Some of the best winter/spring/fall riding in Central Oregon can be found in the Maston area of BLM’s Cline Buttes Recreation Area. Located midway between Bend and Redmond, Maston has 16+ miles of equestrian trails that are completely separate from the area’s mountain bike trails, though the two sets of trails sometimes run roughly parallel to one another in order to leave as much of the land as possible open for wildlife habitat.
Several loops of varying lengths are possible on the Maston equestrian trails. The Wagon Train Trail and the Stampede Trail roughly follow two sets of power lines that run north and south through Maston. Other trails connect with these two trails, creating a system of laddered loops of varying lengths. All trail junctions are signed with lettered posts that correspond with the junction letters on BLM’s map of the area.
Depending on which loop you select, you may enjoy views of the Three Sisters or see the Deschutes River flowing through its deep canyon. The Cline Buttes are visible from all of the trails, providing a landmark that will help keep you oriented. And while you’re riding keep an eye out for the deer, jackrabbits, coyotes, prairie falcons, and golden eagles that call this area home.
The area’s history provides a fascinating backdrop for the excellent trails. In the early 1900s, W.A. Laidlaw and his cronies began building nearby Tumalo Reservoir along with a network of canals designed to carry water to homesteaders who purchased land along the canals. One of the horse trails and several of the bike trails at Maston run along these historic canals. Unfortunately, the reservoir was not properly engineered, and when it was partially filled the weight of the water collapsed a lava tube that lay beneath the reservoir. Most of the water drained away, making a giant sucking sound that could be heard 2 miles away. Water never flowed through any of the canals, and most of the homesteads in the area had to be abandoned. (Locals in the nearby town of Laidlaw were so upset about the water situation that they hung Mr. Laidlaw in effigy from the post office flagpole and changed the name of the town to Tumalo.)
As you ride the southern-most trail at Maston, keep an eye out for several old stone foundations and other evidence of one of the area’s homesteads. After the reservoir failed and the homesteaders moved on, the area was used for cattle grazing. The Maston area was named in honor a rancher who once grazed his cattle there.
Maston is the eastern-most section of the Cline Buttes Recreation Area, a 50 square mile parcel of BLM land that lies between Bend, Redmond, and Sisters. The Maston area is bounded by Cline Falls Highway on the west, the Deschutes River on the east, and Newcomb Road on the south.
Ride Statistics: You can choose loop routes of various lengths (3 to 11 miles) at Maston, with elevations that range from 3,150 to 3,200 feet. There is no stock water on the trail. The trails offer excellent footing in fall, winter, and spring, but can be dusty in summer. The best map of the area can be found at http://www.blm.gov/or/districts/prineville/recreation/cline/files/CBRA_17.pdf.
Getting to Maston Trailhead: From Bend, drive northwest for 6 miles on Hwy. 20 to the town of Tumalo. Turn right on Cook Avenue, which becomes Cline Falls Highway in about 0.3 mile. Continue on Cline Falls Highway for 3.5 miles and turn right on Newcomb Road. The trailhead will be on your left in 0.9 mile.
Trailhead Facilities: Double toilet, picnic tables, and parking for 18 horse trailers and 50 cars. No fee.
More Information: The Maston Area and the Cline Buttes Recreation Area are featured in Riding Central Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2012)