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Cultus Mountain, OR | July 2023

N7KOM's picture
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I was surprised to find what looked like an un-activated drive up summit only an hour drive (to the base) from Bend, OR. From Bend, head South on 97 and take the exit for South Century Drive. Head through Sun River on Spring River Rd, which turns into Conklin Rd. Hang a left on Upper Deschutes Road aka NF 40. Follow this and it crosses Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway afterwich it becomes NF 4630. Hang a right on NF 640 and follow past Little Cultus Lake. I parked at the pullout at 43.81061, -121.88230.

NF-644 up to the summit looks reasonably drivable with a high clearance vehicle. However there are a number of hazards. The road is often narrow for long stretches with no pullouts to let a vehicle pass. There's potential for having to back down the mountain a long ways. There are a number of technical rocky bits as well. Finally, when I hiked this road, there was numerous large deadfall blocking the road. I'm glad I didn't try to drive it as I did not have a chainsaw. If you do carry a chainsaw in your vehicle, you are probably comfortable driving narrow rocky forest roads and this should be a pleasant and enjoyable drive for you.

I hiked this road. My intuition was that it would be great for a mountain bike activation. The grade is mostly gradual and it would be a fun and quick descent. As a hike it was 5.2 miles of brutally boring and hot road. There are only really 3-4 switchbacks across the whole length. There is shade from the trees, but in July the sun was often oriented directly down the road with no shade from the trees on either side for long stretches. Bring plenty of water and extra if your dog is joining. Lance the Dog went through 1.5L of water and I went through one 18oz sportbottle for the 10.5 mile round trip. 

On the summit there's a final short steep and rock pitch to what used to be a fire lookout. I was able to set up Lance with water in the shade and got my kx2 + EFRW set up as a slopper. Once in the shade, we had a small breeze which cooled us off. 

As I said, this would make a good mountainbike activation. Then three guys on eMTBs rolled up and I reconsidered. This would make a great eMTB activation. 

There were a couple of other hikers on the trail as well as a parapeligic cyclist. Little Cultus Lake seems like a popular camping spot and would make for a good place to stay if hitting other summits in the area. We cooled off in the lake after our descent.

I had planned on also doing Lookout Mountain and Round Top, but got a late start. I was back at the car after 4pm and decided to head home. 

Round trip: 10.5 miles car to car, 3:15 hiking time. 


Bike sign with arrow
Rock hazard on road
Technical rocky road section
Deadfall tree across the road
Summit turnaround area
Lance the dog on the summit block
Lance the dog laying next to N7KOM