- Associated Press - Saturday, June 6, 2015

BEND, Ore. (AP) - The catchy Beatles song popped into my head as I rolled along the singletrack that was flanked by a vast stretch of basalt.

Just replace the word “strawberry” with “lava.”

Lava fields forever.

Though only 4½ miles long, the Black Rock Trail might be one of the most important paths within the vast network of Central Oregon singletrack.

The trail is a crucial connector to some of the most scenic areas near Bend, including Lava Butte, Benham Falls and the Deschutes River Trail.

The Black Rock Trail is tame enough for beginner riders but also offers enough technical challenges to make it fun for more advanced mountain bikers. Riders can tackle the trail as a simple out-and-back, or connect to the river trail for a longer day in the saddle.

One of the oldest mountain biking trails in Central Oregon, the Black Rock Trail south of Bend is a relatively short ribbon of dirt singletrack that skirts a dramatic landscape.

The trail could serve as a field course in geology. It parallels the edge of a vast lava-rock field that covers more than 9 square miles from U.S. Highway 97 east to the Deschutes River. The field - for whose jagged black lava formations the trail is named - was formed by the eruption of the Lava Butte cinder cone some 7,000 years ago, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The Black Rock Trail was rerouted from its original path about 13 years ago. But on a recent ride, I could see why some of Central Oregon’s mountain biking pioneers considered it one of their favorite trails in the early 1980s.

I started the ride recently at the Lava Lands Visitor Center near Lava Butte, planning to ride to Sunriver and back for a distance of about 14 miles.

From Lava Butte, the trail started as mostly downhill, and I cruised along singletrack that was covered in pine needles and was moist and tacky from recent rainfall. It was a smooth trip with a few extremely brief technical rock sections.

The trail runs alongside a wall of black lava rock. To appreciate the geologic wonder, riders can dismount and scramble up the rock or turn onto an old dirt road that runs up and over the lava field.

I made that turn, about halfway to Benham Falls, and soaked up a view that is unique to Central Oregon: a never-ending field of lava rocks with the snowcapped Cascade mountains in the background. Here and there, lonely trees grew out of the rock as if sprouting out of the African savanna.

Continuing on, I crossed some railroad tracks before arriving at the Deschutes River. There, bikers can ride north toward Benham Falls or southwest to Sunriver.

I turned on the trail to Sunriver and began climbing above the river among more lava rock. The trail there was fairly wide and easy in spots, and I arrived in Sunriver relatively quickly.

For the ride back, I decided to try the recently completed Sun-Lava Path, a paved link between Sunriver and Lava Butte. The path sort of parallels the Black Rock Trail, then continues all the way to Sunriver.

I rode the Sun-Lava Path back to Benham Falls, then turned onto the river trail to go check out the falls. Riding past the surging falls on a mountain bike provides a surreal feeling.

Back on the trail, I turned southeast onto the Black Rock Trail and pedaled my way to Lava Butte. The gradual climb required some bursts of power from my legs, and it was actually a pretty challenging way to end the ride.

A sense of relief washed over me when I finally arrived back at the Lava Lands Visitor Center.

The 14-mile ride made for a fairly tough day - but a memorable one along a trail that leads to some pretty places.

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The original story can be found on The Bulletin’s website: https://bit.ly/1Q46gn0

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Information from: The Bulletin, https://www.bendbulletin.com

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