A ride that strings together some of the best drop-bar-gravel-riding mountain bike trails in the area. Up Ben’s trail, over to Tumalo Falls via a mix of roads and trails, and then down Mrazek. A section with “frickin” fabulous flowy downhill.
This is a great route to “hone” in your riding skills and test your navigation prowess, all while being very close to town.
Recommended spring through late fall. This route is not subject to extreme moon dust like some other mountain bike trails in the dead of summer.
A lot of fun to ride drop-bar single-track (ie. mountain bike trails rated easy to easy-intermediate). All of the trail can be ridden without putting a foot down. Gravel Girl walks two short sections of technical. The other surfaces are a 50 / 50 mix between primitive forest service dirt road and the wide double-lane gravel road. The gradients are rarely above 5%. This is an up-down route. You climb persistently to Tumalo Falls, and from there, you persistently descend back to town.
The terrain is mostly pine and ponderosa forest with occasional visit views. At mile X, there is a cool “wet” connector that brings you through a set of aspen trees that pop with color in the fall. This section can be a bit wet in the spring and fall (see the video). But it is, oh so fun! You can also re-route around this section by staying on the main gravel road leading out to Tumalo Falls.
Along this section of trail you are riding through the West Bend Project, a 15-year forest management effort that includes tree thinning, brush mowing, and controlled burns. The project received Congressional funding through the federal Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Act. There are only 20 such demonstration sites nationwide. The goals of the Project are: to restore forest ecosystems, reduce the potential of high-severity wildfires, and provide economic and social benefits to local communities. See the resource page in the right sidebar (desktop) or towards the bottom of page (mobile).
The lodge was completed by WPA workers in 1936 for the Skyliners Club, a group founded in 1927 to promote winter recreation in the central Oregon Cascades as well as provide search and rescue services. The lodge offered all the amenities needed for large competitions and the area featured two large ski jumps, an expansive cross-country trail system, and downhill skiing. [Bend Magazine]
In 1979 an abondoned campfire exploded into a raging wildfire, burning 4,300 acres of old growth spruce and pine forest. In 1980 foresters removed all burned trees, both standing and fallen.Over the next 25 years, erosion carried 15,000 yards of cubic sediment downs Tumalo Creek severely impacting fish, wildlife, wetlands and water quality. In 2004 restoration efforts were begun. [See video in sidebar]
“The exact origin of the word Tumalo is not known. One possibility is that the original name may have been Tumallowa, which is said to mean icy water – an adjective that fits considering Tumalo Creek is fed by glacial melt. For years Tumalo Falls’ height was stated as 97 feet tall. However, in July 2010 the falls was measured at 89 feet. Where the original number of 97 feet came from is unknown, but because it stood unquestioned for so long, it likely stemmed from the early 20th century when the falls were first discovered.” [Northwest Waterfall Survey]
Bend has relied on groundwater and surface water to supply drinking water to local taps since 1926. These aging pipelines required replacement. The $70 million Bridge Creek Water Supply and Treatment Plant project (circa 2015) included a 10-mile-long, 30-inch pipeline installed underneath Skyliners Road. The intake at Bridge Creek, near Tumalo Falls, is the highest operating intake in the Northwest. The intake building addresses seismic risk and fire protection. Pumps send heated water to the intake screen to prevent frazil ice buildup—a design first in the state of Oregon. Intake controls allow the City to reduce diversion when water is not needed, helping to maintain healthy fish habitat. The new automated Outback Water filtration facility (near FS 4606 and Skyliners) guarantees 10 million gallons of water per day to City residents.
Recommend a red blinky light with a rear-looking radar detector, like a Garmin Varia, for the paved sectors and the closer-to-town riding.
This is a really good route to work your technical skills on and a really good route to test your navigation prowess. The route is close to town, and there are many bail-out points back onto Skyliners road, which leads directly back to Bend.
The route has a significant amount of dropbar single-track. It is rated mountain bike easy+. Those with good technical riding skills will be able to ride it “clean”, others may have to put a foot down a couple of times.