worth it. The lookout offers panoramic views of Black Butte, Three Fingered Jack, and Mount Washington. There is also a nice seating area to catch your breath and take in the scenery.
The descent was much faster than the ascent as it was pretty much all downhill. I took the Old Trail which was labeled as an easier route and seemed to have less rocks than the PRT West. This is also where the real fun began. At this point in the ride, I felt much more comfortable on the trails and was able to go a bit faster.
After about three hours (including plenty of stops to check the map and a rest at the lookout), I returned to the trailhead, still a little red, but much more excited about the mountain biking. Peterson Ridge provided a great starting point for someone new to the activity, but the stacked system also creates more challenging options for more experienced riders. Overall, the system feels like a choose-your-own adventure, with accessible and scenic lookout points for riders of all skill levels.
Peterson Ridge Trail
In a word: A mountain bike trail system with over 20 miles of single track.
Length/difficulty: About 11 miles round trip to Peterson Ridge Overlook, starting easy and working your way up to moderate.
Starting point : Access Peterson Ridge Trail (located just off the road). From downtown Sisters, turn south on Elm Street and continue on Three Creeks Lake Road for approximately half a mile. It will be on your left.
Makenzie Elliott is an outdoor intern at the Salem Statesman Journal. Contact her at [email protected]