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Friday, September 22, 2023
Sept. 22, 2023

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Morical: Shuttle mountain bike ride showcases the best of Central Oregon singletrack


BEND, Ore. — When family or friends travel to Central Oregon to visit, I sometimes feel pressure to provide them with the best outdoor adventure experiences.

So when my friend Tony Barnes came over for a weekend earlier this month and mentioned he was bringing his mountain bike, I set the wheels in motion for a tour of some of the latest and greatest singletrack our area has to offer.

My dad was also in town, and he was willing to give us a ride to Wanoga Sno-park so we could ride nearly 30 miles mostly on trails all the way back to my house in Bend. Because I normally do loop or out-and-back rides that require quite a bit of climbing, a shuttle would be a special treat, making most of those miles downhill.

The plan was to start from Wanoga and ride the Tiddlywinks, Kiwa Butte, Tyler’s Traverse and Deschutes River trails back to Bend.

From Wanoga, Tiddlywinks took us through some rocky sections and a deep forest before we began climbing toward the Kiwa Butte junction. Once on Kiwa Butte, the ride was fast and rolling as we approached the junction with Tyler’s Traverse.

The 8-mile stretch of singletrack that includes the Dinah-Moe-Humm and Kiwa Butte trails was designated a state scenic trail by the Oregon Recreation Trails Advisory Council and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission in 2014. The section of trail was completed in 2011 and on clear days includes numerous views of snow-covered Cascade peaks.

We stopped at a spot along the Kiwa Butte trail to take in sprawling views of Broken Top, Tam McArthur Rim and the Three Sisters. Another mile or so and we reached the junction with Tyler’s.

At the junction, some signs read “Do not enter,” while others read “One way.” The Central Oregon Trail Alliance has done a remarkable job over the past few years of implementing a directional trail system with signs that are clear and unmistakable. While most singletrack mountain bike trails in Central Oregon remain open to two-way travel, a select few are designated as uphill or downhill.

Tyler’s Traverse includes both uphill and downhill routes. We turned onto the downhill path, but we had to climb some challenging rock sections before we could start descending.

The sustained downhill seemed to last forever as we caught some air over several jumps and cruised through the forest. While upper Tyler’s Traverse can be classified as more of a free-ride trail, its features are modest enough that intermediate riders should feel comfortable on it. But it is fast and does require some technical free-riding skills. One stretch in particular is quite steep and includes an array of banked corners and medium jumps.

After the long downhill stretch, we arrived at another junction. We could continue to lower Tyler’s Traverse or ride the Duodenum Trail to Royal Flush. I chose the latter option.

The new Royal Flush Trail is just 1-mile long, but it’s proven to be an extremely popular addition to the renowned mountain biking trail network southwest of Bend.

The freeride “flow” trail, featuring large tabletop jumps and heavily bermed corners, was designed and built by Bend’s Kyle Jameson, a professional trail builder with Black Sage Dirt Works. Jameson found a way to build the trail chock-full of freeride features, but still make it rideable for all skill levels of mountain bikers.

A short ride on Duodenum and we connected to Royal Flush, charging hard over its large tabletop jumps and steeply bermed corners.

Tony was smiling when we reached the bottom, but we still had a long way to go to get back to Bend.

From there, we turned left onto Afternoon Delight, which led us to the bottom Tyler’s Traverse Trailhead along Conklin Road. The parking area was packed, as these trails are certainly no secret.

Wanting to give Tony more of a scenic ride back to town, I led him on dirt roads to the Deschutes River Trail near Dillon Falls. We stopped to watch the surging falls and eat some energy bars, then we were back on our way.

From Dillon Falls, we passed through the beautiful stretch of river along Big Eddy Rapids, Lava Island Falls and Meadow Camp.

We encountered numerous hikers and trail runners and we made sure to yield and be friendly. Mountain bikers are required to yield to all pedestrians.

The Deschutes River Trail eventually led us away from the river and back toward Century Drive, where we linked onto the paved Haul Road trail for the rest of the ride back into Bend.

After a stop at GoodLife Brewing Co. for beers and halibut fish tacos, we cruised along paved trails through the Old Mill District, watching the numerous river floaters drift along the Deschutes.

By the time we reached my house in southeast Bend, we had ridden 30 miles in 3 1/2 hours, descending 2,000 feet in elevation along pristine singletrack — the perfect two-wheel adventure tour of Bend.