Mechanized use damages Sisters trails


Last updated 1/9/2024 at 9:24am

Sisters Trails Alliance (STA) has alerted The Nugget of abuse to several trails within their system by one or more motor bikers. They provided photo evidence of the damage. There is no way of knowing if this was wanton disregard for the rules or carelessness. Either way the injury to the trailbed will require hours of volunteer work to repair.

“Nearly two-hundred STA trail volunteers and trail adopters work tirelessly throughout the entire year to steward nearly 200 miles of multi-user, non-motorized trails in and around Sisters,” said STA Executive Director Scott Penzarella. “It has become increasingly more difficult to manage unauthorized trail use in recent years and we have noticed a significant uptick in illegal, motorized use on our trails and in other unauthorized areas.”

Motorized dirt bikes are growing in popularity. Rigged with deep tread tires to zip around dirt trails and often only 12 inches wide, these nimble machines can motor easily on single track hiking trails.

Weighing as little as 125 pounds, they fit easily in a pickup truck bed or larger SUV cargo area or can sit on hitch mounted racks. So getting them to trailheads is easy.

STA trails are unmistakably marked with who (or what) can use particular trails. Although it’s possible to get on a pedestrian or horse trail at an intersection that is not marked, within a mile one or more signs will reveal themselves making it clear that such use is forbidden.

Sisters has hundreds of miles of allowable use, and there is a moto-exclusive area just west of the Whychus Creek foot bridge and Edgington Road.

Public lands offer thousands upon thousands of acres for OHV (Off Highway Vehicle) use. The dirt bike industry, one segment of recreational vehicles, is $4 billion and growing at about 8 percent a year. The terrain around Sisters is target-rich for dirt bikers. Likewise dirt bikers are target rich for environmental activists, some eager to eliminate their use entirely from public lands.

The best way to get the most enjoyment out of Sisters Country off-road adventures is to obtain MVUM maps — Motor Vehicle Use Maps — the official maps for designating all roads and trails available for public motorized travel on the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests and the Crooked River National Grassland. Visitors should not rely on any other maps for making decisions about motorized travel.

The MVUMs display National Forest System (NFS) routes (roads and trails) designated as open to motorized travel. The MVUMs also display allowed uses by vehicle class (ex. highway-legal vehicles, vehicles 50 inches in width or less and motorcycles); seasonal allowances, off route travel distance allowances, and provides information on other travel rules and regulations.

Routes not shown on the MVUMs are not open to public motor vehicle travel.

The maps are easily available in paper or digital format. Visit


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