When I moved to Bend 20 years ago, there was basically one trailhead for mountain biking — Phil’s, of course.
As mountain biking-focused singletrack has expanded over the last two decades through the immense efforts of the Central Oregon Trail Alliance and the U.S. Forest Service, more trailheads have been built in and around Bend.
The U.S. Forest Service’s Cascade Lakes Welcome Station along Century Drive just west of Bend has become a bustling trailhead over the last few years, and with good reason. The location gives riders direct access to some of the area’s best mountain biking trails.
Completed in 2018, Ticket to Ride is a relatively new trail in the vast network west of Bend. The 6-mile loop is ideal for mountain bikers looking for a quick, easy loop to ride in the mornings, during the lunch hour, or in the evenings.
The loop starts and ends at the welcome station, which also provides access to the COD and Catch and Release trails.
Ticket to Ride serves as a suitable loop for beginners or families and as a way for mountain bikers to connect to other trails such as Grand Slam, ELV and Voodoo Child, another newer trail.
The welcome station, completed in 2015, was originally proposed in late 2008, but the project faced an appeal by Central Oregon tourism interests in 2010, according to Bulletin archives. The appeal questioned whether the building would include trail access or simply be a spot to stop for information.
Responding to the appeal, the Forest Service added plans for a trailhead and, eventually, more trails, built by the hard-working and motivated volunteers at COTA.
I drove to the welcome station on a cool Tuesday morning, planning to ride the Ticket to Ride loop in both directions for a total of about 12 miles.
Each way is equally fun. Riding the loop counterclockwise, though, allows mountain bikers to descend a swooping section through a small rock canyon.
While the trail is rated as green (easy), a fair amount of climbing — about 500 feet of elevation gain — awaits in either direction.
After riding the east end of the loop in a counterclockwise direction, I arrived at a sign that led me to the junction with ELV and to the north section of Ticket to Ride. This included a steady climb all the way to the intersection with Voodoo Child. There, riders have several options. They can ride Voodoo Child to connect to the more technically challenging Grand Slam or Voodoo trails. Or, they can stay on Ticket to Ride and complete the loop, which I did.
From the northwest corner of the Ticket to Ride loop, the climbing ended and the descending began. Eventually I came to the small canyon, cruising along the swooping turns that cut through the terrain. A few rocks were exposed here and there, but for the most part it was a smooth and fast ride back to the welcome station.
The Ticket to Ride loop was designed to be ridable in either direction, so I headed back out to ride it clockwise.
I climbed back through the canyon and continued climbing for about two miles before beginning another descent. The downhill was fun and flowy, with a few small jumps here and there to test my freeride skills. Some technical rocky portions are included on Ticket To Ride, but for the most part it is an easy trail that is ridable for all skill levels.
One final short climb brought me back to the welcome station. The 12-mile ride included nearly 1,000 feet of elevation gain and took about two hours.
Rain that is forecast for the next couple of days should quell the dust that has built up on the trails and put them in prime condition for riding.
Ticket to Ride usually remains ridable well into the fall, offering a quick, easy option for busy mountain bikers.