Route: Black and Gray Duathlon (OR)

Submitted by ryanweald on Thu, 01/05/2023 - 04:01pm
Oregon, US
60 mi
Vertical Gain
7,500 ft


Black Butte & Gray Butte are both classic Central Oregon training routes for local trail runners.  While the runners are busy running up, down, and around these two buttes local cyclists frequent the Sisters to Smith Rock Oregon Scenic Bikeway which connects the town of Sisters with Smith Rock State Park.

This route combines the best of early season running and cycling into an aesthetically pleasing human powered day. Summiting both Black Butte and Gray Butte and using the scenic bikeway to connect the trailheads, all under human power. A great way to experience the beauty and variety of the Central Oregon High Dessert on foot and bike.

There is an added element of “fun” as you decide whether to use a road bike and risk a longer section on the highway, or opt for a gravel bike to avoid 1 section of highway, but sacrifice efficiency for a ride that’s 90% paved. If going the supported option you could switch bikes, but this feels like it takes something away from the spirit and using a single bike is strongly encouraged.

This route is quite sparse when it comes to services and water options, so you’ll need to be wary of your water needs based on conditions. The route lends itself nicely to a supported variant with friends and family given the 3 distinct legs with easy access. If you choose to go self supported you might have to extend the ride length a bit to grab supplies is Sisters, or Terrebonne.

The Stats:

  • ~19 mi of running with 5,500’ gain.
  • ~50 mi of biking with 2,000’ gain.

Route Details:

Summits can be done in either order. For simplicity sake the following will describe the route starting at Black and ending with Gray.

  • Start at the Lower Black Butte Trailhead. Take Black Butte Trail #4026 to the summit and grab a pic with the old buildings. Then turn around and descend the way you came.
  • Hop on your bike at the trailhead and begin the ride towards Skull Hollow. This is the part of the route with some flexibility. There is a couple options to get from Black Butte trailhead to Indian Ford Road where we pick up the standardized ride route.
    • You could ride on SW Camp Sherman to HWY 126. This is longer in terms of milage, but totally paved so a road bike would work. Downside is that HWY 126 is pretty busy and traffic is moving at high speed.
    • There is several gravel roads that loop around the base of black butte. This helps you avoid the risk of cars on a highway, but definitely requires a gravel bike. These are classic central oregon “gravel” which is loose, dusty, and deep in places.
  • Once on Indian Ford Road follow the scenic bikeway through miles of open high desert. Eventually crossing HWY 97 to arrive at Skill Hollow Campground and Trailhead.
  • At Skull Hollow there’s bathrooms, large day use parking, and camping. Lock your bike (or leave with your crew) and start running on cole loop trail towards Gray Butte.
  • Cole loop eventually deposits you at a rough parking area where a rocky double track road will take you to the top of Gray Butte. Snap a pic with the cell tower the descent back down the route you came up on. Your effort finishes back at your bike.


Ryan Weald Multi-sport 8h 5m 0s