By Bob Woodward
Back in the early days of Bend and Central Oregon mountain bike riding, riders were motivated to get away from it all and explore. That meant piecing together rides that combined old forest roads, game trails and singletrack.
Today, it seems most riders want to be out with the crowd and on well-worn and marked, almost groomed, trails.
For those looking for an old-school road/singletrack experience close to town with no crowds at all, there’s Skyline Forest.
Recently, Bend native and former alpine ski coach, Terry Foley, and I went on a Skyline riding binge of 38 days of exploring. What we found was truly amazing. Also note that during those 38 days we encountered only three other riders.
The riding at Skyline is a mix of old Crown Pacific lumber company access roads, motorcycle single track, and some hiking/equestrian trails. Linking them together to form a variety of loops takes time and an instinct for exploring.
To date, Foley and I have identified almost a dozen routes including: Grand Canyon Sweet, Inside Out, Terrytunes, Happy Ending, Skill Builder, and Slippin’ and Slidin.’ All are ride-able by everyone except beginners and most loops take between an hour and an hour and a half to complete. Some of these routes can be seen in the photo slide show below.The terrain is varied. We like to consider Skyline in two distinct sections: east side and west side.
On the east side, there’s more climbing, more long descents, more singletrack and more open terrain. On the west side, you’re down in the forest but with pleasant surprises like fresh water springs.
But best of all, there’s history on both sides from the remains of an old sawmill to a now abandoned spectacular canal that used to divert water from Tumalo Creek to Tumalo Reservoir.
Directing more riders to Skyline is a positive for those who want a less traveled and less crowded riding experience. Once more people ride there they will see what an important piece of Central Oregon this is and how it needs to be preserved for future generations.
Now is the time to get out and explore Skyline Forest before it closes on December 1 for a Deer Winter Range Closure. Stay tuned for more tips and maps to help you plan your own adventures. Or, join the Land Trust for a guided ride in the forest on October 16th. Learn more about Skyline Forest. To find information on the Land Trust’s free, guided hikes and bike rides in Skyline Forest, click here.
***Bob Woodward is a writer, photographer, and former mayor of Bend with a passion for all things outdoors. Bob helped found the Central Oregon Trail Alliance and was an early creator of biking trails in Central Oregon. Bob was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 2012.