558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
Hiking, biking, and horseback riding near Cline Buttes
New trail system leads through ancient junipers, along the scenic Deschutes River Canyon with occasional views at the Cascades
Three Sisters as seen from the Maston Area trails.
March 21, 2013
I sat on the rim of the canyon, looking down at the whitewater of the Deschutes River, when I heard the unmistakable song of the canyon wren. Various field guides have described its song as: beautiful and distinctive, a loud cascade of musical whistles; a decelerating, descending series of liquid tee’s and tew’s; and a gushing cadence of clear, curved notes tripping down the scale.
It’s not too often I can find a trail in Central Oregon that I haven’t hiked, so I was excited to sample the new Maston Area trails in the Cline Buttes Recreation Area, just west of Redmond. The Prineville BLM manages the 4,100-acre Maston Area, which is mostly a separated system of mountain bike and equestrian trails, with hiking available on both. Hiking-only trails will provide access to the steep and rugged Deschutes River Canyon, located on the eastern edge of the area. The entire Maston Area section is closed to motorized vehicles. Other portions of the recreation area are designated for ORV (off-road vehicle) use.
Almost two miles of the Deschutes River on public land are included in this area, in four separate stretches. There are 22 miles of equestrian trails, 20 miles of mountain bike trails, and six miles of pedestrian-only trails (pedestrians can use all trails in this area).
This trail system is brand new and even though most of the trails are laid out, there is still some construction to be finished, more signs to be put up, and some trails to be decommissioned. Check for updates and information at the trailheads and on the BLM website.
One of the primary management goals in the Maston Area is to maintain or improve wildlife habitat, especially nesting golden eagles and prairie falcons, which use the cliffs of the Deschutes River Canyon. The new trail system retains or creates large unfragmented patches of habitat to minimize disturbance and provide foraging opportunities for the raptors. All roads within the Maston Area are now closed and there’s a seasonal closure in the eastern portion of this area, including the Jaguar Road section on the east side of the Deschutes River, for all users to protect nesting raptors.
Parts of the trails follow the troughs and berms of an old irrigation canal system developed in the early 1900s as part of the Columbia Southern Irrigation Project. Between 1913 and 1920, these canals were built by hand labor and horses. The thought was to sell parcels for farming and settlement. There are also remnants of rock walls and building foundations throughout the area.
Back in 1879, a road was constructed that linked the Sisters area to Prineville, which was the county seat in Central Oregon. The road was known as the A.J. Warrin Road and Warrin charged a fare for its use. Parts of this historic road can be seen going through the area in a northeast to southwest direction, north of the large CEC powerlines. Yellow paint on rocks, trees, and posts marked each mile along the route.
The trails weave their way through large, old-growth juniper trees up to 800 and even 1,000 years old. Just to the northwest are Cline Buttes, which can be seen from most areas in Central Oregon. The buttes rise steeply 1,000 feet above the surrounding landscape and are thought to have formed approximately 6 million years ago as rhyolite domes, similar to the dome that is actively growing in Mount St. Helens.
To reach the trailhead, follow Highway 126 west of Redmond for four miles and turn south on Cline Falls Highway. Continue south past Eagle Crest Resort for 2.6 miles to reach the Juniper Trailhead and 5.6 miles to reach the Maston Trailhead (located on Newcomb Road).